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Election 2014: Birmingham seat by seat

Election 2014: Birmingham seat by seat

🕔01.May 2014

In the second of our introductory pieces to the forthcoming council election, chief blogger Paul Dale sets out the political landscape and takes a ward-by-ward journey around Birmingham. We predict that Labour will increase its strength in the council chamber by between five and nine seats. However, like all elections there are several issues – from the demise of the Lib Dem vote to the UKIP factor –  that make the business of political forecasting as much art as science. 

A third of the council’s 120 seats are being defended. The councillors defending these seats were elected in 2010, when Labour gained 36.8 per cent of total votes cast across the city, the Conservatives 27.1 per cent and Liberal Democrats 24.6 per cent.

The 2010 council elections took place on the same day as the General Election, which resulted in the formation of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition under Prime Minister David Cameron.

The 2014 council elections will be held on May 22, the same day as European Parliament elections. Nominations for candidates close on April 30.

The changing political landscape since 2010, as evidenced by regular national opinion polls, indicates a dramatic fall in Liberal Democrat support and a fall, although not so great, in Conservative support. Labour Party support nationally since the General Election has increased, although the party has still not topped the 40 per cent mark and its lead over the Conservatives has narrowed recently.

As a cautionary note, it should be remembered that the Labour vote in 2010 may have been artificially high because the seats were contested on the same day as the General Election. Historically, this tends to maximise the Labour vote at council elections.

Another factor contributing to uncertainty on this occasion is an unusually strong showing in Birmingham by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which is contesting 30 out of the 40 council seats. Although UKIP is unlikely to win a seat, it’s candidates will take votes away from the main political parties and therefore make the result in marginal wards more difficult to predict.

The political parties approach the 2014 local elections with the following number of seats in the Birmingham council chamber: Labour 76, Conservative 28, Liberal Democrat 15.

More than half of the 40 seats being contested this time can be regarded as safe territory either for Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat, barring huge and unexpected swings in support. That leaves 16 seats that can be described as marginal or semi-marginal.

Chamberlain Files’ analysis suggests there are five seats where Labour is likely to make gains:

– Acocks Green, Bournville, Harborne, Moseley & Kings Heath and Selly Oak.

There are four seats where it is possible Labour could make gains:

– Edgbaston, Erdington, Northfield and Weoley.

We are predicting one possible gain for the Conservatives, in Kingstanding, but none for the Liberal Democrats. We expect Labour to increase its strength in the council chamber by between five and nine seats. Anything less than a net gain of three or four seats for Labour will be a surprise. Our seat-by-seat analysis starts with the marginal and semi-marginal wards.

Acocks Green

Liberal Democrat Iain Bowen held on in 2010, beating Labour’s Stewart Stacey by almost 1,000 votes. But the scale of Bowen’s victory is misleading. There was a huge swing to Labour, and in 2012 Labour’s John O’Shea beat sitting Lib Dem councillor Roger Harmer. Harmer will contest the seat in 2014 after Cllr Bowen decided not to stand again.

Prediction  – Lab gain.

Billesley

One of the few three-way wards in Birmingham where Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates all have a chance. Labour’s Alexander Buchanan won in 2010, beating former Conservative councillor Susan Axford by 211 votes. Labour won again in 2012, with Phil Davies ousting Tory Len Gregory.

Prediction – Lab hold.

Bournville

Conservative Rob Sealey had a 704-seat majority over his Labour opponent in 2010. This is a ward that has often changed hands in the past between Conservative and Labour. Labour won here in 2012 with Phil Walking defeating Tory Nigel Dawkins by 307 votes.

Prediction – Lab gain.

Brandwood

A classic Labour-Tory marginal seat. Labour Lord Mayor Mike Leddy will be defending a relatively comfortable 934-vote majority. Labour won easily in 2012 with a 1,382-vote majority. The Tories would expect to win on a good day, but 2014 may not be their time.

Prediction – Lab hold.

Edgbaston

Tory chief whip Fergus Robinson managed a 796-vote majority in 2010 to keep the ward true-blue. However, Labour has been coming closer and closer in Edgbaston, losing out in 2012 by just 241 votes, and will be hoping to repeat its success seen in neighbouring Harborne, where two out of three councillors are now Labour. The Tories have taken the unusual step of already selecting their Edgbaston candidate for the 2015 elections – former councillor Matt Bennett will take the place of Cllr James Hutchings.

Prediction – possible Lab gain.

Erdington

On paper, Tory Robert Alden’s 1,549-vote majority would appear unassailable. However, this was safe Labour territory not so long ago and the party is desperate to inflict damage on Alden, who is deputy Conservative group leader. Labour came within 446 votes of winning here in 2012, and requires a five per cent swing to come home this time.

Prediction – possible Lab gain.

Harborne

Mike Whitby won for the Tories in 2010 with an 874-vote majority over Labour candidate James McKay. But McKay has since become a Harborne councillor, and Whitby has announced his intention to stand down from the council in May. The Tories have selected former councillor John Alden as their candidate in an effort to prevent Labour making it three out of three in Harborne. At the 2012 election, though, Labour’s Elaine Williams took 50 per cent of the vote to defeat Alden.

Prediction – Lab gain.

Kings Norton

Labour’s Steve Bedser beat his Conservative opponent by 580 votes in 2010. Bedser, the cabinet member for health and wellbeing, secured 38 per cent of votes cast. Tory Jacquie Fear was snapping at his heels with 36 per cent.  In 2012, Labour’s Valerie Seabright beat Tory councillor Barbara Wood with 43.7 per cent of the votes cast. If there is to be any good news for the Tories in 2014, this is a seat to watch.

Prediction – Lab hold.

Kingstanding

Should be safe Labour territory, but a by-election here in February 2014 saw Gary Sambrook win the seat for the Tories for the first time in 45 years. Labour councillor Des Hughes will defend his seat in May. He managed a 580-vote majority in 2010.

Prediction – Possible Tory gain.

Longbridge

Iain Cruise won for Labour in 2010 by a slender 117 votes, making this one of the city’s more marginal seats. Labour won again in 2012, more convincingly. Another must-win on the Tory list, but national political sentiment is likely to see Cruise home for a second term.

Prediction – Lab hold.

Moseley & Kings Heath

Ernie Hendricks is the last remaining Liberal Democrat councillor in Moseley, having managed a narrow 239-vote victory over Labour in 2010. This is a seat Labour expects to pick up having won here in 2012 with Lisa Trickett defeating Lib Dem Martin Mullaney by 1,295 votes.

Prediction – Lab gain.

Northfield

Tory Randal Brew did surprisingly well in 2010 by defending a seat Labour expected to win. But Labour went on to win in 2012 with Brett O’Reilly defeating former Conservative cabinet member Les Lawrence by just 61 votes. It could be close again this time.

Prediction – possible Lab gain.

Oscott

The Conservatives would expect to win here in a very good year. Labour’s Barbara Dring is defending a 591-vote majority from 2010. Labour won easily here in 2012 with Tristan Chatfiled enjoying a majority of almost 1,000 votes.

Prediction – Lab hold.

Quinton

Over the years this has been marginal Labour-Tory territory. Labour’s Matthew Gregson held on to win by just 156 votes in 2010. But Labour did far better in 2012, winning with a 1,136-vote majority. Cllr Gregson will be expecting an easy win this time to keep all three Quinton seats Labour.

Prediction – Lab hold.

Selly Oak

Liberal Democrat support has been seeping away here recently. David Radcliffe won easily in 2010 with a 1,394-vote majority over Labour’s Brigid Jones. But Jones was elected the following year, and in 2012 Labour won by 501 votes. Radcliffe is now the ward’s only remaining Lib Dem councillor.

Prediction – Lab gain.

Weoley

Another highly marginal seat. Tory Peter Douglas Osborn managed to survive with a 64-vote majority over Labour in 2010, making sure that all three Weoley seats remained in Conservative hands. It was even closer in 2012 with Tory Eddie Freeman beating Labour’s Steve Booton by two votes – 2,117 to 2,115. This is a seat being contested by UKIP, which could dent Cllr Douglas Osborne’s hopes of victory.

Prediction – Possible Lab gain.

 

Aston

Once the scene of bitter contests between Liberal Democrats and Labour, but the Lib Dem strength in the ward has all but disappeared. Appears  to be a safe re-election bet for Labour’s Ziaul Islam.

Bartley Green

Fiefdom of the Tory Lines’ family. There should not be a problem for Conservative councillor Bruce Lines who was returned with a 1,218-vote majority over Labour in 2010.

Bordesley Green

Should be a clear run for defending Labour councillor Mohammed Aikhlaq.

Hall Green

Liberal Democrat Paula Smith won here in 2010 with a 1,335-vote majority over the Conservative candidate. But in 2012 Labour’s Barry Bowles won by 486 votes with the Conservatives second and the Lib Dems in third place. Smith has a large popular vote and should come through again.

Handsworth Wood

Labour’s Narinder Kooner celebrated with a 4,661-vote majority in 2010, making this year’s contest a dead-cert for her.

Hodge Hill

Labour councillor Tim Evans has not been reselected to fight this safe seat. Instead, the party has chosen former councillor Fiona Williams. Shouldn’t be a problem for Williams in one of the city’s safest Labour wards.

Ladywood

Labour’s Carl Rice managed 44 per cent of the vote in 2010, with opposition split between the Lib Dem and Tory candidates. He should defend his seat easily enough although this time he has the added distraction of Black community activist Desmond Jaddoo who is standing as an Independent. Rice could be in trouble If Mr Jaddoo can pick up more than 500 votes. He has been highlighting a Chamberlain Files article in his campaign exposing the lack of BME councillors in the cabinet.

Lozells & East Handsworth

Should be easy for Labour councillor Hendrina Quinnen, who enjoyed a 4,658-vote majority in 2010.

Nechells

Safe seat for Labour’s Chauhdry Rashid.

Perry Barr

Safe enough for defending Lib Dem councillor Karen Hamilton, although Labour came within 533 votes of winning here in 2012.

Shard End

A Labour stronghold. No re-election problems for cabinet member John Cotton.

Sheldon

Veteran Liberal Democrat councillor Mike Ward had a majority of almost 3,000 votes in 2010.

Soho

Another seat where Labour will weigh the votes.  Sitting councillor Dorothy Hargreaves is standing down to make way for Sharon Thompson. Labour took 76 per cent of the votes cast in 2012.

South Yardley

Rock-solid safe seat for the Liberal Democrats, but Cllr David Willis won’t be defending. He’s been replaced as a candidate by former councillor Zaker Choudhry.

Sparkbrook

Labour’s Victoria Quinn won here in a by-election in 2011. Should be safe enough this time.

Springfield

Labour councillor Mohammed Fazal should easily see off a Lib Dem challenge.

Stechford & Yardley North

Safe Liberal Democrat territory for defending councillor Carol Jones.

Stockland Green

One of Labour’s safest seats. Should be no problem for sitting couincillor Penny Hollbrook.

Sutton Four Oaks

Prime Tory territory. Anne Underwood enjoyed a 5,772-vote majority in 2010.

Sutton New Hall

Tory councillor James Bird is standing down. His successor, former councillor Ken Wood, should have few problems in one of the safest Conservative seats.

Sutton Trinity

Two seats being contested here following the resignation of Tory councillor Phil Parkin. Should be a shoo-in for Tory councillor Margaret Waddington and Tory candidate Ewan Mackey.

Sutton Vesey

Was safe Tory territory until 2012 when Labour’s Dr Rob Pocock stunned Birmingham by winning with an 805-vote majority. Veteran Tory councillor Alan Rudge won’t be defending. He’s been replaced as a candidate after 31 years by Dr Andrew Hardie, a former parliamentary candidate in West Bromwich West. The Tories will expect to win, but judging by last year’s result anything is possible.

You can also read Chris Game’s take on the knife edge election and watch out for Benjamin Mulvihill’s dissection of the Euro battle as part of our special election coverage all the way to 22 May.

 

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