Mayor hopeful Marvin Rees given ovation as he takes stage
THE national spotlight fell on Bristol's Labour mayoral candidate as he took to the stage in Manchester.
Marvin Rees was given a standing ovation at his party's conference as he introduced Ed Miliband at a question and answer session.
He told activists he had grown up in poverty in Bristol and took a pot shot at rivals for not backing his promise of a 'living wage' for city workers.
Mr Rees also pledged increases in apprenticeships and affordable childcare if elected.
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Voters go to the polls on November 15 to decide who will become Bristol's first elected mayor. All the main parties are contesting the election, alongside several independents.
Mr Rees opened yesterday's event by inviting party members to bring a future Labour conference to Bristol – which could be reality if the city's long-awaited arena is built.
He said his family had "struggled to make ends meet", growing up in Lawrence Weston and Easton.
"We were a single-parent household headed up by my mum," said Mr Rees. "In my time growing up, we experienced poverty, deprivation, hardship, and we lived across the social divisions that characterised life in Bristol.
"It felt like we were invisible to the decision-makers around us and I saw a world in which some people wanted for nothing, and life presented itself as an opportunity, whereas others struggled every day just to get by."
He pledged to work for the "99 per cent", borrowing a phrase used by the Occupy activists who last year camped in cities including Bristol.
A key part of Labour's campaign has been the pledge to bring a 'living wage' of not less than £7.20 an hour for all council employees, hoping it will be extended across all firms and organisations throughout the city.
Some of his rivals have backed the proposals, while independent George Ferguson has said it would cost jobs and accused Labour of "playing politics with taxpayers' money".
Mr Rees said: "My opponents have criticised me for wanting to make Bristol a living wage city. But I think that says more about them than the moral and ethical case for making Bristol a living wage city. They haven't got a clue about the hardship faced by thousands of families in Bristol and across this country. I think they're out of touch with the people who live on my street. They don't speak with them, and they don't speak for them. But we will."
He slammed the "disgraceful" plans for regional pay in the South West NHS, and praised Mr Miliband, saying: "Ed has to be the next Prime Minister of our country. The people in my city need Ed in Number 10."
Taking to stage, Mr Miliband said the Bristol candidate had been "fantastic."