Alastair Sawday – Can Bristol Really Be Independent?
Bristolians are dynamic and independent. Too much so to waste any more energy and time doing battle with each other and with their own Council.
I have personal experience of trying to get a big project off the ground in Bristol, and learned that without very deep pockets one is simply at the mercy of a Council system that destroys good ideas. Bit by bit it crushes the vitality – each department adding its own negativity until there is little left. I have longed to be able to talk to someone with vision, who can see a project through by bringing the constructive engagement of talented officers. So I see this election as a last-ditch attempt by our citizens to create a system that will demand the vision, the balls and the radicalism to make a difference.
What a job this will be! Who can possibly do it? Our new mayor will need to ride the soporific-but-obstructive tiger that is the current system, create a new one and then make them both work. He – for it is likely to be a male – will need guts, tenacity, charm, deep experience of the city, business experience and success, creative flair and the ability to bring people together in common cause. He must understand the now-urgent need for green policies, and have the drive to see them through. He will have to sell Bristol to the outside world, bring us close to those European cities who are miles ahead of us, make us part of a bigger picture. He will draw on the rich talents available in our two universities and in our bubbling media sector. He will draw the best out of our business community – persuading them that a growing economy is no longer the simple answer to our deep problems, that we need to re-think what sort of economy we want to create. We need to look to the rest of this century, with the enormous problems it is already bringing, and re-design the way our city works and the dreams it nurtures.
Just imagine how richly various and beautiful, how fair and inclusive, the city might be if we were to tap into the energy and creativity of our many communities rather than squabbling among each other. Our multiculturalism could be one of our many strengths, our rumbustious and truculent independence the course of a renewed energy. But for all these things to happen we need a wholly new man or woman at the top, not a party apparatchik but someone who will breathe new life and spirit into our ailing systems. Such a person has to be independent; it goes without further argument. And, having met all the other candidates, all of whom I admire for standing up to be counted, I am utterly convinced that George Ferguson is the only man who can do this. And once he is there he will need our support – in spades; I do believe that he will be able to muster it as nobody else could.
Just imagine the alternative.
Alastair Sawday is a former chair of The Green Capital Partnership, Ambassador for Big Green Week and an Independent Publisher.