George Ferguson's response to Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja criticisims
One of Bristol's leading musicians has claimed mayoral candidate George Ferguson's membership of Bristol's elite Society of Merchant Venturers is a conflict of interests. You can read the full story here , but here is George's response to Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja's letter in full:
Many thanks for your open letter and for your generous support for the things I do for Bristol. As an enthusiastic champion of the arts, taking the arts to the less well off parts of the city as I did to Bedminster in the mid 1990s, I am absolutely committed to taking the arts right across this city, penetrating all cultures. Like you, I was deeply angered by the cancellation of the St Paul's Carnival this year. Under my leadership of this city I want Bristol to buzz with such activity, which I see as leading local regeneration. I shall champion the arts in all communities.
I shall also seek to change the planning laws that have allowed supermarket provision to explode across Bristol. I will resist further major developments where possible. The big four have expanded from 20 to more than 80 outlets in recent years and have had a damaging impact on independents, jobs and local high streets.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
So why the hell am I a Merchant Venturer? In all honesty I sometimes ask myself the same question when I pay the annual donation, and I was encouraged by some to resign prior to standing for mayor, knowing this would be an issue. I am sure you know that I am not in any way an apologist for the appalling and deeply cruel slave trade which was undoubtedly part of their history. I am proud to have played a leading role in anti-apartheid campaigning in Bristol in the 1970s and deplored the council and chamber of commerce for being involved in a Trade Mission to South Africa, at that time citing the embarrassment of Bristol's role in the slave trade. I like to feel my attitude to civil rights rubbed off on my daughter, who now works with Shami Chakrabarti at Liberty.
My reason for accepting the very surprising invitation to join the Merchants was that they are nowadays a very different and charitable organisation who do an extraordinary amount of good for Bristol's elderly, youth and education. I felt I could expand the work I do in trying to make Bristol a better place by being part of what is essentially a charitable organisation. We meet four times a year and I cannot remember having a "business" discussion of any substance in all the time I have been a member. You will not be surprised that I am perceived as the "rebel" member, not only in my dress, as I am sure most members would testify!
I believe very strongly in public life that one should be absolutely clear about allegiances and it does not only matter whether there are real conflicts of interests – it is also necessary to address perceived conflicts. For that reason, I let the Merchants know when deciding to stand for mayor that I would cease my membership immediately when elected. I can promise they would have no preference in my role as mayor. What is more I shall continue to challenge them, as I do now, if there is anything they propose with which I disagree, such as the proposed sale of the Territorial Army site on Whiteladies Road for a supermarket. I have strongly opposed this from within the Merchants. I was the only member to do so – and have continued to oppose publicly.
I would be happy to meet to clarify further if you would like, but I can assure you I am strongly independent and previous allegiances will not be allowed to colour my judgement as mayor. As an independent I am committed to putting Bristol first in all decisions.