George Ferguson is Bristol mayor

16 11 2012

George Ferguson is Bristol’s first elected mayor, confounding many predictions by triumphing against the odds as an independent candidate with a grass roots campaign against well-organised party machines. The architect and businessman won 37,353 votes and runner-up Marvin Rees 31,259, after second preference votes were counted.

“This is a victory for Bristol,” Ferguson said after being declared the winner. “I feel totally honoured and humbled but it’s a hard task ahead.”

When he sits behind his desk on Monday morning at the Council House (soon to be renamed City Hall), Ferguson’s first task as mayor will be to work out how to make almost £25 million in council cuts. He confirmed this afternoon that he wants to be paid his own salary of £65,000 in Bristol Pounds.

Ferguson won 37 per cent of the first preference votes, with Rees winning 29 per cent. That was a difference of some 8,000 votes that Rees was unable to overtake once the second preference votes of the 13 eliminated candidates had been redistributed.

The victory for the independent candidate was matched in the election for Avon and Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner, as Sue Mountstevens was victorious in a contest somewhat overshadowed by the Bristol mayor vote.

So who is Bristol’s first elected mayor? Well-known for wearing his distinctive red trousers, 65-year-old Ferguson is the co-founder and chairman of Ferguson Mann Architects and lives on the top floor of the Tobacco Factory in Southville, which he helped to save from demolition.

Other business interests include the Bristol Beer Factory and Bristol Ferry Boat Company. The former Liberal councillor and High Sheriff of Bristol has pledged to resign his membership of the Society of Merchant Venturers once sworn in as mayor.

In the UK’s only vote for an elected mayor yesterday, the turnout was 27.92 per cent, only fractionally higher than the turnout for the referendum in May which paved the way for this election.

90,273 votes were cast across Bristol out of a possible 323,310.

Ferguson’s win was helped by the low turnout across the city but higher turnout in affluent areas such as Henleaze (42.64%) and Westbury-on-Trym (36.54%), with early indications that Tory and Lib voters deserted party candidates Geoff Gollop and Jon Rogers in order to vote for Ferguson.

Bookies’ favourite Rees had a highly organised campaign, with the Labour Party machinery cranking up the pressure and visits from Westminster bigwigs such as Ed Balls and Harriet Harman, as well as the ever vocal Kerry McCarthy.

But Labour voters in their south Bristol heartlands failed to turn out in support of their man, with turnout as low as 11.21 per cent in Hartcliffe.

Some traditional Labour supporters also refused to vote for Rees due to the negative campaigning by some leading members of his team.

Ferguson was not strictly standing as an independent, having founded Bristol 1st as a one-man party in order to get his logo on the ballet paper.

His independence from party control, however, struck a chord with many voters, and when he forms his first cabinet it will be drawn from cross-party talent.

Speaking from the platform after being announced as mayor, Ferguson thanked Rees, who then gave a speech which had several Labour activists in tears as he talked about the “humbling” process he has been through as a mayoral candidate.

“This is democracy in action,” he said. “This is the way it works. I’m at the end of the no, but it’s about respecting the decision that Bristol has made.

“If you have some aspiration, buckle up because you will fail. You put yourself out there, but it’s about what you do next.”

As Rees walks away with his head held high, the place to be in Bristol tonight will be the Tobacco Factory for Ferguson’s victory celebrations. The hard work starts tomorrow.

Candidate Party Final total    
George Ferguson Bristol 1st 37,353    
Marvin Rees Labour 31,259    
First round
Candidate Party 1st pref % 2nd pref
George Ferguson Bristol 1st 31,321 35.13 6,032
Marvin Rees Labour 25,896 29.05 5,363
Geoff Gollop Conservative 8,136 9.13  
Jon Rogers Liberal Democrat 6,202 6.96  
Daniella Radice Green 5,248 5.89  
Owain George Independent 2,404 2.70  
Spud Murphy Independent 1,855 2.08  
Neil Maggs Respect 1,568 1.76  
Stoney Garnett Independent 1,413 1.58  
Tom Baldwin TUSC 1,412 1.58  
Tim Collins Independent 1,037 1.16  
Philip Pover Independent 994 1.11  
Tony Britt Independent 761 0.85  
Rich Fisher Independent 494 0.55  
Dave Dobbs The Birthday Party 411 0.46  

‘Why I am voting for George Ferguson’

15 11 2012

Today, Bristol stands at its most important crossroads for a generation. Today, we can either vote for an independent mayor to do things differently, the Bristol way. Or we could vote for a party mayor, controlled by his paymasters in London, who will set Bristol back decades.

I am voting for George Ferguson today because he is the only candidate who can deliver real change and wave goodbye to the petty party politics that has had a stranglehold on Bristol for far too long.

Here are some well-known Bristolians who are voting for Ferguson:

Alastair Sawday, publisher
“We need a wholly new man or woman at the top, not a party apparatchik but someone who will breathe new life and spirit into our ailing systems. Such a person has to be independent; it goes without further argument. I am utterly convinced that George Ferguson is the only man who can do this. And once he is there he will need our support – in spades; I do believe that he will be able to muster it as nobody else could.”

Robert Del Naja, Massive Attack
“We’re backing George. Having an independent at the helm will allow Bristol to benefit from the widest range of talent. More people will have their say and the city will be open to more opportunities. It’s about running the city beyond just a political agenda. It’s not just about managing budgets and balancing the books. It’s about imagination. We need a mayor that will bring projects with major appeal to Bristol. We need to look at what’s been achieved in Manchester. They’ve invested heavily in the arts, and it’s brought back huge economic benefits for the city. George is the man that will do this. A party candidate won’t do it, they won’t look beyond running the council operations.”

Eugene Byrne, journalist and author
“I want George Ferguson to be our mayor because he, more than any other candidate, will make Bristol a more interesting and fun place to live in. This election represents a brilliant opportunity for Bristol, and we need to vote in someone who puts Bristol before party politics. Hopefully, this election will not see Bristolians voting according to how much they like/hate the parties nationally. Hopefully they will vote for Bristol, and in my humble, the best way to do that is to vote for the man in the red trousers.”

Colin Sexstone, former Bristol City FC chairman
“George and I have had our disagreements in the past but we have put those behind us. I have known George for a long time and there are many things we agree on. The most important thing – and this is absolutely crucial – is that the elected mayor has to have a large degree of independence so they can rise above the constant political bickering and inter-party squabbling. I am not convinced that the other candidates who have been nominated by the major parties will have that degree of independence which is needed. The elected mayor will have to work with the elected councillors but that is different from being part of a political machine.”

Ali Robertson, Tobacco Factory Theatre Arts Trust director
“I run the Tobacco Factory Arts Trust, the charity that looks after the Tobacco Factory Theatre. I have seen first-hand the way in which George has supported arts and culture with passion and commitment and the way in which their success has had a hugely positive and regenerative outcome. I will be proud to vote for him to be Bristol’s first mayor and look forward to him working for the good of the whole city.”

Mike Bennett, See No Evil co-organiser
“George gets the city. He understands what makes it tick and has experience of bringing people together to get behind a vision. He’s been promoting Bristol’s independent spirit for years and isn’t afraid of speaking his mind and telling it like it is. A trait that’s lacking within the corridors of the council house. A major positive for me is also his intention to bring the best talent from across the different parties to work together. I firmly believe George will make Bristol an exciting place to live and work, drive it forward and finally allow it to reach its potential as a leading, dynamic European city. It’s our chance to make a big difference today, let’s not miss this opportunity. Bristol deserves better!”

Martin Bell endorses George Ferguson

12 11 2012

Martin Bell, the most famous independent in British politics in recent years, is visiting Bristol today to lend his support to George Ferguson in the Bristol mayoral election and Sue Mountstevens, the only independent candidate in the Avon & Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

Bell (right) became MP for Tatton in 1997 after standing as an independent candidate against Neil Hamilton, who had become embroiled in sleaze allegations.

The former BBC journalist, now a UNICEF ambassador, is joining a number of other independent politicians coming to Bristol for a unique event at the Tobacco Factory.

They will be debating how the independence offered by Ferguson and Mountstevens can bring new energy and dynamism in shaping Bristol’s future.

Other speakers include Siobhan Benita, who won 84,000 first votes and 212,000 second reference votes standing as an independent in this year’s London mayoral election; and Liam Fogarty, the independent candidate who was runner-up in Liverpool’s first mayoral election.

Ferguson said: “Never have Bristol voters had so much to gain and so much to lose in a single election, a view that I know Martin Bell shares.

“I look forward to Martin highlighting how exciting this opportunity is for Bristol, and what is at stake.

“If Marvin Rees is elected, he has stated that he will form a cabinet entirely of Labour representatives. This is a daunting prospect for our city.

“We are on the brink of single party control. We all know from the experience of Labour’s stranglehold on Bristol from the early 1980s to the beginning of the millennium what follows.

“Total domination of politics by a single party results in arrogance, staleness of approach and cronyism.

“This situation is exacerbated by the fact that the city’s chief executive and three of five key directors will be appointed over the next 18 months.

“A Labour mayor, together with these key Labour party-appointed posts, supported by a Labour council, would have a stranglehold on Bristol that this city hasn’t seen for 10 years.”

This house in Southville is torn between which independent candidate to support. Other independent candidates in this week’s Bristol mayoral election are Tony Britt, Tim Collins, Rich Fisher, Stoney Garnett, Owain George, Spud Murphy and Philip Pover.

15 candidates to stand for Bristol mayor

22 10 2012

The candidates who will be standing for Bristol’s first directly elected mayor are due to be officially announced on Wednesday, but many have already announced their intentions to run, so here is the best guess at the 14 men and one woman who will be appearing on the ballot paper on November 15:

Daniella Radice, Green
An environmental specialist, Radice has been campaigning on issues including making Bristol self-sufficient in renewable energy and the removal of billboards in the city.

Dave Dobbs, The Birthday Party
Dave believes that the water in the Great Flood came from Mars. As mayor his pledges include implementing community food production and promoting sustainable energy.

Jon Rogers, Liberal Democrats
A recently retired GP, city councillor, and former executive member for care and health, Rogers is in the middle of a cycle tour of all of Bristol’s doctors surgeries.

Geoff Gollop, Conservative
Bristol’s most recent Lord Mayor is a chartered accountant who lives in Henleaze. With his proficiency with a calculator, he claims he is “the only serious contender for mayor”.

George Ferguson, Bristol 1st
An architect who was Bristol’s first Liberal councillor, originally standing as an independent before registering Bristol 1st as a party as a “legal technicality”.

Marvin Rees, Labour
An NHS programme manager who has previously worked as a broadcast journalist for both the BBC and ITV, as a political campaigner and charity coordinator.

Neil Maggs, Respect
The school bursar is committed to anti-cuts and peace, justice and equality. “Let’s get Bristol back to work,” he says. “Bristol deserves Respect.”

Owain George, Independent
The landlord of the Albion in Clifton Village – who remains in place despite the pub being recently bought by St Austell Brewery – and also owner of cafe 194° Farhenheit.

Philip Pover, Independent
Describes himself as “just an ordinary guy… (with) a lot of ideas about what is right and how Bristol can be improved for all Bristolians”. A fan of amateur dramatics.

Rich Fisher, Independent
A graphic designer who promises to rip up red tape on new business start-ups, build around trees not through them and remove all traffic from the city centre.

Spud Murphy, Independent
A former Conservative councillor who advocated the removal of Banksy’s hanging man graffiti before getting on a cherry picker to try to clean it when it was vandalised.

Stoney Garnett, Indepedent
A former postman and football referee who lives in Whitchurch and is never seen without his red hat. Claims to know what the people of Bristol really think about.

Tim Collins, Independent
A planning consultant from Lockleaze promising to create jobs, prevent the redevelopment of Filton Airfield and give Bristol a transport system to be proud of.

Tom Baldwin, Trade Unionists and Socialists Coalition
The youngest candidate promises to reverse the closures of seven day care centres and eight care homes in the city, campaigning against “attacks” on the NHS.

Tony Britt, Independent
A Knowle Wester who was homeless in 2010. He promises to reinstate Bristol’s tram system and give up £10,000 of his wage so children can see shows at the Hippodrome.

Ferguson’s Bristol 1st to become party

15 10 2012

Bristol mayoral candidate George Ferguson is registering Bristol 1st as a political party, meaning that his name will no longer appear as an independent on the ballot paper. The aim is so that his new party’s logo can feature on what will be a very long sheet of paper, ensuring that he stands out from the other independent candidates, of which there could be many.

It is a shrewd move from Ferguson, with the Bristol 1st party set to be dissolved immediately after the November 15 election.

Standing as the party’s sole representative is something that he explains is simply “a legal technicality”, but it is another signal that the race to become Bristol’s first elected mayor is beginning to get serious.

Wannabe candidates have until midday on Friday, October 19 to declare that they will be standing in the election.

All mayoral candidates will be officially declared on October 24. Shortly afterwards, an information booklet about them all will then be sent to every registered voter in the city.

To find out more about Bristol 1st, visit

Who should be Bristol’s elected mayor?

26 01 2012

On May 3, the people of Bristol will be asked in a referendum if we want an elected mayor for the city. Until a yes vote is cast, and that is no way a certainty, it is unlikely that many names will put themselves forward for the position. But here is our own top-ten of potentially Bristol’s first elected mayor.

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The only entrant on this list with their own entry on IMDb, Simon Cook, best known for playing Andrew in the Channel Five soap Family Affairs, juggles his acting and business career with the deputy leadership of the council and the arts and culture portfolio.

He of the red trousers, architect George Ferguson almost single-handedly rejuvenated south Bristol with his ambitious plans for the Tobacco Factory. He is a Merchant Venturer and former Liberal councillor with firm views.

If Hartlepool can elect a man in a monkey suit as their first elected mayor in 2002 (since re-elected for a third term), then Bristol can choose somebody dressed as a pirate, especially as Captain Gas is now retired as Bristol Rovers’ mascot.

John Grimshaw makes things happen, exactly what an elected mayor for Bristol needs to do. Grimshaw helped transform Bristol cycling group Saddlebag into UK-wide charity Sustrans, which has since built 12,600 miles of the National Cycle Network.

Council leader Barbara Janke professes displeasure at the idea of an elected mayor for Bristol, maybe because if we do get one, it is her position that will be most affected. One of the few to have experience of representing Bristol on the national stage.

Former Bristol City chairman Steve Lansdown may have recently moved to Guernsey, but part of the reason why he did so was his utter despair with how Bristol and the UK is run. From his bedroom, he built up Hargreaves Lansdown into a global business.

Evening Post editor Mike Norton has put his face and name to the paper’s current campaign, ‘We need to talk about Bristol’, stressing that Bristol may be a great place to live but is an underperforming city, which needs radical change if it wants to compete.

For political heavyweights, look no further than Dawn Primarolo, Bristol South MP, former Cabinet Minister, Deputy Speaker in the House of Commons, who recently announced she would be standing down from Parliament at the next General Election.

Heading a task force established by the Conservatives to look at maths in schools nailed the political allegiances of Carol Vorderman firmly to the mast, as did her appearance on Question Time in 2010. Will add a bit of celeb glamour to proceedings.

MP for Bristol West since 2001, Stephen Williams was a Bristol councillor for four years. Wales-born and Bristol University-educated, the Liberal Democrat’s first openly gay MP has already indicated that he might stand for the position of elected mayor.

Slideshow photo credits: – – – – – – – –

The Tobacco Factory

22 04 2010

The Tobacco Factory is a Bristol success story. One of the few surviving buildings from the Imperial Tobacco site, it is now a model of sustainable urban regeneration, with a thriving theatre, work spaces, appartments, restaurant and bar. For some, the resurgeance of Southville can be traced directly back to architect George Ferguson buying the building in 1995 and saving it from demolition.

The famously red-trousered Ferguson was sat in the corner of the bar on his laptop when my brother and I visited on Tuesday evening. Joining him and us and Belle & Sebastian on the stereo were young professionals also on their laptops, theatre lovers enjoying their dinner before The Tempest later that night, and one member of staff fast asleep on one of the bean bags cum sofas on one side of the room.

The bar covers a large space, but on busy nights it can still seem full. Air ducts snake across the ceiling and the sturdy red brick walls give the area a sense of safety and permanence. Live DJs play in the bar every Thursday, and on Sundays there is live music inside and a market in the car park outside.

Ferguson is also the man behind the Bristol Beer Factory on the other side of the road so it is no surprise to find their full range of beers behind the bar, available in pints or pitchers. Fosters, Grolsch and Ashton Press were also on tap when I visited, and there was a large wine selection.

My brother and I decided to sample the tapas menu and we were served with a veritable feast: chorizo, jamon serrano, patatas bravas and manchego cheese. All the tapas costs £3.50 each and we both ate very well, the jamon serrano being especially good.

Someone give that George Ferguson a medal. Oh, the Queen just has.

The Tobacco Factory, Raleigh Road, Southville. 0117 902 0060