Saturday, 29 May 2010

Who will be Bristol's champion in Whitehall?

In a speech delivered in Hull on Friday, David Cameron said that

"I will be assigning Ministers and senior MPs to some of our biggest cities, with responsibility to work with local communities to help drive forward economic development by making sure blockages in Whitehall are dealt with."

Bristol is, of course, one of those biggest cities, so are we destined to get our own "champion" in the corridors of power at Whitehall?

If so, who?

Well, it would almost certainly need to be a "local" MP, and it is unlikely, for obvious reasons, to be either of our two Labour MPs in Bristol. So no championing role for Dawn Primarolo or Kerry McCarthy.

In addition the use of the words "Ministers and senior MPs" will appear to rule out "newbies" like Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West), Chris Skidmore (Kingswood), Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) or, a little bit further afield; Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset).

So who does that leave?  Well, if we look at the West of England Partnership area, we get the following list;

Liam Fox (Conservative, North Somerset)
Steve Webb (Lib Dem, Thornbury and Yate)
Don Foster (Lib Dem, Bath)
John Penrose (Conservative, Weston-s-Mare)
Stephen Williams (Lib Dem, Bristol West)

Of the above John Penrose is Minister for Tourism and Heritage at the DCMS, Liam Fox is the Secretary of State for Defence, and Steve Webb is the Minister for Pensions at the DWP.  Stephen Williams and Don Foster currently have no ministerial responsibilities.

The water-cooler talk is that if the UK's major cities do get a champion, that the Lib Dems will insist that Bristol is represented by one of their own on the basis that it is already run locally by a Lib Dem-led council - in which case Stephen Williams may be the favourite.

On the other hand, an alternative viewpoint is that it is the Bristol "city-region" that will be represented, in which case three of the four councils are currently run by the Conservatives - and in this scenario, Liam Fox is said to be the favourite.

So Stephen Williams or Liam Fox?  Who would you prefer as Bristol's champion to unblock the bureaucracy at Whitehall?

Note: The boxing match picture at the top of this blogpost was taken from a Flickr article about Albert "Boy" Bessell, a pre-war Bristol boxer who was brought up in the same street as my nan.  If you want to find out more about him, click here

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