Bristol’s Wild Mayor campaign

 On 3rd May 2012 11 cities across the UK held referendums on whether they would like an elected mayor. In a bid to decentralise government and in keeping with the recently announced Localism bill, the largest cities across the UK had an option of choosing a directly-elected Mayor in their city. The newly created mayors would have powers similar to that of the Mayor of London, with central government devolving power on important local issues regarding transport, education, infrastructure and the economy.

Critics worried that local politics would be turned into a popularity contest, as people voted for a personality with little knowledge of their manifesto. Those in favour of the idea argued the advantages of having an independent local leader who could make decisions regardless of their political stance, therefore cutting much of the bureaucracy and petty politics that currently exists in local Government. Local knowledge, experience and a leader making decisions on behalf ‘of the people’ are other attractive benefits.

Hartlepool Town’s football mascot H’Angus the Monkey was voted in as Mayor back in 2002, undermining Westminster’s new directly-elected mayoral system. Stuart Morrice (the man behind the monkey suit) has since been re-elected as Mayor as for re-election without costume.

 Despite these positives, of all the cities who voted in May only Bristol voted in favour of a mayoral system. Now, with voting for the elected Mayor taking place on November 15th and 15 candidates running for the title, the National Trust, RSPB, CPRE, The Woodland Trust and Avon Wildlife Trust have joined forces to launch a campaign which urges candidates to include nature in their plans for the city’s future. The ‘Wild Mayor Campaign’ focuses on 5 main areas which the newly elected Mayor could significantly influence. They are:

  • Green spaces for all. Bristol is fortunate to have a wealth of green space, but they are under threat. The newly elected mayor could protect and enhance green spaces in Bristol, making it a better place to live and work.
  •  A city rich in wildlife. Gardens, allotments, streets and buildings support a huge diversity of wildlife. The Wild Mayor campaign is lobbying for elected Mayors to create wildlife friendly neighbourhoods and proactively increase Bristol’s tree cover by 30%.
  • Reconnecting children with nature. There has been much recognition in the importance of outdoor play and learning for children. As highlighted in a previous blog, ‘what your local park can do for you’ , playing in nature rich green spaces not only improves people’s health and wellbeing but tackles more serious problems of obesity, mental health problems and illness. The campaign calls for Mayors to ensure all children spend more time outside and reconnecting with nature.
  • A Green Capital with nature at its heart. Twice Bristol has fallen short of becoming European Green Capital. The Wild Mayor Campaign calls for the new Mayor to overcome the obstacles to winning in previous years, with a distinct theme of nature at the heart of the next bid. 
  • Sensible renewable energy choices. The Severn Estuary offers huge potential for green power but it is important that it is put in a place that does not cause damage to the natural environment. Innovation not decimation is the key and the Wild Mayor Campaign is calling for the elected mayor to use their leadership to ensure the right type of power is put in the right place.

 With 7 of the 15 mayoral candidates’ independents and only one respective labour, conservative and liberal democrat, a directly-elected mayor is an exciting opportunity. The multiple benefits of greener places and sensible planning has been discussed fully in previous blogs and the Wild Mayor Campaign highlights a key opportunity for Bristolians to influence local place-shaping; by voting for a candidate who prioritises environmental issues on their agenda and recognises the important role of nature. Luckily, with the 5 organisations backing the campaign producing a total membership of 100,000 across the city (that is 1 in 4 voters) ‘Wild Mayor’ could be a very realistic way to influence the outcome on 15th November and ensure the city is a greener, better place.

For candidate profiles and summary of their manifestos, head to the BBC Bristol website. Follow the campaign on Twitter: #wildmayor.

This blog was written by Chloe Hampson.


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