Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to send a hit squad into Birmingham to boost the Labour vote has backfired after it provoked a civil war in the city’s Labour-run council, the UK’s largest local authority.
A “campaign improvement board” was appointed by the national party to improve campaigning in Birmingham, where marginal Parliamentary constituencies include Northfield, Edgbaston and Erdington.
But it has concluded that Birmingham council leader Ian Ward should be replaced, causing fury among his allies in the region.
A Labour MP said: “Not only do we have marginal seats in Birmingham but also the surrounding towns such as Dudley and West Bromwich, not to mention the West Midlands Mayor election next year.”
“This has created turmoil in the party when we should be united against the Tories.”
Labour’s National Executive Committee last year backed plans to create campaign improvement boards, made up of trusted Labour figures with experience of local government, to help local parties believed to be “under-performing.
It is believed around 13 boards have been despatched to towns and cities across the country.
But insiders say the Birmingham board became involved in factional infighting within the local Labour group, where a rebel group of councillors is seeking to remove the council leader and replace him with their own candidate.
There is particular anger at the role said to be played by Shadow Cabinet Member and Birmingham Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood, one of Sir Keir’s closest allies who is overseeing the creation of Labour’s general election manifesto in her role as Labour Party National Campaign Coordinator.
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An insider said: “Shabana has a crucial national role but she is also heavily involved in Birmingham’s internal battles and she’s backing this move against the council leader.
“The next general election could be decided in the West Midlands where we have a lot of marginal seats and this is the last thing we want.”
Labour has appointed businessman Richard Parker, a former partner with consultants PwC, to take on former John Lewis boss Andy Street in next May’s West Midlands mayor election.
Tory Mr Street is hoping to be elected for a third time in what will be seen as a key test of voter opinion in advance of a general election likely next autumn.
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