At the last local elections in 2021 for the Bristol City Council, the results were quite unexpected. For the first time since 2016, Labour lost their majority, and the council went to ‘No Overall Majority’.
The Green Party had the best results, gaining the joint most seats at 24, tied with Labour, whereas the Conservatives got 14 and the Lib Dems got eight.
As a result, the mayor can’t do as much as he wants because his party (Labour) no longer controls the Council and some things that he wouldn’t necessarily want, could be put through.
As a recent example of this, the new Council put through a motion that would create a referendum on the role of the City Mayorship itself, which happened and over a year ago Bristolians voted to abolish the role.
Well, that could now change.
A By-Election has been called in the Bristol Ward of Hotwells & Harbourside, previously held by Liberal Democrat, Alex Hartley. Mr Hartley resigned on 19 December 2022, citing mental health reasons, saying;
“It has been the honour of my life to represent Hotwells and Harbourside ward, and to fight for your interests in City Hall. Unfortunately, due to mental health concerns, I no longer feel able to represent you as well as you deserve. For that I am truly sorry.
This By-Election is going to be an interesting one. Now while winning the coveted 25th seat would make either the Greens or Labour the largest party, it still wouldn’t give them overall control, merely a local equivalent to a minority Government, as the Liberal Democrats or Conservatives could team up with either to out-vote the largest party.
However, even if the Greens win the 25th, it won’t necessarily mean that the Mayor will appoint any Green Councillors in his Cabinet, as he has the right to appoint whoever he wishes, even if his party aren’t the largest.
In order to have a majority on the City Council, one party needs 36 seats.
Who are the candidates?
As of 1 January 2023, Labour and the Conservatives have yet to put anyone forward. However, that hasn’t stopped interesting candidates from stepping forward.
Martin Booth, Editor of Bristol 24/7 who lives in the area, has decided to step forward as an independent candidate, saying;
“Although my job as a journalist and author takes me all over Bristol on a daily basis, I feel a particular affinity to the area around Hotwells and the Harbourside.
It is my home, it is where my youngest daughter goes to school and it is the area of Bristol that I know the best….
As an independent voice in Bristol for many years, I hope that my journalism, writing and mentoring has already made a small difference to our local area and our wider city.”
He has cited the stopping of the move of the Central Library (which I also covered back in November), more local input on Western Harbour Developments, and to make the streets safer for children travelling to school as policies.
For the Liberal Democrats, Stephen Williams, former MP for Bristol West (the constituency where Hotwells & Harbourside is) and campaigner to Save Bristol Central Library, announced he will be standing for the party in this ward. He even got endorsed by the resigning Mr. Hartley, saying in his original statement;
“The one solace to me having to step down is former MP for Bristol West , Stephen Williams has decided to be the candidate for the Lib Dems in the ensuing by-election”
Mr Williams seems to be focusing on unsustainable building developments and traffic in the ward itself
As for the Greens, they’ve put forward Patrick McAllister, a member who lives locally, who will also focus on building development in the ward, as well as cladding issues recent flats have had.
Nominations for the Ward close on Friday 6 January.
What happened last time?
The 2021 election in the ward was a tight race, with the Lib Dems coming out on top with 651 votes. The greens came second with 625 votes and Labour with 496 votes. The Conservatives gained 182.
It wouldn’t take a lot for the Lib Dems to keep the ward but it also wouldn’t take a lot for the Greens to sneak a victory either, so it’s going to be a very interesting race to look at.
The By-Election will take place on the 2 February 2023.
- If you live in Hotwells & Harbourside, I encourage you to register to vote, the deadline for which is the 17 January.
- Can’t make it for the day? Then I’d encourage you to apply for a postal vote, the deadline for which is 5pm on the 18 January.
- Applications for Proxy Voting can be found here, the deadline for which is the 25 January.
This is going to be an interesting by-election for the immediate future of Bristol City Council.
Ed: Title and text changed to reflect the fact that no party can achieve a proper majority.