Bristol needs a mayor, says David Cameron
DAVID Cameron has delivered a passionate rallying cry for an elected mayor for Bristol.
The Prime Minister claimed Bristol has been repeatedly let down by its political leaders as he spoke at an impromptu event in the city yesterday, delivering a rousing call to arms for the 'yes' camp in the debate.
Mr Cameron pulled no punches in his speech and argued that Bristol is failing to compete against rivals. He went on to claim that Bristol has lost out down the years thanks to its squabbling politicians and is not holding its own against other cities on the international stage.
The Prime Minister was given a rousing ovation by the hand-picked audience of around 300 backers at the event held at a hotel overlooking the current centre of political power in the city – the Council House.
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Mr Cameron has made no secret of the fact that he is throwing his full support behind the campaign to have elected mayors in all of Britain's major cities.
And in a bid to breathe new life into a campaign which has failed to capture the public's imagination he made the personal visit to Bristol – which will be voting on the issue in just over a week's time.
And Mr Cameron was not in the mood to mince his words when he spelt out the choices for voters.
"This is a great city: world famous for music, a beacon of culture, a pioneer in green technology, a leading business centre, an internationally renowned port," he said.
"But for the second richest city outside London, you hear people saying that Bristol could be so much more – if it had the right leadership. Let me ask you this: does this city's politics let Bristol down?
"Do we need to get beyond party squabbling? Do we want someone with a dynamic, ambitious, long-term vision for the city? Yes – that is why Bristol needs a mayor."
The audience which filled a room at the Royal Marriott Hotel was made up of politicians, business leaders and supporters. There was also a battery of TV cameras on hand along with journalists and photographers.
Mr Cameron delivered his rallying call in his trademark relaxed style but was able to inject genuine passion into the speech.
The event got under way with a televised message from the current mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg before the man himself strode confidently through the crowd to the podium.
Mr Cameron started proceedings with a joke about the televised debate which took place at Bristol's Arnolfiini in the run up to the last General Election.
He then spoke about why people should back the calls for an elected mayor for more than 20 minutes.
He said: "The very essence of democracy is that it is the voter who pulls the strings. If politicians fail, you kick them out – if they succeed, you vote them back in. City mayors are the purest form of that deal.
"You have got one high-profile person in City Hall. One person to hold to account. One person to blame. This is undiluted democracy."
He added: "The second big reason to say yes to mayors is about our economy. The world has suffered a colossal financial crisis. Countries across the West are recovering from their own debt crises.
"Countries across the South and East are stealing a march. We are all in an out-and-out race for jobs, wealth and investment.
"Bristol is not just competing with London – it's competing with Bangalore, Beijing, Berlin."
Mr Cameron concluded: "The third big reason to say 'yes' to mayors is about where power lies. For far too long we have seen opportunity, wealth, industry and influence weighted in London. There's been a yawning gap between North and South. Now some people would say that is government's job to sort out. Move some money around. Invest in these places. And yes, we are doing that.
"Bringing in high speed rail; a regional growth fund; Enterprise Zones all over the country. But frankly nothing we do in Westminster – no policy we pass or investment we make – can compete with having one energetic champion on the ground, whose round-the-clock, unrelenting focus is on seeing their city succeed.
"So our dream is to have real heavyweight, influential figures in the North, the Midlands and the West.. ..ones who can give their city a distinctive identity, who can fight their corner and who will help rebalance our country."
He added: "My message to voters is simple: don't miss out. This is it. One moment. One chance. One day when you can change the course of your city. You can see that place you live in stagnate or reach for something more."