'Self interest' claims in row over Bristol mayor vote
THE mud has begun flying in the elected mayor debate, with the "yes" camp claiming their opponents are only motivated by "political self interest".
Opponents of a directly elected mayor are "the establishment" and "know the prospect of a mayor threatens their position of power", they say.
It's certainly a more aggressive tone from the "yes" campaign, who until the "no" group launched earlier this month only had to fight against voter apathy.
The "yes" campaign says its leaders are not politicians but members of the business community.
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They include Jaya Chakrabarti, who runs her own digital agency called Nameless, and Marti Burgess, who owns the Stokes Croft nightclub Lakota.
Mrs Chakrabarti said: "Bristol has missed out because of complacency from the Council House in the past and it's critical that everyone uses their vote on May 3 to make sure it doesn't happen again. It's so important the public try to understand the pros and cons.
"We are the independent yes campaign and we want a yes for the right reason. We don't want the voters to walk in blind to the polling stations. But we are completely convinced that a yes vote will be good for Bristol."
With one exception, the 'no' group leaders are not in positions of power.
Lib Dem councillor Tim Kent is a member of the ruling city council cabinet. But Labour's Alderman Bill Martin has not been a councillor for 10 years, Mark Brain is a Labour councillor for the council's second largest party Labour and Rob Telford is a member of the Green Party.
While the Greens have two councillors – neither of which is Mr Telford – they're about as far away from running the city council under the current system as you can get.
Yet a statement from the "yes" group claims "they appear to be primarily interested in protecting the existing system and their own positions and they want to preserve a culture that is risk averse and distant from the people of Bristol".
It is true that the council leader Barbara Janke has a lot to lose if Bristol goes for an elected mayor, but she does not appear to be an active member of the "no" campaign.
The "no" campaign has pointed out that there are politically motivated supporters of an elected mayor as well.
There is a second "yes" campaign that is run by the Tories and therefore not politically independent either.
And a group of Labour heavyweights, including former group leader Helen Holland, have also come out in supported of elected mayors.
Ian Campion-Smith, is a Liberal Democrat member of the Bristol Says No campaign and husband of executive member for education Councillor Claire Campion-Smith.
He said: "In the light of the increasing levels of political backing for a 'yes' vote, it is disingenuous for the yes campaign to try and portray the referendum debate as being between a group of non-political, altruistic, small business people on one side and a group of politically-motivated, self-interested, councillors on the other hand.
"Jaya and the others cannot ignore the fact they are, whether they chose to be or not, just one part of a much larger, often politically-motivated, campaign for elected mayors."