Standing down

4 05 2013

It’s been a long 2 years as Chair of the Bristol Labour Party. With highs and lows. Labour coming a strong second in the Mayoral election was hard for the Party, the activists and me personally.

It’s been a hard slog but having achieved in this election what I’d hoped we would I’m happy to announce that I’m standing down as Chair at our next AGM.

At yesterday’s count Labour gained 6 wards. (7 if you include the hold following the Southmead by-election). In many wards we romped across the finish line with massive landslides for example in Lawrence Hill and Hillfields. We brought down Lib Dem “big beasts”  in Easton, Eastville and Lockleaze. In many wards we came a strong second for example Ashley and Horfield. It was a very good night for Labour.

For me this journey started 4 years ago. As a member campaigning in Lawrence Hill (we held that with a majority of 9 votes back then. It was 976 yesterday) 2009 was a year when we lost a lot of good people and it hurt. I vowed then that I would spend the next four years getting stuck in to local politics and do what I could to turn Bristol red. First as a candidate in a run at the then leader of Bristol Tories and his ward co-Cllr and then as Chair  of the Bristol Labour Party where I felt that real change could be made.

Driving and informing me for the last 2 years was the need for a massive injection of talented, thoughtful and articulate people into the Labour Group. People who did not necessarily “fit the mould” of previous expectations. People who would mix things up a bit and offer new solutions to the problems facing Bristol. I sat on almost every local election shortlisting panel interview and we maintained a high standard. All those not making the grade were declined.  We made space for excellence. It was, inevitably a tough and painful process, but we will see the benefits in the coming months. We had the courage to shortlist people who possibly had little or no campaign experience but would make excellent Councillors, problem solvers and spokespeople for their communities.

Happily we’ve got real game changers elected. To name just a few: Mhairi Threlfall an expert in “incubating” small businesses. Helping committed people with big ideas to create jobs . Hibaq Jama a human rights lawyer and community activist working with people on the very edge of despair and walking them back to a better life and active citizenship. Estella Tincknell an academic with a strong critical analysis & big policy ideas and buckets of good humour to go with it. Steve Pearce. A former plant worker, turned planning expert. A man who knows his stuff on an issue that will become more important.

Then there’s the people we sadly didn’t get elected but must next time. Again to name just a few: Eileen Means a former social worker, who went on to run an entire Department and then worked in the private sector. She knows how services the Lib Dems privatised work and what problems they generate. We need her on board. Eileen Lepine. A former local government officer with a ton of ideas & an intimate knowledge of how a democratic mandate can be blocked and reversed in the backrooms of local government. Definitely a Cllr we need in the future!

I am so incredibly proud of the 2013 cohort. I’ve done my best to support and protect them as candidates. Now they have the legitimacy of a democratic mandate.

In the coming years the Bristol Labour Party must maintain this high standard. People will see us up our game. People will see that we are a government in waiting.

From next month it will be someone else’s job to deal with the panicked call first thing in the morning. To weigh the best outcome of a difficult decision and to look good friends and comrades in the eye and say “sorry but no”. It isn’t easy and I very much hope the Party & Group of Councillors give that person their full support.

We aren’t a social club. We aren’t there to simply elect friends. We must continue to select bright and articulate people to speak on behalf of our communities. With a lot of hard work I believe that we can secure many more Labour Councillors and then in 2016. Elect a Labour Mayor.

With all that achieved we will all then truly have succeeded in Turning Bristol Red.

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One response

4 05 2013
Andy Burkitt

Well done – not always agreed! – but sincerely glad I always voted for you.

Go and do your own thing and thank Herbie – the real power behind the throne – for lending you to us.

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