SPECULATION is mounting over whether Jim Cunningham will stand again as Labour MP for Coventry South – where the Tories fancy their chances of winning their first city seat for 20 years after Theresa May announced plans for a snap election on June 8.
It is understood the stalwart MP is the only one of the three city Labour MPs yet to make clear whether they will stand again. It follows an announcement by Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North west), while Colleen Fletcher is expected to fight the Coventry North east seat she won for the first time in 2015 after replacing Bob Ainsworth as candidate.
The Labour backbencher Mr Cunningham has stood and won in Coventry at six general elections since 1992.
The Labour party is giving each sitting MP an automatic right to be the candidate for their constituency, without competition from the usual| selection process – given there are just seven weeks to go before the election.
Mr Cunningham was not contactable this morning, and some of his allies are unclear of his intentions.
The Conservatives’ last MP in Coventry was John Butcher whose Coventry South West seat was abolished in 1997, when Labour won a landslide nationally under Tony Blair.
Based on national opinion polls which give the Tories a lead over Labour under leader Jeremy Corbyn of more than 20 per cent, the Conservatives could break Labour’s total dominance in the city in the seats of Coventry South and Coventry North West.
Coventry South is the 34th top Conservative target seat nationally, where a swing from Labour to Conservative of 3.65 per cent would be required. Mr Cunningham has a majority of 3,188 from 2015.
Overturning Mr Robinson’s reduced majority in 2015 over the Conservatives of 4,509 would require a swing of 4.98 per cent.
Conservative candidates could include Coventry city councillors Allan Andrews – councillor for Earlsdon and former council Tory group deputy leader, and a former council cabinet member Gary Ridley, who stood in Coventry South last time and in Coventry North West in 2010.
Other possible candidates for Coventry South could include Michelle Lowe, who stood in Coventry North East in 2015. She is the deputy leader of Sevenoaks District Council in Kent and left a good impression with Coventry Conservatives.
Parvez Akhtar may also fancy standing again in Coventry after the JLR employee from Bedford lost in Coventry North west last time round.
The rules for selection are expected to be made clear by Conservative party later today, when Parliament is expected to grant Mrs May’s snap election plan on the required two-thirds majority vote – as holding the election has the backing of the Labour party and Lib Dems.