Posts Tagged ‘council elections’

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Lib Dems take Bristol as Labour suffer meltdown

June 5, 2009

The Liberal Democrats have gained a working majority on Bristol City Council for the first time ever, after Thursday’s council elections in the city.

They now have 36 seats, compared to 17 Conservatives, 16 Labour and 1 Green. This gives them the power to run the city council without support from any of the other parties.

Bristol’s Lib dem leader Barbara Janke said: “It is absolutely fantastic. We’re really pleased and we’re privileged to be the first Liberal Democrat administration on Bristol City Council.”

“If you look over the last few years, the Liberal Democrats have been gaining seats across the city. We were the largest group across the city with 32. We’ve now gained the extra 4 for a majority.

“But this is something that has been going on for some time. I do believe that the city wants change. It’s had 20 years of Labour. Things have moved on now and we have the opportunity to deliver the things that the people of the city want.”

Labour’s vote collapsed on the night, as voters took their frustration with Gordon Brown’s government out on Bristol’s Labour candidates.

Labour were defending 10 seats and held only two, with four falling to the Conservatives and four to the Lib Dems.

They even lost the previously rock-solid Southmead ward to the Lib Dems. Deputy Labour leader Peter Hammond lost the seat by 20 votes to Jaqueline Bowles.

He put his defeat down squarely to a protest against Labour, and called on senior Labour politicians to stop the in-fighting and resignations of the last few days.

He said: “I’m amazed at what is going on at a national level. I think national politicians do need to go back to the grass roots of the party and find out what the party thinks.

“It cannot be helpful to a Labour government or the Labour party to have cabinet ministers behaving as they are, apparently without regard to what the rank and file of the party thinks.”

The Conservatives achieved their ambition of becoming the second party on the city council. They won an extra four seats and become the main opposition party.

Tory leader Richard Eddy said: “The people of Bristol and in councils up and down the country are rejecting Gordon Brown. They want clear leadership, they want change and they want a general election now.

“He and his government is increasingly discredited and do not represent the people of this country. We must have change now.”

The predicted flight of voters from the big three parties to minor ones such as the Greens and the BNP did not happen. Neither won any more seats.

A Green Party source told us they were searching for “crumbs of comfort” from the results.

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Greens aim to “become political party” in council vote

May 29, 2009

Bristol’s single Green councillor says the June 4th council elections give his party a real chance to become a proper political party on the city council.

Charlie Bolton, who represents Southville, is currently the only Green on the council. But his party are hopeful of winning in a number of other wards, particularly Ashley and Easton.

Getting a second councillor would make a big difference to the party. Charlie Bolton said: “If we have more than one councillor, we become a group, we can sit on committees and can second our own motions. Basically, we’re treated as a political party rather than me being treated as an independent.”

His other hope is that the election produces a hung council. He said: “We might end up holding the balance of power and we would use that to get significant concessions, particularly on the budget.”

Green priorities are, as you would expect, environmental. They want to see more action on tackling climate change and improving public transport in the city.

On transport, Charlie wants to see a big local transport authority, similar to the capital’s Transport for London body. The council voted to set one up some months ago, but Charlie is concerned the plan is grinding to a halt.

But given that the other parties all cite transport as the number one issue in the city, and the Lib Dems also put climate change near the top of their agenda, is there any point voting Green?

Charlie Bolton is adamant there is. He said: “I’ve been doing politics for about 20 years ago. I started when the Greens got a huge vote in the European election in 1989. All the other parties rushed along and adopted green policies.”

“But then I look at what has happened to climate change in the UK and emissions have slowly trundled up. The other parties talk the talk but they need to walk the walk.”

“That’s why we need Green councillors and that’s why people should vote Green: to force them into action.”


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Labour expects “difficult” Bristol council vote

May 28, 2009

The third in my series of pieces about the council elections. This time, Labour:

Bristol’s Labour leader Helen Holland expects the June 4 council elections to be “difficult” for her party.

Labour is significantly behind in the national polls and many traditional voters are expected to stay at home, or even vote for minor parties as a protest at the MPs’ expenses scandal.

But she dismisses talk of a “meltdown” in the Labour vote in Bristol, saying: “Overall we expect to stay about the same in this election, and we would be happy with that.”

Labour currently has 24 seats on the council, compared to 32 Lib dems, 13 Conservatives and 1 Green. Labour ran the city council with support from the Tories for nearly 2 years, until a row over school closures caused the Conservatives to switch support to the Lib Dems in February.

She admits though, the expenses scandal and the general unpopularity of the government will hit the Labour vote.

She said: “We have heard that some people don’t feel like coming out and we’ve been talking to them about why they should. One of them is the threat from the BNP.

“Personally, I am digusted at the actions of some MPs of all parties. We don’t know what the effect of that will be on the voting public.”

But she blames the “cyclical nature” of British politics for some of the problems faced by Labour in Bristol: “We are in the third term of a Labour government and that has never happened before.

“You could say the same thing happened during the Tories’ 18 years in power in the 1990s. They completely lost their base in Bristol and were down to 6 seats. Whatever happens in these elections, the maths mean it can’t be that bad for us.”

Labour is basing its campaign on their achievements during their 21 months in power, citing transport policies like the £1 ‘travel anywhere’ bus fare, their pledge to make Bristol the safest city in the world, and their handling of the city’s finances.

But with the prospect of a collapse in their vote a real possibility, Helen Holland is understandably keen for this campaign to be over.

She said: “I always look forward to elections. For political people it’s our lifeblood. This one has been a hard slog, partly because it’s been such a long campaign. So I am looking forward to it, but I’m also looking forward to it being over.”

Audio: Original is talking to the leaders of all the main parties on the city council this week. Today, Martin Jones interviews Labour leader Helen Holland.


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Bristol Lib Dems “confident” of council majority

May 27, 2009

Bristol’s Lib Dem leader says she is “confident” her party is on course for an outright majority on the city council after the council elections on June 4.

Barbara Janke told Original 106.5 she has high hopes of getting the four additional seats needed to run the council without support from any of the other parties.

The Lib Dems currently have 32 councillors, compared to 24 for Labour, 13 Conservatives and 1 Green. The figures mean no party can run the city on its own.

Barbara Janke said: “I think people are going to give us a chance this time to show what we can do and give us a working majority.”

She also claims the Lib Dems will not be as badly damaged by the MPs’ expenses scandal as the other two main parties.

She said: “On the performance of our local MP, Stephen Williams, people are satisfied that he is not one of the people who has been abusing the system.

“The wrath does not seem as much against the Liberal Democrats as against the other parties, particularly the party in government. A lot of Labour voters who have stuck with the party through thick and thin are not going to do so after this.”

The two main issues the Lib Dems are campaigning on are the economy and the environment. On green issues, she says she is confident voters will back her record of improving waste and recycling services in Bristol.

On the economy, she told Original 106.5:”Want to be confident that we have a strategy not just for supporting people who are unemployed and limiting the damage across the city. What they want is to be confident that we are attracting investment to the city and that there will be jobs in new technologies when we emerge from recession.

“Bristol is very well-placed to do this but it needs leadership and it needs confidence from the outside that however well the city is performing the city council is there leading.”

However, she claimed there was no magic bullet either to improve Bristol’s public transport or to reduce council tax.

On transport, she claims Bristol has few options to improve things as central government policy means the city is unable to borrow money for long-term plans or to raise its own revenue.

“I would be very much a champion for greater financial powers for Bristol to determine its own investment in transport. However, we’re not likely to get that so we will make the best of the funding allocation we have at the moment and make sure the new schemes – like Rapid Transit – are delivered on time.”

And she could make no promises on council tax, because of fears the government is storing up unpopular tax rises until after a general election.

She said: “Our policy is to cut the rate of increase in council tax. We did that by 5% when we were last in power and at the moment that is our policy.

“However, we don’t know what these big cuts are going to look like. The public sector spend is going to be hit very hard in future years.

“I think people are aware of that and that if we are frank and honest with them about the council’s finances we will get the co-operation we need to make the best of whatever the circumstances are.”

Audio: Original 106.5 is talking to the leaders of all the main parties on the city council this week. Today, Martin Jones interviews Lib Dem leader Barbara Janke.


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Tories aim to become Bristol’s second party

May 26, 2009

I’m previewing the council elections on June 4 and profiling the main parties on the council for Original. Today, it’s the Conservatives:

The Conservatives say they aim to become the second biggest party in Bristol after the council elections on June 4th.

Leader Richard Eddy predicts a big increase in the Tory vote, claiming they have had a good response on the doorstep while out campaigning in Bristol.

He claims their policies on education, crime, value for money and transport are being well-received, saying: “These are the things people want to see something done about, not the faffing around the council has become known for.”

The Tories currently have just 13 councillors, compared to 24 for Labour, 32 for the Liberal Democrats and 1 Green. This has put them in the role of ‘kingmaker’ on the council, as their support provides a majority for either the Lib Dems or Labour, allowing them to run the council.

They’ve used that power a number of times recently, switching their support from the Lib Dems to Labour and back again in the last few years. This has led to accusations of “game-playing”.

But Richard Eddy defended his policy as “responsible”, saying: “We have to work with what the electorate give us. They’ve been quite clear that they do not have sufficient confidence in any of the three main parties.”

He also claims the Tories can shake off their reputation as only representing traditional white, middle-class Tory voters in areas like Stoke Bishop, Horfield and Westbury on Trym.

He said: “We’re already representing the whole breadth of the city of Bristol. I represent a seat in Bishopsworth which contains part of the Withywood council estate. We also represent places as diverse as Avonmouth and Stockwood.

“Our candidates reflect that diversity. For the first time in the last council elections, one fifth of our candidates were from black or ethnic minority backgrounds. Half of them were under 35. So I think things have changed.”

He admits the MPs’ expenses row has hit support for his party, and other mainstream politicians. But he pleaded for voters not to take it out on local politicians.

He said: “People are fed up with the parliamentary expenses row and that will affect the turnout.

“There are many councillors up and down the country of all political colours who frankly do deserve people’s support. They’re not in it for money.

There are many of us who have not got jobs or been otherwise out of pocket as a result of wanting to get involved in local politics.

“But all of us on the doorstep are finding that people are more cynical about it. What I’ve sought to do is to say this is about you and your community, and about gettign a better deal for your part of the city – and for the city overall.”


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