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Listen: The Debrief – what does Bristol’s Green surge mean for the city, and what next for the council under a new committee system?

The Green Party became Bristol’s largest party at local elections on 2 May, falling just short of an overall majority. As Bristol kisses goodbye to its mayoral system, what will happen next?

Local Elections 2024

Story updated Friday 10 May to reflect arguments between Bristol’s Green Party and Labour groups.

Last week the Green Party seized a historic victory at Bristol’s local elections, gaining 10 seats but falling just short of the 36 needed for an overall majority in the council chamber.

The Greens had been expected to come out as the largest party, as eight years of Labour rule under mayor Marvin Rees came to an end – and with it the city’s mayoral system of governance. But their surging support proved to be even stronger than expected, prompting emotional and jubilant scenes at election counts in Easton and Brislington on Friday evening (3 May).

Now the dust has settled after a sometimes bad-tempered campaign, Cable journalists Matty Edwards and Priyanka Raval recap what it was like covering the local election results, and ask what it all means for the city.

What is really behind Bristol’s Green surge? How did the other political parties fare when the scores were totted up? And with a general election on the horizon, what do these results means for the Greens’ chances of unseating Labour in the new Bristol Central constituency?

The Greens have constantly said that ‘nobody has a monopoly on good ideas’, and that they want to run the council in a less toxic way where parties work together more often.

But just a week on from the elections, the signals were not looking that promising. Half an hour after this podcast was published, Labour put out a press release claiming that the Greens had essentially gone behind their back and formed a joint administration with the Lib Dems “following a backroom deal between the two parties”. The party said it would not be chairing any of the policy committees it is entitled to under the new system of governance.

The Greens swiftly hit back, asserting that Labour had “refused to engage in any meaningful dialogue with the other parties”.

“Avoiding meetings with the other parties to talk about this like adults is a dereliction of Labour’s responsibility to the city, and an insult to all those that voted for Labour and a more democratic governance system,” said Emma Edwards, leader of the council Green group and councillor for Bishopston and Ashley Down.

But Labour group leader Tom Renhard, councillor for neighbouring Horfield, denied Edwards’ statement on X (formerly Twitter), complaining that the Greens’ meeting scheduling had not been sensitive enough to his childcare commitments. He said he had met with Edwards on the afternoon of 10 May.

Whether this latest spat turns out to be just meaningless hot air, a bit of teething trouble, or a serious issue for the workings of the new committee system, remains to be seen. We’ll be keeping you updated as things develop in the coming weeks.

But which of the Green Party policies from their manifesto will have the backing of other parties, and which will cause a stir at City Hall? And as conversations begin behind closed doors, how exactly will power sharing work under the new committee system?

You can listen back to our special local election episodes of Bristol Unpacked with Labour’s Tom Renhard, the Green Party’s Emma Edwards, Lib Dem Jos Clark and Tory Mark Weston. And if you want a recap on the political change underway in the city, check out the rest of our local election coverage here.

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