Birmingham City Council is a Conservative led with the Lib Dems as junior partners. A third of the seats are up for election on May 6.
With ten Parliamentary constituencies it is also key so far as the General Election is concerned. At present only one of these seats is Conservative, the safe seat of Sutton Coldfield. Yardley is held by the Lib Dems. Four are considered safe Labour seats – Erdington, Perry Bar, Ladywood and Hodge Hill. But that leaves four seats that are Labour held but are Tory targets. Edgbaston (Target 47), Selly Oak (Target 185) Hall Green (Target 191) and Northfield (Target 197.)
In Edgbaston all four of the relevant wards are held by the Conservatives. Good news for our candidate in the constituency Deidre Alden. Bad news for the Labour MP Gisela Stuart who I actually rather like. She should have defected to us – but now must get swept aside in the tide of history. Winning back this seat would be of great symbolic importance. During the 1997 results it came through as a Labour gain before a single Conservative seat had been won. "The Germans have got more seats than the Tories," whooped the BBC.
Other nuts are tougher to crack. Selly Oak has four relevant wards – three went to the Conservatives last time, one to the Lib Dems. So that looks hopeful for our candidate Nigel Dawkins.
Hall Green's four relevant wards returned three Lib Dems and one Respect councillor last time round. As we were in third place behind the Lib Dems this will be a three way fight. Or perhaps a four way fight. A neighbouring Labour MP Lynne Jones, part of whose constituency is moved to the seat with boundary changes, is urging Labour supporters to switch to the far left Respect party and vote for their candidate who is already a local councillor.
As Conservative Home has noted the Labour Party are running a robust campaign against the Lib Dems in this seat. Lord Mandelson might favour a strategy of encouraging a Lib Dem advance in the interests of "change" that involves a coalition government with him still in power. But Roger Godsif, the sitting Labour MP fighting this seat, evidently isn't happy about the prospect of being sacrificed for the greater glory. Anyway good luck to our candidate Jo Barker. She took some encouragement from the Euro Elections last year so perhaps she will come through the middle in an interesting contest.
Although a tougher prospect according to the Swingometer in terms of the Council wards the Northfield constituency looks a better bet than Hall Green. We won all four of the wards last time – even gaining Longbridge. Also the contest is more straightforward as the pesky Lib Dems start from a distant third place on the notional 2005 result. Could our strong local candidate Keely Huxtable be heading for Westminster? The election night analysts would probably call it a "shock result" but looks plausible to me.
Birmingham has the lowest Council Tax of the seven metropolitan authorities in the West Midlands. The Council leader Cllr Mike Whitby says:
"Quite simply we have to do more for less. Birmingham is demonstrating how frontline services and significant regeneration schemes can be delivered without punishing taxpayers. I am proud that we are able to do this."