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Bristol Government

Bristol City Council consists of 70 councillors representing 35 wards. They are elected in thirds with two councillors per ward, each serving a four-year term.

Wards never have both councillors up for election at the same time, so effectively two-thirds of the wards are up each election. The Council has long been dominated by the Labour Party, but recently the Liberal Democrats have grown strong in the city and as the largest party took minority control of the Council at the 2005 election. In 2007, Labour and the Conservatives joined forces to vote down the Liberal Democrat administration, and as a result, Labour ruled the council under a minority administration, with Helen Holland as the council leader. In February 2009, the Labour group resigned, and the Liberal Democrats took office with their own minority administration. At the council elections on 4 June 2009 the Liberal Democrats gained four seats and, for the first time, overall control of the City Council. The Lord Mayor is Councillor Geoffrey Gollop.

Bristol constituencies in the House of Commons cross the borders with neighbouring authorities, and the city is divided into Bristol West, East, South and North-west and Kingswood. Northavon also covers some of the suburbs, but none of the administrative county. In the recent 2010 General Election in May, the boundaries were changed to coincide with the county boundary. Kingswood no longer covers any of the county, and a new Filton and Bradley Stoke constituency includes the suburbs in South Gloucestershire. There are two Labour Members of Parliament (MPs), one Liberal Democrat and three Conservatives.

Bristol has a tradition of local political activism, and has been home to many important political figures. Edmund Burke, MP for the Bristol constituency for six years from 1774, famously insisted that he was a Member of Parliament first, rather than a representative of his constituents' interests. The women's rights campaigner Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence (1867–1954) was born in Bristol. Tony Benn, a veteran left-wing politician, was MP for Bristol South East from 1950 until 1983. In 1963, there was a boycott of the city's buses after the Bristol Omnibus Company refused to employ black drivers and conductors. The boycott is known to have influenced the creation of the UK's Race Relations Act in 1965. The city was the scene of the first of the 1980s riots. In St. Paul's, a number of largely Afro-Caribbean people rose up against racism, police harassment and mounting dissatisfaction with their social and economic circumstances before similar disturbances followed across the UK. Local support of fair trade issues was recognised in 2005 when Bristol was granted Fairtrade City status.

Bristol is unusual in having been a city with county status since medieval times. The county was expanded to include suburbs such as Clifton in 1835, and it was named a county borough in 1889, when the term was first introduced.[23] However, on 1 April 1974, it became a local government district of the short-lived county of Avon. On 1 April 1996, it regained its independence and county status, when the county of Avon was abolished and Bristol became a Unitary Authority.
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