Expert says independent George Ferguson was natural choice for Bristol
A LOCAL government expert at Bristol University has said it was no surprise that voters elected an independent candidate to become mayor.
Dr David Sweeting from the university’s school for policy studies, said: “Opinion was split as to whether George Ferguson could beat Labour candidate Marvin Rees but in hindsight it isn’t a huge surprise that the people of Bristol have elected an independent.
“It’s a choice which fits well with Bristol as a city, and is in line with other places in the country which have chosen independent mayors.
“The general mood is one of optimism because George has a good track record of doing things for the benefit of Bristol, from being involved with the Tobacco Factory to the Harbourside redevelopment. He’s very well-connected within influential Bristol networks and I’m sure he’ll use this influence for the good of the city.
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“Not being a party politician can hopefully work to his advantage, too.
“He’s already pledged to knock on the door of Downing Street to say that Bristol’s delivered what they wanted by electing a mayor. Now we’ve given George what he wants, let’s hope he can deliver what we as voters want.”
Professor Robin Hambleton, an expert in local politics at the University of the West of England, said the Labour candidate faced a tough time to get the party’s voters out.
One of the reasons for this was the timing of the election – mid- November with dark nights when people prefer to stay in rather than make a trip to a polling station.
Professor Hambleton said the low turnout also conspired against Mr Rees. He said if it had been higher, then Mr Ferguson would have found it much harder to win.
Mr Ferguson, who studied at Bristol University in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was awarded an honorary degree in 1999 in recognition of his services to architecture.
A team of experts from both universities is conducting a unique study to examine the difference a directly elected mayor will make to the city.
It is the first of its kind to examine the transition period before and after the election of a directly elected mayor.