I'd always assumed that George Ferguson must be a very clever and talented all-round good bloke, trying to preserve something of the character and heritage of Bristol in the face of philistine commercial forces, but that image has taken a few hits of late. Now I'm even beginning to wonder about the clever bit.
His latest "By George" column in the Evening Post is emailed in from Venice where George is busy sipping a vino in a piazza whilst autonomously representing Bristol at the Architecture Biennale exhibition.
Venice, George tells us, "is wonderfully sustainable and dominated by pedestrians and water traffic". But of course Venice doesn't exist in isolation. George himself goes on to say that "it is now really little more than a glorious, inhabited tourist destination ...".
And where do all these tourists (15 million per year, apparently) come from, we might ask, and how do they get to Venice? Overwhelmingly they fly in from all the corners of the Earth, often thousands of miles.
Yes, flying, that "wonderfully sustainable" form of transport. Venice might not be the only tourist attraction in northern Italy but it is the outstanding one and must take it's share of the responsibility for the billions of air miles clocked up by those tourists.
So looked at in a global context (what other context can be valid?) Venice is probably, for its size, the most unsustainable city on Earth. To look at Venice in isolation, as George has done, suggests a lack of intellectual curiosity about issues like sustainability (which fits with his promotion of cycle houses as a front for his land grabbing, hedgerow destroying, 260 place car park development at Greenbank). Or perhaps he thinks that such an analysis is far too sophisticated for the average Evening Post reader.
His column gives us another hint of George's attitude to the hoi polloi. He proudly tells us that years ago he proposed charging every visitor £30 to enter Venice, the idea being to keep "the meanest grockles" away and presumably to restore Venice to being the preserve of the educated middle classes that it was in George's youth.
The "meanest grockles" (who, George was "staggered to learn", merely "come for part of a day and spend some pathetic amount like 3 Euros") include the likes of me and many thousands of Bristolians who of necessity make such trips on a carefully managed budget. £30 a head may be a mere bagatelle to George and his mates but for many, who cannot afford to stay in Venice itself but economise by staying on the mainland and commute in for the day, it could make a trip to Venice literally a once in a lifetime experience.
No doubt George feels that's as it should be, at least for the great unwashed. He of course needs to revisit the Architecture Biennale every other year and would prefer it if his view of the grandiose architecture wasn't marred by plebs sitting on the steps eating ice creams.