Local democracy? I don’t think so.

Bristol is reported to have voted in favour of having an elected mayor. On a turnout of only 24 per cent, 41,032 voted for this change and 35,880 voted against. That means we are to have a change in the way our city is run because 12.8 per cent of the population voted for it, just over one eighth. At one polling station, only 6 per cent of the eligible voters turned out.

If this had been a union vote in favour of a strike, I have no doubt that the government would have criticised it roundly as being undemocratic and not a valid mandate. But no, one of our local MPs, Bristol West MP Stephen Williams (Conservative), hails it as a “major step forward” for the city.

This is the first time I can ever remember not making up my mind until I was actually in the polling booth. I really didn’t know what to do. Nobody had canvassed my vote, nobody has spelled out exactly what powers an elected mayor will have, nobody explained the pros and cons of making this change.

I voted against, after some hesitation.

How will this new system of government work? What happens if we get a mayor whose policies are counter to those of our elected councillors? Do we end up with a sort of stalemate rather like what seems to happen all too often in American politics when a President of one party can’t really get anything done because Congress is dominated by the other lot? And what is the next thing? Do we also go the American way of electing our judges, police chiefs and so on?

Local democracy? I don’t think it is. I think this is being foisted on us by a government that doesn’t really trust local democracy anyway.


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