Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Local elections: what it all means

In the unlikely case that the Blogonian's predictions are correct, the city council will look like this by the afternoon of May 6: Conservative 13 seats, Labour 24 seats, Liberal Democrat 31 seats.
For the first time in the city's history the Lib Dems will be the largest party in the city. Barbara Janke has already stated at the last full Council Meeting on 5 April that if the Lib Dems are the largest party they will form a minority administration.
So far so bad. But The Bristolian, The Evening Post and the BBC, in remarkable display of unanimity, have all predicted the fall of current Lib Dem leader Janke in an internal coup to Deputy Leader Gary Hopkins.
But will this really happen? Will Hopkins - still relatively inexperienced - want to run a minority administration that has to deal with the council's multiple financial cock-ups and the social services situation which is spiralling more out of control by the day? And will he want to do this in a party clearly divided, where his support and power base is derived from a collection of inexperienced and not terribly bright Lib Dem councillors from south of the river?
Hopkins is undoubtedly a competent - if uninteresting - politician with a taste for the detail of road calming and waste management. But as with all Bristol Lib Dems, he falls short when it comes to "the vision thing". The Lib Dems are a formidable election fighting machine but what for exactly?
They have no apparent plan or vision for the future of the city. They just seem to want to take Labour's dubious Thatcherite legacy and attempt to manage it better. That means more PFI, more city centre development and regeneration, more strip malls in South Bristol, more social services cuts, more privatisation, more voluntary sector incompetence, more traffic jams, the same old crap public transport and so on and so on.
The Blogonian has searched in vain for an original Lib Dem policy for the city and has failed. This is consensus politics gone mad. What's the point of voting if everything will stay exactly the same, just managed by different - and more inexperienced - personalities? Moreover, what the local Lib Dems plan to do hardly chimes with the national Lib Dems election campaign. This has consistently pitched itself to the left of the Labour Party. But where is the evidence of this reforming zeal from the Lib Dems in Bristol? Nowhere. They're exactly the same as the other two parties.
As for the Labour Party, expect some ritual bloodletting. Hammond having failed to deliver his own budget speech through sheer cowardice and having taken one of the worst decisions in Bristol's political history by taking control of the council back in October will be dumped as leader. Rumour suggests that John Bees will take over...
And the Tories? Who cares?

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