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The BBC's Phil Mackie
"The Tories are looking very pleased"
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banner Thursday, 4 May, 2000, 19:23 GMT 20:23 UK
Reporting from Birmingham

Both Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are hoping that the current crisis at Longbridge will play into their hands in the elections in Birmingham, reports The BBC's Phil Mackie.

Labour has the most to lose in Birmingham.


Council history
1996: Lab
1998: Lab
1999: Lab
The party has 29 of the 39 seats being contested, but barring something cataclysmic happening it should easily retain control of the city.

Events at Rover have cast a long shadow over the campaign - thousands of jobs depend on the continuation of car production at Longbridge, and the Liberal Democrats especially, have tried to use this to their advantage.

Their group leader, John Hemming, has associated himself with the Phoenix consortium which is attempting to buy Rover from BMW - the bid which most Longbridge workers want to see succeed.

The Conservatives expect to cash in too and hope to gain Northfield, a seat close to the car plant and one of its main targets.

If the Tories fail to win seats like this then William Hague's hopes of a revival in Conservative fortunes in the city, which - apart from Sutton Coldfield - went completely red in 1997, at the general election may become more distant.

But further dents in Labour supremacy may come from an alliance of independent Asian candidates in some inner city wards.

The turnout for the local election in 1996 was 30%

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