Why new mayor will have to use 'soft power' if they want success
BRISTOL'S elected mayor will have to make use of "soft power" if they want to make the new post a success, according to a leading political expert.
Soft power – the art of using your influence to get people to do things without forcing them – will be a major weapon in the elected mayor's armoury because they will not be able to tell private companies, health trusts and organisations outside the Council House what to do.
Dr David Sweeting, a lecturer in urban studies at Bristol University, said: "Soft power is something they will have to use if they want to be successful.
"A leader of a council has got some hard power, because in theory, they can instruct people within the council what to do.
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"But soft power is more about getting people to co-operate, making deals happen – acting as a facilitator.
"Soft power probably has more to do with relationships outside the Council House because if the elected mayor wants to do something about transport, for example, they can line up the various interested parties such as Government officials, the transport company and so on to try to get something sorted out but they will not have any power to tell the transport company what to do."
He said an elected mayor was more likely to draw on soft power because their term of office will be four years which will give them a chance to develop longer term relationships with the city's most powerful and influential people.
He said: "Soft power is not exclusive to elected mayors because the former leader Barbara Janke would probably say she developed these relationships during her years in office."
He said independent candidates could argue that they were more likely to use soft power because they could speak as "Mr Bristol" without any political ties.
But party candidates could equally argue that they would have much closer links with central Government.
Dr Sweeting said: "Ken Livingstone was initially elected as an independent but he chose to go back into the Labour Party which perhaps says something about being a party politician.
Equally, there were very successful elected mayors such as Stuart Drummond in Hartlepool, who were independent.
Soft power is a concept which was first coined by Joseph Nye of Harvard University in his book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power which was published in 1990.