The purpose, as you can quite rightly imagine, was to wake the city up to the May 3 referendum for a directly elected executive Mayor of Bristol. You’d be forgiven for not knowing this was taking place because the council managed to send 10,000 of its information booklets on the referendum to North Somerset (where there’s not even a vote on the subject).
But fear not, because through the noise of incompetency came a message loud and clear yesterday – that this referendum is a vitally important decision for Bristol and you must play your part – and by this I don’t just mean for Bristol City Council or the Chamber of Commerce or the local political parties. What I mean is that it’s a vitally important decision for you and your family.
A directly elected, executive mayor will have yet-to-be-defined powers over many aspects of what it means to be Bristolian and his or her decisions could make a real impact on you, your kids and your parents. It’s really that serious.
In that fashion I decided to take part in all of the events yesterday. I had the uneasy pleasure – being a Labour Party man through and through – of going to an event hosted by a Tory Prime Minister and I rushed to Bristol Grammar School after work to listen to the debate on why Bristol should have a mayor.
I’ll be honest, at first I was bit dubious about the whole thing. The idea of putting a lot of power into one person seemed, on the face of it, like a bad idea. I also thought the imposition from a Tory Government was also distasteful. But we are where we are and I can tell you, if Birmingham or Nottingham or other great British cities vote ‘yes’ and we don’t, we’ll get left behind.
It’s pretty much a fact. We won’t have a seat at the table, we won’t have a well-known name fighting our corner and we won’t have a leader of this great city fighting for the whole city and its diverse and magnificent people. It’s that simple.
But that leaves people like you and me – Bristolians – who live our lives day in and day out within this city to make a decision and, if we want to be involved in that decision and own it for ourselves, we must vote. For the record, I now think that we must vote for an elected mayor (this decision having nothing to do with Mr Cameron, I should add). But that’s the easy bit. Once we vote for having a mayor we then have to make sure we don’t elect a numpty. But that’s for another time.
David Cameron told us yesterday that we must ‘join the race or fall behind’ and while it pains me (physically) to agree with Mr Cameron, I fear I have to agree with the man. We must step up. We must come together as a city, be proud to be Bristolians and elect and support a leader who will put the greatness back in to our modern day lives, who will instil a leadership that makes us proud to be Bristolian.
Paul Smith, the former Labour Parliamentary candidate for Bristol West, said at the debate last night that Bristol is “less than the sum of its parts” and I couldn’t agree more. We have a potential so visible in our people and in our communities that if we were just to come together and all point in the same direction the horizon of opportunity that we could generate would inspire and excite us the city over.
Right now, we have the opportunity to create a different, more successful and more inspiring city and I pray that you hold that possibility of opportunity in your souls and get up and get out and vote ‘yes’ for an elected mayor of May 3.
For more information from the ‘Yes’ campaign visit: www.bristolmayor.org
For more information from the ‘No’ campaign visit: www.bristolsaysno.org
For more information from Darren Jones visit www.darren-jones.co.uk