Speech from the Leader of the Green group, Eleanor Combley, in response to the Conservative “Scrap the Mayor” motion:
Green Party policy is to always have decision making at the lowest practical level, as close as possible to the people affected by the decision, so in keeping with that, Bristol Green Party campaigned against the introduction of a directly elected mayor back in 2012.
Interestingly the Conservatives were all for it at the time; this was an idea from Tory central government, supported and campaigned for locally. I can’t help asking myself if this change of heart isn’t perhaps just sour grapes because they realise they are never going to win it?
If we were talking about narrow self-interest, you could argue that Greens also have a reason for a change of heart – it is widely viewed that our mayoral candidate Sandy Hore-Ruthven is the one to beat in the coming campaign: the most likely challenger to win. Personally, I am excited about working to get Sandy elected, and about the good he would be able to do for this city as Mayor. However, I still don’t think the mayoral system is the right one. I also believe that democracy is a process, not a one-off event, and that even having voted for something once, people have the right to change their minds.
But what is the point of this motion now? There cannot be a referendum on this before 2022, so the system won’t change for over 2 years whatever Full Council decides. What we need to do now is work to elect a Mayor who will work for the whole city; who will give Scrutiny proper respect; who will welcome and listen to a diversity of voices; who will make the existing system work as well as it can. The twin emergencies of climate change and the needs of the people of this city, are both far too urgent to sit on our hands from here to 2022.
Greens would like to make many changes to make our politics more democratic. We would replace FPTP with a proportional system in which every vote matters and people can vote for what they believe in, instead of anxiously consulting a spreadsheet about how best to vote against the party they dislike the most. However we stand for election under the system that exists and work hard within it wherever we do get elected.
In the same way we will be standing a candidate for the mayoral election, and we will be setting out the positive Green vision for how Bristol could be better for all of us. And once elected, a Green mayor will work both to achieve those goals, and to make the mayoral system work as well as possible.
So we don’t have a single position on this motion: some of the group think it’s spite and sour grapes from the Conservatives and reject it, some are sufficiently opposed to the mayoral system with its tendency towards centralising and autocracy that they will hold their noses and vote for it, some think it is a pointless conversation to be having just now and will be abstaining. As ever, we are not whipped and will each be voting according to our own consciences.