News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Will Westbury's Geoff Gollop be the Surprise (S)tory of Bristol's Mayoral Election?

Bristol Harbourside
Bristol Harbourside (Photo credit: James F Clay)

 With the ballot for Bristol's first elected mayor only weeks away, Labour Party sources are expressing concern about the low key tactics of Conservative Party candidate and Westbury-on-Trym Councillor Geoff Gollop.

Writing in the influential website Labour List, Bristol Labour leader Peter Hammond acknowledges the "logic" of what he calls the "below the radar" campaign being run by the Conservative candidate. 

By campaigning in their traditional strongholds, including Westbury on Trym, and avoiding major media appearances, Hammond claims that the Conservative strategy is to try and get out its core vote on the day and hope for a low turnout elsewhere:

"The Tories want Labour voters to stay at home. A low turn-out suits them. They do not want to alarm Labour voters that there is a chance of a strong Tory showing or even the election of a Tory mayor."

History shows that the Tory strategy makes some sense. The referendum in May as to whether Bristol should have an elected mayor at all received vastly different levels of participation across the city. Council wards which had two Labour seats at the time experienced a voter turnout of only 14% for the mayoral referendum, while in Conservative wards, the average turnout was 21%. 

The diverse range of candidates - eleven so far - and the timing of the vote at a time in the year when elections rarely happen, may contribute to a fractured vote and a low turn out. 

If Peter Hammond is right, this would then leave the door open for Geoff Gollop to be elected. Certainly in BS9, his campaign is well underway, with the former Lord Mayor portraying himself as the candidate most likely to fix Bristol's broken transport system. He has pledged, for instance, to re-open former rail stations at Henbury, Horfield and Portishead.

Meanwhile at the other end of the political spectrum, Respect MP George Galloway will be speaking at a public meeting in Bristol next Tuesday (October 16th) in support of mayoral candidate Neil Maggs. Maggs is the only candidate from a Parliamentary Party to have pledged to be paid "an average wage" if elected, instead of the anticipated £65,000 wage payable to the winning candidate. The meeting with George Galloway will take place the the Malcolm X Centre in St Pauls, starting at 7.30 pm.

The mayoral election takes place in Bristol on Thursday 15th November.

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