28th Apr, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: Coventry MP Jim Cunningham tells us he'll stand again after 'taking stock' and admits 'tough' fight ahead

Les Reid 20th Apr, 2017 Updated: 20th Apr, 2017

COVENTRY South Labour MP Jim Cunningham has told the Coventry Observer he will be standing again – but admitted he had to ‘take stock’ and he expects a tough fight given the polls.

As we reported yesterday, the stalwart MP was the only one of Coventry’s three MPs not to announce their intention to stand again following Prime Minister Theresa May’s shock announcement on Tuesday of a snap election for June 8.

He and his office were tightlipped on the matter for two days, and some of his key allies were unaware of his intentions, leading to speculation he might step down.

But he has this morning responded to confirm with this newspaper he will stand.

In a frank interview, he told us: “When things are announced you have to take stock of things, but other than that I’ve decided to stand. We’ll see what happens next.

“At times, you need to step back and think, ‘Should I or shouldn’t I?’ I came to the conclusion, ‘Let’s have another go.’

It will be the Scottish MP’s seventh general election in Coventry after he was first elected in 1992, following a period of being deputy leader of Coventry City Council and a Roll-Royce engineer and shop steward.

With national opinion polls giving the Tories a lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour of over 20 per cent, Mr Cunningham also admitted he could face a tougher challenge this time round, with the Coventry Conservatives hopeful of picking up the seat.

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.

Asked whether he expected a close battle, Mr Cunningham told us: “I’m confident I can still do it.

“The polls may have come down a bit, but the question is, ‘By how much?’

“It will be tough. I’m not kidding myself. I will have to rely on my experience, won’t I.

“You never fight an election if you don’t think you can win.

“At the end of the day, the people will decide and that will be it, as it were.”

Of Mrs May’s decision, Mr Cunningham said: “If she needs to get a big majority, it means there are hard times around the corner. She knows there are going to be tough times ahead.

“The Brexit outcome will be a lot tougher than she is telling us. It will effect schools, the economy and the health service. There will be cuts to pay the Europeans £60billion.”

As we reported yesterday, 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 Tory party rules for selection were expected to be clarified after Wednesday’s Commons vote, which was expected to authorise Mrs May’s election timetable, given Labour and Lib Dem backing.