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Jeremy Corbyn hails 'incredible' victory of Bristol's new mayor Marvin Rees

Published 07/05/2016

Marvin Rees is the new mayor of Bristol
Marvin Rees is the new mayor of Bristol

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hailed the election of Marvin Rees as mayor of Bristol describing his victory as "incredible".

Mixed race Mr Rees, 43, was elected just hours after Sadiq Khan, a Muslim and son of a Pakistani immigrant, became the new mayor of London.

Senior Labour figures like deputy leader Tom Watson and former leader Ed Miliband welcomed Mr Rees's victory, as did race campaigners who said he was a role model for black youngsters,

Mr Rees, a married father of three, won 68,750 votes after second preferences had been counted, defeating the incumbent, Bristol First's George Ferguson, who finished on 39,557.

Operation Black Vote said Mr Rees was the first person of Afro-Caribbean descent to be directly elected mayor of a major city in the whole of Europe and said his election in Bristol, which made its wealth from slavery, was symbolic.

It is thought that a high turnout, combined with all-up council elections in Bristol may well have helped him beat architect Mr Ferguson, 69.

Mr Corbyn had travelled to Bristol to celebrate with Mr Rees rather than appearing at the ceremony marking Mr Khan's historic success in London.

The Labour leader said he was "proud" that both Mr Rees and Mr Khan had won their respective elections and criticised the Conservatives for their "nasty gutter politics".

"Marvin Rees, a black man elected mayor of Bristol. I have been in Bristol quite a few times over the months supporting Marvin because he has this fantastic reach, a fantastic personality - this ability to unite the whole city, to unite people to face the problems we all have," he said.

"Marvin is someone who is absolutely rooted in Bristol and its community. This incredible result that has been achieved here today is a huge thank you to everyone in the Labour Party in Bristol and all over the region."

Mr Corbyn said people were joining the Labour Party because they believed, like him, that Britain "could be so different" and were angry at the Conservative's election campaign in London.

"It doesn't have to be unequal with a tiny minority at the top getting so much and the big majority at the bottom getting so little," he said.

"They wanted the Labour mayor and they wanted things done very differently. They were saying they were so disgusted at the tactics used by the Tories in London in attacking Sadiq Khan and the way in which they tried to play the nastiest gutter politics that I have seen for a very long time.

"It didn't work and people came out in unity for something different.

"I have been in lots of places last week where allegedly there was a problem. I was in Carlisle, we won; I was in Rossendale, we won; I was in Burnley, we won; I was in Hull, we won; I'm here, we won; I was in London, we won.

"We've had a huge result in Bristol, a huge result in London and we've had an increase in our vote since 2015 and I think we have shown we have an enormous reach across all sections of our community."

Earlier, Mr Rees spoke movingly of growing up in a council flat on a touch estate and being aware at a young age that he was different.

"Forty years ago today we would probably be sat in a council flat in Lawrence Weston having just left a refuge in Exmouth," he said.

"I was aware I was a brown kid, a mixed race kid, on a housing estate where there weren't many brown kids.

"I was aware of people calling me names. I had a sense of vulnerability about the circumstances my mum was facing; that we had very little money. We could go to the refrigerator and there wouldn't be much there.

"I think it is incredible that when I reflect back, coming from that background that while it presented me with many, many challenges and while Bristol has not always been a great place for me to live in, no city is perfect.

"While it has presented me with those challenges it has also presented me with opportunities to stand here today as mayor-elect."

Mr Ferguson, who is well known for wearing red trousers, said he was now bowing out of politics. He was first elected to the top job in 2012 but some of his policies have proved controversial in Bristol.

Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote, said: "The symbolism of Marvin winning cannot be overstated. Bristol made its vast wealth in slavery. Slave owners such as Edward Colston have statues and institutions throughout the city.

"Bristol has for some time struggled with acknowledging its dark past, much less effectively dealing with it. But with Marvin - a descendent of those enslaved - perhaps Bristol takes a truly redemptive step to modernisation.

"This young black man is a worthy role model to inspire millions."

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