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Runners & riders: 2016 council elections, candidates and analysis

Runners & riders: 2016 council elections, candidates and analysis

🕔08.Apr 2016

Candidates for the Birmingham city council elections on May 5 are under starter’s orders, with 199 hopefuls battling for the 40 seats up for grabs, writes Paul Dale.

Labour enters the contest with a hefty 36-seat majority in the council chamber and will, barring an unprecedented collapse in support, still be the ruling party when all of the votes have been counted.

However, Labour will do well to get through the night without casualties since the party is defending seats it won in 2012 when the then Conservative-Liberal Democrat government was unpopular following George Osborne’s first ‘omnishambles’ Budget.

Four years ago, Labour enjoyed a famous night of success in Birmingham, gaining 20 seats and taking back control of the city council after eight years of rule by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. The Conservatives lost 11 seats, reducing the size of their group by almost a third, and the Liberal Democrats lost nine seats.

Labour’s share of the vote in Birmingham was the highest for several years at 51 per cent while the Conservatives were on 24 per cent and the Liberal Democrats 14 per cent.

Eyes this year will be on Birmingham nationally to see how the country’s largest council fares in the current political climate. The results will be a test for both party leader Jeremy Corbyn and the new city council leader John Clancy.

A third of Birmingham city council’s 120 seats are being contested. This will be the last election by thirds, with the council switching to all-out polls once every four years from 2018.

The starting position for the political parties in Birmingham is: Labour 78 seats, Conservative 30, Liberal Democrat 11, Independent 1.

Some familiar faces are missing, most notably Anita Ward who was controversially deselected by Labour in Hodge Hill after 20 years. She is replaced by Diane Donaldson.

Conservative Vivienne Barton is standing down in Bartley Green and Labour’s Caroline Badley is standing down in Quinton.

In Bournville, Labour councillor Phil Walkling is retiring and the party has chosen Mary Locke as its candidate. She will face a challenge from former Tory cabinet member Nigel Dawkins in a battle the Conservatives reckon they can win.

Another former cabinet member, Liberal Democrat Martin Mullaney, is attempting a comeback in Mosley and Kings Heath where he is standing against current Labour cabinet member Lisa Trickett.

And in Northfield, a ward regarded as marginal, Tory Les Lawrence, cabinet member for education from 2004 to 2012, is standing against Labour’s Brett O’Reilly.

Seats to watch:

Weoley

It doesn’t get much closer than two votes, and that was Conservative Eddie Freeman’s wafer-thin majority over Labour’s Steve Booton in 2012. However, Booton did win in Weoley in 2015 to give Labour one out of the three ward seats. The Tories will be fighting hard to retain this seat against Labour candidate Julie Johnson.

Northfield

Labour’s Brett O’Reilly beat former Tory cabinet member Les Lawrence by 61 votes in 2012. The two other Northfield seats are Conservative-held. This is a part of Birmingham where Labour will be looking to consolidate gains, while the Tories will be banking on a comeback by Lawrence.

Springfield

Liberal Democrat Jerry Evans managed to hang on here against the odds in 2012, beating Labour’s Nabilo Bana by 95 votes. But Labour already hold the two other Springfield seats and will be hoping to make it three with candidate Shabrana Hussain.

Kingstanding

A key battleground for Labour and Conservative parties. The Tories won here unexpectedly in 2014 at a by-election caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Cath Grundy. Gary Sambrook picked up the seat by an impressive 405-vote majority. The Labour candidate this time, Jane Jones, is the mother of Cllr Josh Jones, chair of the Erdington district committee. This is probably the number one target seat for Labour.

Edgbaston

Always an interesting tussle here between Tory and Labour. Veteran Conservative campaigner Deirdre Alden, who has represented this ward for 16 years, held on in 2012 to beat Labour’s Dennis Minnis by 241 votes. The labour candidate this time is Tom Keeley.

Acocks Green

Classic marginal territory in east Birmingham. Labour’s John O’Shea defeated Lib Dem councillor Roger Harmer by 177 votes here in 2012. Harmer managed to win in Acocks Green in 2014. The third Acocks Green seat is held by Labour cabinet member Stewart Stacey. O’Shea will be in trouble if there is a general swing against Labour across Birmingham.

Kings Norton

Labour holds two out of the three Kings Norton seats, and the Conservatives have the third.  Valerie Seabright, auntie of deputy Labour party leader Tom Watson, is defending for Labour. She beat Conservative Barbara Wood here by 283 in 2012

Bournville

Phil Walkling beat Tory Nigel Dawkins by 307 votes in 2012 to secure a toehold for Labour in this traditionally Conservative ward. Dawkins is standing again, this time competing against Labour’s Mary Locke, who replaces Walkling.

Sutton Vesey

The sensation of 2012 saw Labour’s Rob Pocock win in Sutton, beating Tory councillor Malcolm Cornish by an impressive 805 votes. It was the first Labour victory in Sutton Coldfield in living memory. Can Pocock, a redoubtable local campaigner, hold on in 2016 against Tory Suzanne Webb?

Longbridge

A familiar Labour v Tory battleground in south Birmingham. Jess Phillips for Labour beat Conservative Ken Wood by 533 votes and subsequently went on to become MP for Yardley at the 2015 General Election. Labour held all three Longbridge seats until Cllr Ian Cruise resigned the whip and sat as an Independent.

Harborne

A famous victory here in 2012 when Labour’s Elaine Williams beat veteran Tory councillor John Alden by 823 votes. Alden managed to win in Harborne in 2014 to keep the Conservative flag flying. But the two other Harborne seats are held by Labour, something that was unthinkable a decade ago. The Labour candidate this time is Jayne Francis, who is up against Tory Akaal Sidhu.

South Yardley

Is there any fight left in the Liberal Democrats? This is a target seat in the party’s former stronghold.  Labour’s Zafar Iqbal is defending. He beat Lib Dem Daphne Gaved by just under 700 votes in 2012. Baber Baz is the Lib Dem candidate this time.

Hall Green

One of the few three-way seats in Birmingham.  Barry Bowles for Labour beat Tory Bob Harvey by 486 votes in 2012. But the Lib Dems have also won here in the past. This year, Bowles is up against Tory Tom Skidmore and Lib Dem Tanveer Choudhry.

Stechford and Yardley North

Neil Eustace, a Liberal Democrat councillor for 30 years, is defending the seat he has held since 1986.  But Eustace will be concerned because Labour’s Basharat Dad won for Labour here last year. Eustace’s majority is 894. Cheryl Garvey is standing for Labour this time.

Aston

The scene of many highly-charged battles between Labour and the Liberal Democrats over the years.  Labour’s Nagina Kauser won here in 2012, defeating Lib Dem Ayoub Khan by 444 votes. Labour hold all three Aston seats at the moment.

See here for a full list of Birmingham city council election candidates.

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