Green party leader Charlie Bolton's speech in support of the nomination for Gus Hoyt to become the first Green-proposed alderman in Bristol. We are happy to report that the proposal was unanimously supported. Well done, Alderman Gus!
So today marks a very small piece of Green Party history in Bristol and that is because today is the first time a Green party nomination for alderman has ever been considered at a Bristol full council meeting. More importantly, of course, Gus, - if you vote him through - will become the first Green Party-nominated alderman.
Gus was also the first ever Green Party cabinet member in Bristol. As such, he both attracted a lot of flak and can point to some substantial achievements.
Of course, all cabinet members get flak, as do all mayors. (Well, both of them). They also have the opportunity to achieve.
But to us at least, Gus stands out as a trailblazer – as our first ever Green cabinet member, he was ‘boldly going where no Green has gone before’ – and at a time when there were only two Green councillors in total.
He was also appointed into George’s rainbow cabinet - I do suspect that some of you will understand what it is like to be in a cabinet with a mayor and other cabinet members who don’t share your political affiliation - leaving you both in a party but also partly isolated from your party.
Gus can point to some real achievements - particularly getting the council to commit to investing tens of millions of pounds in both renewables and into energy efficiency schemes – and therefore making a big contribution towards Bristol’s climate change targets.
He was responsible for taking an outsourced and unpopular parks maintenance programme and bringing it in house.
In his time as cabinet member, there was not one eviction as a result of the bedroom tax.
He took local and sustainable food seriously. I don’t mean just leaving empty pie trays in the office. Indeed he helped get EU funding for a substantial local project but also for helped raise the profile of sustainable food systems in the city.
He was part of the team that helped win the ‘Bristol as a Green capital’ project. While I am aware that it is fashionable to criticise any element of Green Capital, it did result in a large amount of money being pumped into local community projects and did actually do a lot of good, and I am sure Gus would be the first to congratulate the thousands of people who volunteered their time - free of charge - to make it happen.
I asked Rob Telford – Rob was Gus’ co councillor in Ashley - for his opinion of Gus. He said
‘Gus worked tirelessly with community campaigners, particularly when Assistant Mayor and always responded to those who were trying to do good for their local community
Unlike most councillors (including myself), he understood how to get on with people from other parties to get things done, sometimes using the "dark arts" as whip to get a deal or arrangement on something, which is against the stereotype of Greens as too pure to be of any use.
He didn't shy away from contentious issues, I'm thinking particularly of RPS where the whole community probably knew where he stood, but yet was open to people who were against it’
Rob concluded by mentioning Gus’s impersonations of a number of councillors, but these should probably remain private for reasons of taste!
Of course, Gus’ activity on social media is legendary, and - for the most part - best glossed over. I have been told however, he did once tweet to say he didn’t like aborigines. He promises this was an auto-correct thing, and he actually doesn’t like aubergines. As an aubergine lover, I find this deeply offensive.
There was also the tv interview he did - live -where the sound cut out and he couldn’t hear the questions he was being asked. Sadly, he tried to bluff his way through, with predictable consequences.
Rob tells us ‘There was a definite "era of the smelly food" in Room 10 – the tiny first office Greens were offered - when fellow councillors complained that Gus had brought in something very pungent, usually from St Nick's Market. (apparently Daniella called Rob and Gus "smelly boys")’. Trust me, Rob, it wasn’t just the food.
Gus told me after the last election that that was it for him and politics. I personally hope he changes his mind, but he was looking bit burnt out by the end. Funnily enough, our ex-councillors all look much more relaxed with life - and Gus is no exception. Losing – it seems - can do a world of good for your levels of stress. You should try it.
More recently, he has also been heavily involved in the fantastic ‘City to Sea’ project – which aims to cut levels of plastic pollution entering the sea. I am sure – whatever his future – he will continue to work for a greener Bristol, and a greener planet.
Gus isn’t everyones cup of tea, but when I look back - I see someone who has some substantial achievements to his name. He has made Bristol a Greener place. I am also aware that being just some bloke who is thrust into a high profile, trail blazing and stressful position, where he is there to be shot at - takes its toll.
I don’t know really what the awarding of the honour of alderman means. But if it is about recognition for someone who has put themselves out there for his or her cause, and gone for it - well, you don’t have to agree with the cause, or even like the person – but you should celebrate their endeavours.
So in conclusion, I say that I certainly recognise his achievements. I am also honoured to know him. Hence we nominate him for this award. I hope you approve.. Thankyou.