Only a year after Labour’s Marvin Rees became Mayor of Bristol, there is another mayoral election in the South West, this time to be the Mayor of the West of England.
One of the more disjointed devolution deals, the West of England Mayoralty will cover North East Somerset, Bath and Bristol. Unlike Bristol, it’s likely to be an uphill struggle for her Majesty’s opposition.
In a fractious selection contest, pro-Corbyn parish councillor Lesley Mansell came out on top, despite competition from more experienced candidates, such as council leader Robin Moss.
Mansell’s selection became even more contentious when attention was drawn to her manifesto. Mansell’s promised to work on Education, NHS policies and Public ownership, none of which are included in the devolution proposals.
Bristol Labour insiders feel Manning is unqualified for a role where she has to represent over half a million people, and think her candidacy will only help the Lib Dems make it into the expected run-off.
Despite the Labour’s control in Bristol, Labour will be unlikely to reach the run-off. With high turnout expected in Labour-weak areas like North East Somerset where Labour are expecting a poor share of the vote. Labour are also likely to lose votes to the left of them, with Darren Hall being the Green candidate.
Hall, the Green Party candidate for Bristol West at the 2015 General Election, is considered a strong pick by many, as the Greens are look for a Brighton-like breakthrough in the city at the next General Election.
Meanwhilst the Conservatives will be standing South Gloucestershire councillor Tim Bowles. Bowles, who runs a dementia charity whilst also being a councillor, is the favourite mathematically. However, with increasing scrutiny on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, Bowles may suffer a loss accosted to national politics, as the region voted 57% for Remain.
The Lib Dems are therefore expected to have a strong showing in the election. Ex-Bristol West MP Stephen Williams has confirmed to MayorWatch that he is standing to be the Lib Dem candidate, and is expected to announce on the 4th February. He faces competition in the selection for the nomination from Bristol Councillor Simon Cook.
Williams believes that the contest will be a straight race between him and Conservative candidate Tim Bowles, whilst hoping his experience working as a DCLG minister will help him win. Although, his role in a coalition government that cut Local Government spending by 51% between 2010 and 2015 may be a line of attack for his opponents to the left of him.
The MP for Bristol West between 2005-2015, Stephen Williams is by far the most experienced candidate so far announced for the Liberal Democrats, as prominent ex-MPs like Manchester’s John Leech and Birmingham’s John Hemming.