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Thursday, April 30, 1998 Published at 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK

The West Midlands - John Hess

Will 'Worcester Woman' and other new Labour voters remain loyal as their first chance to pass comment on the new government approaches, and can the Conservatives expect to see the first signs of a recovery? John Hess, BBC West Midland's political producer, reports.


[ image: Tories are targetting Birmingham]
Tories are targetting Birmingham
The Conservatives have earmarked the Labour administration in Birmingham for some of their most strident criticism of Labour town hall government. At the last Tory conference, party leader William Hague specifically criticised the Labour leadership of both Birmingham and Coventry.

The Tory target this May is to become the "major opposition " party in Birmingham and knock the Liberal Democrats into third place.

Labour will retain a sizeable majority here but its campaign is not without its problems. The suspension of eight Labour Party wards has been a continuing irritant. The regional Labour Party last year launched an investigation into allegations of membership irregularities and vote buying.

Another of the main issues in Birmingham this year is the idea of an elected mayor. Birmingham-based politicians such as Jeff Rooker and Clare Short have been mooted as possible candidates as has comedian Jasper Carrott.


Labour is now in firm control of Wolverhampton town hall.

But the Conservatives want to claw back the support that gave them control of the metropolitan council between 1992-1994.


There is no overall control here at present but the Liberal Democrats are the largest single party.

The Conservatives lost control here four years ago, having suffered heavy defeats to the Liberal Democrats.

The following year, in October 1995, they also lost the constituency MP when Alan Howarth defected to the Labour Party.

Last May, the Conservatives regained the constituency with John Maples and now have hopes of winning back the district council.


The metropolitan borough of Solihull is a prize the Conservatives would dearly love to win back on election night.

They may benefit from a scandal surrounding the leader of the Shirley Ratepayers group Trevor Eames, who was jailed for setting fire to his councillor wife after dousing her with petrol.

Currently an alliance of Labour/Liberal Democrat and Independents run the authority.


On the first anniversary of the Blair victory, the voting intentions of "Sierra Man and Worcester Woman", the Tory supporters who switched to New Labour, will be keenly analysed.

Labour looks set to continue running the town hall, but the Conservatives form the largest opposition group and are hoping to make inroads at the expense of Labour and from the Liberal Democrats.

Another local factor in the campaign could be the scandal and subsequent newspaper coverage of the affair between Labour Lord Mayor Margaret Leyland and the driver of the mayoral car.

The Labour Group has since suspended both Mrs Leyland and her husband Colin, who is also a city councillor.


The story to watch in Walsall is whether a breakaway group of 11 former Labour councillors can survive.

"Citizen" Dave Church, the former Labour leader and his supporters formed a separate group after disciplinary action was taken against them for breaching Labour Party rules.

Mr Church put in place some pioneering neighbourhood committees designed to deliver devolved local services. It was a policy that split the local Labour Party and angered trade unions.

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