Steerpike

Labour mayor’s eco-hypocrisy press row

Labour mayor's eco-hypocrisy press row
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To Bristol, the right-on Remain capital of liberal Britain. The local Labour mayor Marvin Rees has been having a bit of a bad time recently. Elected in 2016, his constituents think he's done such a good job that they, er, voted to abolish the mayoralty in a referendum last month. Awkward. Since then, Rees has made national headlines for the first time in his life after flying 9,000 miles to Canada to deliver a 14-minute speech on cutting carbon emissions.

The irony of such folly appears to have been lost on Rees, whose team don't take too kindly when the mayor's eco-hypocrisy is pointed out. A perfect example of this was provided this week at a Bristol City Council media briefing. Local democracy reporter (LDR) Alex Seabrook, who works with the BBC and the Bristol Post website, questioned Rees about the 'irony' of travelling to Canada to give his TED talk about saving the planet when he could have done it instead on Zoom. The LDR scheme is funded by the BBC to ensure reporters cover local authorities in a particular catchment area.

Saskia Konynenburg, the council's head of communications, then intervened to ridicule Seabrook's question, claiming such inquiries were not 'legitimate'. When Seabrook, rightly, said his job was to hold the mayor to account, she shot back that: 'I think it probably is from a journalist from a newspaper, but I can't quite see the link to LDR, but I'll leave it there.' Following the spat, LDRs will no longer be sent to press conferences in Bristol because of, according to the council, 'the narrow definition of their role as an impartial service.'

Consequently, Bristol 24/7 and BristolWorld have announced they will not send reporters to the mayor’s conferences. What a nice way for Rees to end his term in office.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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