Why mayoral candidates must speak up now
BRISTOL businessman Abdul Malik has thrown his hat into the ring to become the city's first elected mayor.
The former Liberal Democrat councillor said he would like to be a candidate if next week's referendum is in favour of a figurehead to run the city.
Mr Malik, 38, who was born and bred in Easton, told the Post he was convinced that an elected mayor was a golden opportunity for the city to achieve its aspirations.
But he believes that it has to be the right person who understands how local government works as well as a knowledge of business and the economy.
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He said: "A lot of people are very confused how an elected mayor would differ from the existing Lord Mayor and my worry is that this uncertainty might put people off from voting and a golden opportunity will be lost to really take the city forward.
"Some people have advised me not to speak out until we know the outcome of the referendum but I think that view is wrong.
"We need candidates to put their names forward now – before the referendum in order to bring the debate alive and show people how important this post would be for Bristol's future."
Mr Malik was a ward councillor for Easton from 2005 until 2009 and during that time, he saw how party politics prevented sensible decisions being taken for the sake of the city.
He said: "It was incredibly frustrating to see decisions not being taken – which you knew to be right – because of the politics which was always going on.
"There was a fear of taking decisions in case it gave an opportunity to the other political parties to score political points.
"I think an elected mayor would rise above all of that and take decisions which best served Bristol."
He was particularly upset when he failed to be chosen as Lord Mayor after his name was put forward by his party.
He said: "It was not so much about being Lord Mayor for myself but what it could have done for the city in terms of building bridges with all the multi-ethnic communities."
An elected mayor would have the power to make decisions in running the city while the Lord Mayor is a non-political and neutral figurehead who represents the city at ceremonial events and chairs full council meetings.
Mr Malik, who is married with four children and still lives in Easton, started his halal butchery business with a loan of £15,000 and now has a chain of six shops.
He said: "I do have sympathy with the business community and understand that in these days of recession, we have to adapt and make changes."
Mr Malik said he would seek the nomination to stand as the Lib Dem candidate but if he failed to be selected, he would consider standing as an independent.
Architect George Ferguson has already signalled his intention to stand as an independent candidate if the referendum produces a Yes vote. Craig Clarke, who led the storming of a hearing at Bristol County Court to evict Occupy protesters from College Green, declared his intention to stand in January.
Other possible candidates include Tory leader Peter Abraham, Bristol West Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams, former Labour city councillor Kelvin Blake, and Marvin Rees who failed to be selected as the Labour candidate to fight Bristol West at the last general election.