Liam Byrne’s dramatic announcement that he is to run for mayor of Birmingham had been half expected by Sion Simon’s backers.
With his Hodge Hill seat set to disappear at the next General Election, and his attempts to find an alternative constituency having failed, Mr Byrne’s only chance of remaining anywhere near the top table of politics was likely to revolve around running Birmingham.
But friends of Mr Simon were quick to claim that “this is not a game changer”, with one supporter likening Mr Byrne to Hamlet – wracked by guilt and indecision, leaving it to the last minute before deciding whether to go for mayor.
The Simon camp strongly suspect that Mr Byrne will, or already has, concocted a deal with city council Labour group leader Sir Albert Bore. This would involve Sir Albert withdrawing from the mayoral race in order to back Mr Byrne, in return for a guarantee that Sir Albert would become deputy mayor.
One source close to Mr Simon said: “The key thing will be to see what support Liam Byrne can produce to back up his candidacy. If he is being supported by lots of Birmingham Labour MPs, trade unionists and Labour branch officials, then that is one thing.
“But we don’t believe that is the case, and we are not at all rattled by this.”
Mr Simon’s supporters will attempt to portray Mr Byrne as a remote figure with few real connections with Birmingham. They will contrast him with Birmingham-born Mr Simon, who quit as MP for Erdington in 2010 to campaign for the Birmingham mayoralty and claims to have spoken personally to hundreds of city Labour members in months of relentless campaigning.
- Byrne’s bid moves mayoral race up a notch (thechamberlainfiles.wordpress.com)
- Cameron boosts chances of Birmingham getting a mayor – but has he handed an opportunity to Liam Byrne? (thechamberlainfiles.wordpress.com)
- ‘Money’s all gone’ Minister Liam Byrne said to be pondering Birmingham mayor bid (thechamberlainfiles.wordpress.com)
- Liam Byrne steps down from Shadow Cabinet to run for elected mayor role (independent.co.uk)