Profiles of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Marvin Rees

In the first of a series of profiles of the mayoral candidates, Amanda Ramsay talks to Marvin Rees

With an election on 15 November for Bristol to have an elected mayor, Labour South West announced a short-list of candidates yesterday for the Bristol mayoral selection: former city councillor Kelvin Blake, current Labour group leader Cllr Peter Hammond, former council leader Cllr Helen Holland, former Bristol City Councillor and MP for Wansdyke in Somerset Dan Norris and party activist Marvin Rees.

First off the blocks for Labour, the weekend after Bristol voted yes, was Marvin Rees, who had actively campaigned for a yes vote in the 3 May referendum. He appeared on the BBC Sunday Politics show and cuts an impressive figure.

Rees is a manager for race equality in mental health with NHS Bristol and a former journalist and BBC Radio presenter. Hailing from the Yale Global Leaders Programme, he has an intriguing CV and was apparently once the executive assistant to President Clinton’s Spiritual Advisor. Rees stood unsuccessfully for the Bristol West selection in 2010.

Rees speaks with authority about life in Bristol’s inner city, coming from a poor background and says: “I was one of two brown-skinned children of a single white woman.”

Despite the poverty in some parts, during the referendum campaign the prime minister pointed to Bristol being the second richest UK city outside London, but local people feel the city could do much more.

“Bristol is a premiership city performing at championship level,” explains Rees, who blames poor leadership at a council level.

“Core to that underperformance has been a vacuum of leadership, the lack of an aspirational long term vision for where Bristol wants to be and how it will get there and the absence of a coherent city narrative, that genuinely results from and reflects the lives of all Bristol residents.

“There is an on-going challenge in making best use of the council officer-elected member relationship particularly around the charge that it is officers not politicians who lead or manage the city.”

One remedy to this is full elections every four years for Bristol City Council, with a consultation currently underway. Rees supports this change: “The electoral cycle sees one third of the council being elected every year which a number of officers testify to leading to constant campaigning and the effective close down in March as they wait to see what a new administration might want done differently.”

Why should Bristol Labour party members vote Marvin Rees? “I believe I am able to advocate for Labour values in the usual political contest. But my life story and relative newness gives me a platform to be able to reach voters we will need to reach who sit beyond ‘politics as usual’.

“We need a jobs plan that provides job not only for tomorrow but plans for Bristol’s global positioning over the coming 30-40 years and prepares our city workforce expertise accordingly,” says Rees looking to the future.

Transport is a burning issue in the city, especially around bus services, which Rees acknowledges: “We need it integrated, cheaper, more reliable, more pleasant; we need a regional transport plan developed and delivered by a regional transport authority.”

The issue of school places not keeping-up with population increase is never far from the news in Bristol. “We need Bristol schools to be institutions of choice rather than parents looking to send their children out of the city or to private schools. We need to ensure students who have lost the educational maintenance allowance receive the financial support they need to be able to pursue further education.”

With only about a quarter of the electorate engaging with the referendum, Rees is vocal about how to tackle low voter turnout: “engagement starts now with the contest to become Mayor. Operation Black Vote style shadow schemes need to be at the forefront of our thinking.

“However, low voter turnout is not only about elected politicians. It’s about broader socio-economic inequalities and social immobility. It’s about the media and how they present and tell the story of politics.”

The selection will be a postal vote with ballot papers going out next Friday 25 May and the ballot closing on 13 June. The result is expected on 15 June via postal ballots. Watch this space for more news on Bristol mayoral elections and who Labour choose.

Amanda Ramsay is a former Labour councillor and cabinet member

Bristol Labour Party Mayoral Selection Official Hustings: Friday 8 June at the Greenway Centre, Doncaster Road, Southmead, Bristol BS10 5PY from 6.15pm to 8.30pm. Bristol Labour Party members wishing to attend MUST email or phone 0117 972 9447.

Follow @marvinrees and the mayoral debate on @Mayor4Bristol1

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8 Responses to “Profiles of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Marvin Rees”

  1. william says:

    ‘Rees is a manager for race equality in mental health in NHS Bristol’.Are,yes, the NHS,doctors ,nurses,and that sort of thing.Does my local garage,supermarket,bank,manufacturing company need a manager for’race equality’?Stop sponging off the taxpayer,Mr. Rees,and go back to your hutch in the BBC,financed by a levy on people who do not use it.Nobody gives a toss about the colour of your skin,get over it,and stop feeling deprived.

  2. Anon E Mouse says:

    This is just a case of this guy trading on the fact he’s black and has lots of chums in the media – especially the biased BBC.

    Can the Labour Party PLEASE stop allowing their candidates to be so unrepresentative of the people they wish to serve and get back to representing the working classes.

    After the Ken Livingston fiasco I’m surprised it appears Labour are still so out of touch.

    This individual should crawl back under whatever stone he came out from and Labour should start considering us instead of jobs for their pals.

    Next you’ll be telling me they allowed Simple Simon to stand in Birmingham…

  3. Ben Mitchell says:

    @William and @Anon E Mouse: you should both be ashamed by your utterly ignorant comments. Do you have the first clue about who Marvin is? Have you ever met him? Do you know anything about Bristol politics? If the answer is no, keep your spite to yourself.

    Every city have their own unique problems and issues that need to be addressed. Race, of course, is not the only one in Bristol, but it’s still something that needs to be discussed. Marvin has a very valid story that deserves to be heard. He hasn’t for one moment suggested that he feels ‘deprived.’ As a Labour candidate, he is rightly mentioning a number of things that he’ll have to deal with, if selected, and then elected.

    The more I read your comments the more I’m astounded by just how ridiculous you both sound.

  4. Anon E Mouse says:

    Ben Mitchell

    What is ignorant about wanting a Labour Party that is run by the likes of Alan Johnson who came up through the workplace and the unions?

    What is ignorant about wanting the working classes to be represented by the working classes – normal people who have lived a normal life instead of abnormal weirdo’s like this guy or Siôn Simon in Birmingham?

    All these types of clones are trading on is nothing except the colour of their skin and they represent nobody except themselves.

    The sooner the Labour Party is rid of these sorts the better. For Ed Miliband yesterday to say that Labour should value engineers etc with those not educated through university spoke volumes.

    The sooner we get rid of tax avoiding property owning multi millionaires like Miliband who’s first “job” was working for the countess toff Harriet Harman the better.

    I don’t need to meet this guy like I didn’t need to meet Gordon Brown to realise what a disaster he was as PM and chancellor – especially after I voted Blair for a “Full Third Term”.

    The trouble with the Labour Party now is it is filled with these careerist types who exist in a bubble actually believing the nonsense spouted from Westminster and only wanting to be with their millionaire chums after finishing some PPE course obtaining a skill in nothing of value to this country.

    The hint is in the name Ben Mitchell the LABOUR Party and I don’t need him sucking money from the taxpayer to hear his “valid story”.

    Come to South Wales Ben Mitchell, walk a mile in my shoes and I’ll show you far more people deserving of having their “valid story” heard than this ex BBC tribal clown.

    If this is the best we have to represent the working classes then the Labour Party is finished and Aneurin Bevan and Co must be turning in their graves…

  5. Rachel says:

    Marvin is an absolute inspiration. He has vision, talent and a genuine passion for justice.

    I challenge anyone to walk around the streets of Easton and say someone born here must have had a silver spoon in their mouth.

    And it’s a good idea to check your facts. Marvin didn’t study PPE at Oxford; he studied at Swansea. It was only later he studied at Yale – and I imagine he was able to do so because he’s very very bright.

  6. Trix says:

    I thank God that Mouse and William are not representative of the people of Bristol. Their comments are shallow, uninformed and are tinged with an unpleasant odour of racism. Marvin represents a new voice for Bristol; a vibrant talent with an inclusive vision.

    He is not running on a ‘race’ ticket (which the above would know if they had made the slightest efforts to inquire); instead, he brings a wecome breath of fresh air, unincumbered by the stale and uninspiring politics which have caused so many to disengage from the political process. He brings the politics of the future to Bristol with real energy and authenticity to have the difficult conversations about class, the local economy and importantly, to ask the question ‘what kind of Bristol do its citizens want to create? race issues are only a part of that vision; but I suppose Mouse and William have not yet realised that they have a race as well!

  7. James says:

    I have had the pleasure of meeting Marvin on a number of occasions, something that many posters on this site clearly haven’t.

    He’s come from within a working class family, worked bloody hard and is certainly one of the front runners in many peoples eyes.

    Meet the man then I dare you to tell him to “crawl back underneath his stone” and please oh please stop whinging about the biased BBC, its boring.

  8. Why all this talk of “living wage”? And on top of that why is it just “all talk” ie we have championed a living wage etc. You can talk about something til the cows come home, what matters is action. Will you or won’t you, have you or haven’t you put it into place?

    I say go further than living wage, go for the unconditional basic income guarantee and fund it with the automated payment transaction tax.

    That’s what I would do and how I would make it happen.

    When are politicians going to stop talking general p r spin speak and set concrete actions to achieve those goals.

    How many people earn less than £15,000? How many people are unemployed? How many pensioners are there?

    These people would all vote for an unconditional basic income guarantee.

    It’s a general election winner that would put any party in power for a generation at least.

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