EDITOR'S COMMENT - "George Ferguson dared to be different"
The Post editor Mike Norton was at the count today. He reflects here on the result - which sees George Ferguson become Bristol's first elected mayor.
The turnout was disappointing but the result was nothing short of sensational.
No-one should underestimate the size of George Ferguson’s achievement in winning this election.
He has taken on the full force of three major party machines and essentially made mincemeat of them.
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In an election that often looked like it would end in more of the same, George dared to be different. He offered independence. And Bristolians have taken him up on it. Just like at the referendum, they dared to be different again.
When George announced - through The Post - that he was going to stand as a candidate, I admired his optimism but doubted he could win it.
But then I saw him in action during the five hustings I chaired. Like every candidate, he was by no means the finished article. But what he lacked in policies and political sharpness he made up for in personality and a surprising honesty. If George didn’t know the answer to a question – like on the effectiveness of the Greater Bristol Bus Network - he admitted it. When expected to play to the gallery – like on the question of care home closures - he was prepared to be considered and frank about the complexity of the issue.
At the hustings, there were always vociferous supporters of other candidates who were quick to barrack George. But I spoke to many “ordinary” voters who had come along to see the candidates in action and the majority seemed to have been most impressed by George.
And that impression has transferred itself to the ballot box.
There is no doubt that this is a victory for personality and independence. I'm sure Marvin Rees would argue that his policies were much clearer than George Ferguson's. But - whether he accepts it or not - Marvin's campaign seemed to be hamstrung by his intention to appoint an all-Labour cabinet. Every time the issue came up at the hustings, I saw heads shaking at the prospect of a one-party administration.
Many challenges await our new mayor. In the short term, there is a budget to be set. In the long term, there is the not-insignificant task of restoring the city's faith in leadership.
At the very least, however, we have a mayor who has pledged to put Bristol first. And that is a great starting point.