The former police and crime commissioner candidate for Labour has turned his back on his party to get behind George Ferguson’s bid for re-election as Bristol mayor.
John Savage, a life-long Labour member who stood in the 2012 Avon and Somerset police and crime commissioner elections, said he believes Ferguson is the right choice for a business-friendly Bristol.
The chairman of Bristol Chamber of Commerce, who is also chairman of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust and cannon treasurer at Bristol Cathedral, added that he believes Bristol needs the continuity that would come with a second term for mayor Ferguson.
“From a businessman’s point of view, I do believe we have to have an economics approach to the future of Bristol, so I genuinely feel at this time that not to back George for a second term would be foolish,” Savage said.
“He’s reorganised an administration which was overdue for that. He’s done some interesting and good things and from his manifesto I think he’s got some great ideas.
“I feel that we need some continuity and I also feel, rather sadly, that I’m in a better position to influence George and his cabinet than I would be than with a party running things.”
Savage was a life-long Labour member up until last year. “I’m a real Labour person, but I’m also a businessman and there’s the conundrum,” he told Bristol24/7.
“I didn’t pay my subs this year because I’m not happy with where the party is nationally. It just isn’t for me. It doesn’t reflect the conundrum that people like me find themselves in. I’m a socialist from my background but understand that business is everything.
“Labour are not making the statements about growth and support for business that this city needs. I’m sure we could have those discussions. But we need some continuity from the work that’s been done by George so far.”
He added: “This is not about the individual, it’s about the people that the leader can enable to do things.
“I’m not criticising Labour. I’m being practical. The problem with this place is we are so slow to get on with things and do things and the demand is massive – particularly in housing, particularly in education.
“This place has got the capacity to be one of the greatest places in the UK and people drag their feet. I don’t think George is dragging his feet.”
Ferguson has also received public backings from Green Party and Lib Dem parliamentary candidates from last year’s general election, Darren Hall and Abdul Malik. He also gained the support of seven Green Party members last week.
A spokesperson for Marvin Rees said: “Members of Bristol’s establishment have been coming out in defence of George Ferguson because they know how unpopular he has become among ordinary Bristolians. The establishment fears that one of their own might lose one of their holds on city power.
“A quick search will reveal that from Alistair Sawday to the seven “Greens” to John Savage, all are members of Bristol’s ruling establishment.
“Marvin is standing because Bristol needs real change if we are going to get the city workng for everyone and for the planet. History tells us that those who bring real change face opposition from those who benefit from the status quo.”