Everyone seems to know about the great success of Sadiq Khan, the new mayor of London who is the first Muslim mayor of the capital city. Well, let’s not blame anyone because it is obviously a positive step towards liberal diversity in the United Kingdom and of course London as the heart of this country has an important role.
Let me tell you something that might not be that commonly known. Let’s look beyond the boarders of that exciting City of London with its seemingly endless opportunities.
The City of Bristol that lies on the mouth of the river Avon in the South West of England had its local mayoral elections at the same time. Being allowed to vote as a British resident I was pretty excited about the procedures here in the UK and about the candidates.
The engagement I saw was stunning. Thousands of letters were send out containing little booklets that told you how to vote, where, when and most of all who lined up to be mayor. There were public panel debates going on and the candidates tried to be as close to the citizens as they could.
As I have not been living here for such a long time I asked my colleagues and friends about their opinion and about feedback for the current mayor George Fergusson. Under his governance Bristol got the title of “European Green Capital2 in 2015 as first British City to have this title. However, this did not seem to prevent people from the wish of change.
A young Labour candidate called Marvin Rees became more and more popular. I asked what would make him a good mayor and the first respond was often: “He is working class”. Evidently social classes still have a huge meaning and influence for the Brits. You could think that in the 21st century we overcame the class system but here a lot of people still put themselves or other in a box together with people who earn the same. Therefore a candidate who represents the working class rather that middle or upper class seems more familiar to the ones who are eligible to vote. It appears a lot more “down-to-earth” when you hear Marvin is a mixed-raced son of a single mother and he works as a freelance journalist for a while. He even states he faced racial discrimination in his childhood. While the former mayor George Ferguson focused a lot on the image of the city towards the outside world, Marvin doubts that enough work was done to support less well-off. That is why amongst other things he wants to tackle the growing housing crisis in Bristol.
In the end Marvin addressed the citys citizens enough to become mayor.
So not only London made a change towards a new labour party Mayor. Labour also recorded a victory in the Bristols council elections, gaining seven seats and winning a majority.
According to Marvin, his and Sadiq Khans election shows what labours politics mean to the British. I means going beyond the “back-and-forth that goes on in Westminster”, offering more ”British politics across women, disabled people, people from black and Asian backgrounds”.
Diversity and Equality are essential for innovation within the British parliament and the common expectations of British society. The mayoral elections demonstrated nicely that there are people out there who are willing to support changes and get active.
Marvin is saying “We need to set an example to the city. We want people in all parts of Bristol to be working together across boundaries. Politicians set the city tone. We have to be examples.”
Well, you are setting a good start, Marvin, and I think you could make a good example. Keep going!