Today is an important day for Bristol. Today will shape our great & vibrant city for the next four years & potentially decades to come. Today we vote to decide our Mayor & Police Commissioner.
Firstly in the broader city, the entirety of Avon & Somerset is voting on a Police Commissioner today. The idea of elected Police Commissioners isn’t an idea I supported and to be honest is an idea I’m still unenthusiastic about to say the least, because I’m extremely reluctant to see the important job of policing become so overtly politicized & essentially become a game of pandering instead of policing.
But regardless of public opinion seemingly being firmly against the idea of elected Police Commissioners we’re stuck with them till at least the next Parliament, where whomever is the next government may decide to repeal the bill & scrap elected Police Commissioners.
With that in mind we have a choice to make today on how we want our police forces to prioritise & whether or not we want them to privatize. Locally in Avon & Somerset we have four candidates, Dr. John Savage for Labour, an Independent in Sue Mountstevens & we also have Liberal Democrat and Conservative candidates.
I’m supporting Dr. John Savage based largely on his successful record of running large organisations with significant & often tight budgets for the last four decades – Budgeting is going to be one of the top priorities for A&S’ Police Commissioner with more and more cuts coming & frontline policing being increasingly stretched. John has been through the process of making tough budget decisions and I trust him to do the same in a fair & well thought-out way if he’s elected as our Police Commissioner.
But I’m also giving my second preference to the Independent Sue Mountstevens; Whilst I believe she has somewhat ironically over-politicized not being party-aligned Sue has an impressive & necessary set of priorities. She is also one of the few women standing nationally and is the only candidate to specifically mention the need to tackle the plague that is violence against women & girls. If John Savage doesn’t win I very much hope that Sue Mountstevens does.
There is a danger in these elections that public perception of the Conservatives as being the toughest party on crime will come into play, something that is only going to be increased by our Conservative Government’s lack of advertising & resources for these elections which has consequently not allowed people reasonable time to consider the issues & their vote in many cases.
We really need to look at how dangerous the Conservatives have been in Government on crime; despite the rhetoric they’ve made wide & deep cuts to Policing, over 15000 Police will be cut by 2015 and they’ve also encouraged the outsourcing of police work to unaccountable private companies like the debacle-ridden G4S. Recently we’ve also seen announced a disturbing step away from proportional judge-led justice into a more populist-led justice. I cannot emphasis strongly enough how wrong it is to put the power of executing justice in the hands of anyone apart from impartial proportional judges following the letter of the law as intended. This is not something I want to see replicated locally & I hope people take notice of Conservative actions over Conservative rhetoric.
The other election we have today is the more widely known Bristol Mayoralty Election. In this election the choice is clear: Marvin Rees with his bold vision for a Bristol that has a vital part to play in Britain for decades to come or his main opponent, who opposes the economically necessary expansion of Bristol Airport & Bristol’s football stadia. Marvin has also pledged to bid to bring the 2022 or 2026 Commonwealth Games to Bristol if he’s elected, something that would raise Bristol’s profile on the world stage as well as providing an economic boost for our city over the next decade.
But as well as Marvin wanting Bristol to be the very best city we can be he also wants Bristol to be about the people who live here as much as the city itself. He is the only credible candidate who has committed himself to making Bristol a Living Wage City, ensuring that Bristol will pay £7.45 an hour, the basic level of wage necessary for people not to require welfare subsidy to be able to live.
Marvin also recognizes the desperate need in this city & country for a coherent affordable childcare system, one that allows people who want to go back to work but can’t afford childcare presently to do so and to contribute to this city’s economy as well as improving their own finances. Single parents particularly are disproportionately hit by the rising cost of childcare, because being a single parent is the fullest of full-time jobs before you even consider employment; I know this because I was raised largely by a single parent, my father, who worked in mental health and was constantly having to take time off to facilitate me attending school or at times, my misbehavior as a young child at school.
Marvin will set up a central register for childcare in Bristol, ensuring standards are maintained to the very highest of levels so parents feel safe & reassured. He will also reach out across the private sector & encourage businesses & schools to offer a wider variety of childcare services with that competition driving down cost & raising closely monitored standards across the city, as well as Marvin’s decision to cap the cost providers of childcare that use the central register can charge families.
In another move to recognize & have respect for everyone in our city Marvin has also pledged to work with LGBT groups to tackle homophobia wherever it may arise, and to ensure that your sexuality is something that never puts you in danger or causes you to suffer discrimination or violence. He’s also pledged to appoint an LGBT Adviser for Bristol, someone to ensure that his administration works effectively & dedicatedly on all levels with equality & LGBT Rights in mind.
He also has bold & well-explained policies on affordable housing and our inconsistent & cumbersome transport network, which are both areas Bristol really struggles in compared to many other major European cities. Bristol has one of the highest average transport fares in the entire country and that’s clearly unacceptable; Only Marvin has expressed a real, detailed plan to tackle that.
But as well as clear, focused policy there’s also something that makes Marvin stand out from usual politicians and that is his incredible respect for people, particularly young people and his humbleness. I was lucky enough in my capacity with Unite the Union to Chair a Question & Answer event with Marvin Rees last month and when the room went quiet & it was clear they were ready for him to start speaking instead he first turned to me and very quietly & respectfully asked ‘Am I okay to start now?’ – That has stuck with me since, that when the room was clearly ready for him he went out of his way to ask me whether he could or not.
Marvin isn’t one of these politicians that thinks he can deliver the world himself, but is very aware of the need to build a coalition of ideas & voters and work with all parties and even those councils outside of the Bristol Boundaries to ensure that as one united city we move forwards together, and that no one is left behind.
Marvin will ensure that everyone in this city & beyond on its fringes has a say on Bristol, on the way our city goes, on how people are treated. With Marvin as Mayor Bristol will move forwards as one city, not as a multitude of bickering & disorganized political bodies, which has become the norm in recent years. Marvin will respect you regardless of your race, gender, sexuality or age and that attitude is essential for our vibrant and brilliantly nonconformist city.
If Marvin is elected Bristol’s Mayor we as a city will also make a significant piece of history. Marvin would be the first directly elected Mayor of African-Caribbean descent in not just Britain but the entirely of Europe too. Given Bristol’s history this is both symbolic & significant, as this brief piece in the Guardian notes.
You can read Marvin’s final election message here.
I very much hope you’ll get out to vote today & shape our city in a positive fashion.