I am going to say something that you might not expect to hear from the leader of a political party: no one political party has a monopoly on good ideas.
We’re accustomed to the idea that diversity in politics is a good idea in terms of the background of individuals, and I really strongly believe that.
In the UK the average age of a councillor is 59. The vast majority of them are white men.
Thankfully, Bristol’s councillors are much more diverse. In the Green councillor group we have councillors aged 19 to 70, a range of class backgrounds, an even gender balance, nearly a third of us are LGBTIQA+, and our ethnic diversity is similar to the Bristol average. This is important because the more diverse the lived experiences in the room, the more likely we are to make policy decisions that are good for everyone.
But it’s not just diversity of background, I believe diversity in political outlook makes for good decision-making too. It’s just better democracy: the idea that one person can represent all the different views of the 466,000 people who live in Bristol is plainly ridiculous.
That’s why I am voting for a change to the committee system on May 5.
With a committee system, 70 councillors all have a seat at the table where decisions are made. So you have a far better chance that your views are in there, and the decisions made genuinely reflect the needs and wants of Bristolians.
In contrast, Bristol’s current mayoral system gives one person almost total control. This model works very well for those who have the Mayor’s ear, but not for the rest of us.
As a Green I believe in consensus politics. All votes matter, not just those cast for a single person or party.
This referendum isn’t about the current mayor, though. It’s about making better quality decisions by removing the unhealthy concentration of power in the hands of one person, in favour of the fairer committee system. It means less politicking and tribalism, and more working together.
In Sheffield, the committee system received overwhelming support from voters in a similar referendum last year because they had witnessed a series of poor decisions from a domineering one-party administration. Voters in Bristol might sympathise.
Other councils have been using the committee system for years. It’s not always easy – working with people you disagree with can be uncomfortable. But because everyone was included in the decisions made, it means the decisions made have broad support and can go ahead without the risk that future administrations will rip it all up and start again.
It delivers stability, and will mean a more democratic, transparent, proportional and cooperative way of doing politics.
So if you feel like your voice isn’t being heard by the Council, this is the time to vote for change.