We have a highly prestigious episode this week: Lesley Alexander has been a Conservative Party councilor in Bristol since 2003 and is the current Lord Mayor–a.k.a. chair of the council meetings and the ceremonial “first citizen.” She revealed a fun piece of trivia about the council chamber and recalled a scary moment from a council meeting.
Q: Bristol has had a lord mayor or a mayor for 801 years. That is a lot of mayors! So for the next ten hours or so, we’ll go through each of those guys and you tell me how they did at running a council meeting. Thomas Beaupeny, 1384: do you give him a thumbs up, thumbs down, or in the middle?
A: [Laughs] I have no idea! One thing that you may not know: we have quite an adversarial form of council chamber. It’s made out in the same way as Parliament. The distance between the two rows facing each other is two sword-lengths. So nobody can stick their sword into the opposition.
Q: Oh, that’s amazing! As an American, I would never think to measure things in swords. Maybe bullet trajectory, but not swords. Bristol is on its second elected mayor, and he has to stand for you when you enter, just like everyone else. Do you technically outrank the mayor?
A: It’s difficult to say. We’re two different jobs. I chair the full council meetings. He’s got the checkbook. He runs the city. But he’s got the aggravation. I have the chain and the mansion and I have all the fun.
A: We’re two different roles. One is the civic role–that’s mine. Then there’s his role, which is running the city. The two shouldn’t cross over. The mayor has the power to ignore what any of the councilors say, except the budget. He needs the councilors to pass the budget.
Q: I noticed that when you announce whether a motion is passed or failed, you don’t announce the vote split. Why is that?
A: You can do that, I suppose. If you’re watching on the webcast, you should be able to see [how people voted].
Q: No, you can’t.
A: Okay, well that is something I will take on board and make that comment in the future.
Q: During your March 2016 meeting, there was a moment where the council was taking a vote. But you were not present because Councilor Mark Weston said that your car was apparently vandalized. Is that true?
A: Yes, it was. Because the council house was closed for renovations, we had a meeting at the cricket club. We had a, well, I would say a “rent-a-mob” sort of person, rather than somebody with real political convictions. When I tried to go in, he stopped the car and was kicking at it.
Q: Oh, wow. You were sitting in the car while this man was kicking at you?
A: It was quite frightening because he was bouncing up and down with his hands on the car. There was a bit of a baying crowd.
Q: Is he in jail currently?
A: No, he’s not. I think security would have liked us to take it a lot further. But the comment from our legal department was, well, it’s all going to be over now and he’ll go away. And he did.
Follow Lord Mayor Lesley Alexander on Twitter: @brislordmayor