September 27th, 2016

The key battlegrounds

Updated: 4:52 pm, May 07, 2015

COUNCIL elections are often settled on who’s in power nationally – and this year could be no different in Coventry.

Back in 2010 it was Labour who took the damage nationally with Tories pouncing to win key seats on the city council.

But four years on – and with Labour dominating the two local elections since – there could be more swings from blue to red.

With less than a week to go until Thursday’s vote, we take a look at what could decide the city’s key battlegrounds.

Cheylesmore

Seats held by: One Conservative, one Labour

There are two seats at stake in this year’s Cheylesmore election after a councillor resigned.

Kevin Foster stood down to concentrate on his push to be a Tory MP in Devon, leaving two spots on the city council with Labour man Harjinder Singh Sehmi already due to face re-election.

The person with the highest votes will take his four-year term while second place will be handed the rest of Foster’s reign and face election next year.

Coun Singh Sehmi may be the incumbent but he faces stiff competition to win back his seat or even come second. Both Tory candidates – Roger Bailey and Shabbir Ahmed – are in with a chance while the second Labour candidate, Richard Brown, could oust his party colleague.

Brown was chosen late and is in his first campaign but is chair of the Lower Stoke Labour Party and has run an active campaign.

Former Whoberley councillor Bailey, a city tourist guide who often performed as St George each year for patriotic displays, could face the best chance of election after a strong campaign – with second place set to be a close run thing.

Earlsdon

Seat held by: Conservatives

It was an easy victory for the Conservatives in Earlsdon back in 2012 but it could be a closer run thing this time around.

Fortunately for current councillor, Conservative Michael Hammon, no UKIP candidate in the ward means there’s no chance of a split vote.

If there had been it could have left the door open for Labour candidate and union official Martin Hartnett, although it could still be a close call for Coun Hammon, the planned deputy Lord Mayor for 2014/15.

St Michaels

Seat held by: Labour

The city centre constituency is Labour held but with Socialist Dave Nellist in the mix it promises to be a tight affair.

Nellist – a former MP – lost his seat last time but only by 200-odd votes and could have a higher profile this time around by his presence on the European ballot paper as part of EU elections, also being held on Thursday.

Posters offering support have been springing up in the ward and Labour chiefs are expecting a closely-fought battle between him and David Welsh, a Sidney Stringer governor who was first elected four years ago.

Woodlands

Seat held by: Conservatives

Labour have won the ward in both 2011 and 2012 so it’s up to Coun Julia Lepoidevin to stop the rival party getting a complete grip on the area.

The shadow children’s cabinet member was elected in 2010 – when Labour weren’t exactly the party of choice nationally – and has seen her Tory ward colleagues ousted in each of the last two council elections – albeit with a majority of just 72 in 2012.

Anne Arlidge will be her Labour rival aiming to get a seat in the council chamber.

Westwood

Seat held by: Conservatives

It’s a similar story in Westwood to that of Woodlands – a Tory councillor trying to fight off Labour from having all three ward councillors.

Coun David Skinner, a former foreign officer, has been a loud voice since being elected in 2006 but he faces a tough task in fighting off Pat Seaman.

She had hoped to be in line for a spot in Westminster when aiming to become Bob Ainsworth’s replacement as a Labour MP candidate. But while she finished well down the pecking order that time around, this opportunity could be the one that gets her on the political ladder.

Bablake

Seat held by: Conservatives

Another shortlisted candidate in the Labour MP race who could find solace in being named a councillor instead is Randhir Auluck.

The Coventry University lecturer missed out to Colleen Fletcher in that battle but will see this opportunity as much more winnable.

And if she did win, it would be the first time a father and daughter duo were both on the city council with dad Malkiat Singh Auluck a Foleshill councillor.

But even if she was beaten there would be a new councillor in the chamber after Andrew Williams decided not to stand for re-election after ten years.

His replacement is Jaswant Singh Birdi, a former Labour candidate who – along with Cheylesmore candidate Ahmed – switched to the Tories years ago.

One problem that could dent his long-run campaign in the ward comes in the form of independent John Gazey, who was deselected by the Tories at the last election. In 2012 he split the vote and ultimately helped a swing to Labour by polling around 700 votes in a ward with a majority of just 200.

It meant Singh Birdi lost out and, with Gazey again standing in Bablake next week, the same result is a possibility.

Wainbody

Seat held by: Conservatives

Lord Mayor Gary Crookes was praised for his year-long tenure by councillors at his final Full Council earlier this year but he faces a battle from both sides of the political spectrum in this year’s election.

Restaurateur Rois Ali is Labour’s man to fight him in a ward which currently has three Conservative councillors – but this could also be UKIP’s best chance of a seat with the city’s party chair Mark Taylor fighting a campaign to be the party’s first councillor.

He could draw in Tory supporters and open the door for well-known chef Ali but Crookes has 19 years’ experience on the council and it would take a massive swing for this seat to be anything but his.

Holbrook

Seat held by: Labour

It may seem strange to brand a seat with a 1,600 majority as a key battleground.

But there has been talk surrounding the ward after leader Ann Lucas was targeted by a Sky Blues supporters’ group angry at the way the Ricoh row has been handled by the council.

Get Cov Back to the Ricoh called on people to stand against councillors involved in the saga – and former Labour and Lib Dem man Brian Patton answered the call.

However, even before he contemplates turning over that massive majority against Lucas, the fact his name will appear on the ballot paper as an independent – rather than under any Sky Blues-related title – means casual voters won’t be given any clues on who is he or what he stands for.

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