Labour may become biggest party in Bristol in May elections
BRISTOL mayor George Ferguson is likely to find himself politically outflanked by Labour after the local elections in May.
Mr Ferguson, who swept to power as the city's first elected mayor on a tide of putting Bristol before politics, could be in charge of a cabinet in which the largest political party is not represented.
Labour councillors wanted to serve in Mr Ferguson's cross-party cabinet but have been instructed not to do so by the party's National Executive Committee.
The instruction has led to turmoil in the party and two key members – Peter Hammond, leader of the Labour group on the city council and Dean Chapman, secretary of the Bristol Labour Party – have both resigned.
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Now The Post can reveal that Labour can expect to make significant gains at the local elections in which 23 seats are up for grabs and only three of which the party is defending.
The Lib Dems, however, who are defending 14 seats, are likely to suffer widescale losses.
This is because the party is currently very unpopular at national level, partly because of its massive embarrassment over the U-turn on tuition fees and the hopes of introducing a new voting system which turned into a damp squib at the alternative vote referendum.
You only have to look at Jon Rogers' result in the mayoral election to see just how unpopular the Lib Dems are at the moment. He polled only 6,202 votes compared with Mr Ferguson who polled five times as many.
The outcome of the local elections means that Labour could end up with a total of 30 seats.
The Lib Dems might be left with 26 seats while the Tories, who have also slumped in the polls, might have 14 seats. The Greens currently have two seats but have a good chance of winning Ashley from Dr Rogers.
Labour would not have an overall majority but would be the largest party and would be able to use its block vote to outmanoeuvre Mr Ferguson and the other political parties.
Mr Ferguson only needs a straight majority to get his proposals passed by council but the council needs a two-thirds majority to force any changes.
If the Lib Dems or the Tories want to force any decisions past Mr Ferguson, they would need Labour's support.
Labour will be able to use this in negotiating deals with Mr Ferguson and the other parties.
The following year, 2014, might prove to be even more of a headache for Mr Ferguson. If the Coalition Government continues to be as unpopular as it is now, then Labour can expect more gains in the year before the next general election.
It is even conceivable that Labour emerges with an overall majority in which case Mr Ferguson could fail to win a straight majority on an issue. It would mean he would not be able to get any changes agreed without Labour's approval.
How the local elections could play out in May:
Ashley ward: held by Jon Rogers, with a majority of 695 but could fall to the Greens (the Greens hold the other seat in the ward). GREEN GAIN
•Avonmouth: Kennedy-Hall (Con, maj: 226). Other seat in ward is held by Labour, admittedly by one vote. LAB GAIN
•Bishopston: Bev Knott (Lib Dem, maj: 1,261). LIB DEM HOLD
•Cabot: Mark Wright (Lib Dem, maj: 692). LIB DEM HOLD
•Clifton: Trevor Blythe (Lib Dem, maj: 482): LIB DEM HOLD
•Clifton East: Simon Cook (Lib Dem, maj: 437): LIB DEM HOLD
•Cotham: Anthony Negus (Lib Dem, maj: 683): LIB DEM HOLD
•Easton: John Kiely (Lib Dem, maj: 174). Other seat is held by Labour. LAB GAIN
•Eastville: Steve Comer (Lib Dem, maj: 593). Other seat held by Labour. LAB GAIN
•Frome Vale: James Stevenson (Con, maj: 308). Marginal seat. LAB GAIN
•Henbury: Chris Windows (Con, maj: 321): CON HOLD
•Henleaze: Glen Morgan (Lib Dem, maj: 73): LIB DEM HOLD
•Hillfields: Patrick Hassell (Lib Dem, maj: 358). Other seat held by Labour. LAB GAIN
•Horfield: Cheryl Ann (Lib Dem, maj: 452). Three-way marginal. LAB GAIN
•Kingsweston: Simon Rayner (Lib Dem, maj: 729). Previously a two-way marginal. LAB GAIN
•Lawrence Hill: Brenda Hugill (Lab, maj: 9). LAB HOLD
•Lockleaze: Guy Poultney (Lib Dem, maj: 407). LIB DEM HOLD
•Redland: Fi Hance (Lib Dem, maj: 486). LIB DEM HOLD
•St George East: Alex Pearce (Con, maj: 452). Other seat is held by Labour. LAB GAIN
•St George West: Ron Stone (Lab, maj: 91). LAB HOLD
•Southmead: Jenny Smith (Lab, maj: 630). LAB HOLD
•Stoke Bishop: Peter Abraham (Con, maj: 1,301). CON HOLD
•Westbury-on-Trym: Geoff Gollop (Con, maj: 967). CON HOLD