George Ferguson wants the world to forget about Manchester or London and start talking about how an elected mayor brought about the “extraordinary transformation of Bristol”.
The independent candidate for mayor promised more than 200 people at a rally at Temple Meads station last night that he would take “brave measures” to deal with issues surrounding the environment, education and housing.
He promised not to criticise his fellow candidates throughout the campaign and insisted he would bring the best talents from across the political divide, but insisted that the power that “over-inflated egos” within the council chamber hold should belong to the people.
Despite adding he would not be producing a manifesto, he mooted the idea of reducing the speed limit on the M32 to 30mph in a bid to improve air quality.
And in a bid to gain support from key staff working at the Council House, he promised a one-month amnesty for officers to tell him their grievances and outline what it was about the authority that prevented them doing their jobs more effectively.
“Bristol is special, we know that, but does the world know that? One of the prime jobs for a leader is to make sure that the rest of the world comes to Bristol, and invests here in a useful way,” he said.
“But it is a disconnected city – a city of villages glued together. Some don’t feel part of Bristol and there is too much of a feeling of them and us.”
Defending his idea of renaming the Council House to City Hall, he added: “The Council House is a mini-Westminster which gives councillors an over-inflated sense of their position. The council belongs to us not them.
“We need to change the culture of government so that we can use all the talents of our city. Good councillors sit in silos we call political parties, not able to contribute in a creative way. An independent mayor can bring together the talents of all sides.
“Being a mayor is about managing a team, inspiring the city, and making sure that every city in the world is talking about Bristol and the extraordinary transformation in this city. I need you all to help make that happen.”
The architect made his speech inside the big top tent at Temple Meads, surrounded by the public and the campaign team he is building.
Volunteers donned ‘George for Bristol’ T-shirts and tried to sign up more supporters among the crowd, which Mr Ferguson said was a key element of the event.
Meanwhile, it emerged that the former boss of what is now Bristol News & Media, owners of The Post and Western Daily Press newspapers, has been named as Mr Ferguson’s campaign manager.
Paul Kearney told Bristol24-7 his aim was to bring organisation to the enthusiasm of supporters and, crucially, to raise funds for the campaign.
Mr Ferguson said of him: “I know Paul by repute. He will bring organisation to the enthusiasm in our band of helpers. He is a very good person manager and a personable guy.”
The crowd were largely supportive of the red-trousered candidate, with only one person attempting to heckle the speech.
Speaking to Bristol24-7, visitor Alice Stapleton from Bishopston said she had already made up her mind to vote for Mr Ferguson and was here to support the campaign.
Others were less impressed though. Jim Taylor, from Lawrence Hill, said: “There were some very fine words, but no detail. You have to wonder whether he will be able to do any of the things he says he will when the realities of running Bristol hit home.”
Meanwhile, Margaret Davis from Redland added: “I do think the city needs shaking up. It has drifted for too long with no party really doing much to improve things, and he could be good. But all politicians make good speeches and then let you down, don’t they.”
So far, only Mr Ferguson and Marvin Rees for the Labour Party are confirmed candidates for the election. Voting will take place in November.