John Harris

Journalist & Author

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees: ‘My dad arrived to signs saying​: ​No Irish, no blacks, no dogs’

His election as UK’s first black mayor was deeply symbolic. How does he plan to tackle Bristol’s growing problem with inequality – and its racist past?

‘I don’t want to be tagged as the black mayor. I’m a mayor for all of the city,” says Marvin Rees. “But my story of growing up here as a mixed-race kid does matter. There is something special about that.”

Earlier this month, Rees defeated the incumbent mayor of his home city of Bristol with a final vote-share of 63%. In London, Sadiq Khan’s win was being held up as a huge moment for Britain’s Muslim population, and welcome proof that divisive, borderline-hateful campaigning is often more likely to backfire than succeed – but 120 miles up the M4, an equally dazzling story was playing out. Rees, after all, had become not just the local elections’ other big Labour story, but also the UK’s first black mayor. Moreover, in a city with a history intertwined with slavery and the black community’s fight for rights and recognition, his arrival in power was deeply symbolic.

Related: Bristol campaigners to disrupt auction of council homes

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