THE FIGHT for political supremacy in Solihull has cranked up a gear with five leading ministers – Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osbourne, Business Secretary Vince Cable, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Treasury Minister Priti Patel – all visiting the borough in the past week (turn to pages eight and nine for all the details).
Solihull is one of the key battle grounds in the May General Election as the Conservatives look to wrestle the borough back from incumbent Liberal Democrat MP Lorely Burt who, when she beat Tory stalwart John Taylor in the 2005 general Election, brought to an end over 60 years of Conservative rule.
Mrs Burt snatched the Solihull seat with just 279 more votes than Mr Taylor and was pushed even closer in 2010 by local campaigner Maggie Throup who she beat by just 175 votes to secure a second term in office.
And it is these narrow margins for a key Parliamentary seat that has seen the borough become such a focal point.
With three months until voters go to the polls in May, the race is now on in Solihull – and it has never been more fiercely contested.
In the yellow corner is the incumbent Lib Dem MP Mrs Burt who has enjoyed a ten-year reign as Solihull MP – a decade that has seen her become the first Chair of the Liberal Democrat’s Parliamentary Party, Government Ambassador for Women in Enterprise and Lib Dem Spokesperson on Northern Ireland.
In the blue corner is Julain Knight – the man the Conservative’s hope will bring Solihull back home to them.
A national journalist from a humble background, Mr Knight has been campaigning for the people of Solihull ever since he was selected as the party’s Parliamentary Candidate in 2013.
In the green corner is Howard Allen – the borough’s longest-serving councillor and now the Green Party’s General Election hopeful after turning his back on the Lib Dems.
Solihull through and through Mr Allen has been fighting for the people of Solihull for 12 years and is hoping his track record will secure him the votes to represent Solihull in Parliament.
In the red corner is Nigel Knowles.
The 68-year-old from Bewdley near Kidderminster will be hoping to vastly improve on the disappointing nine per cent of the votes secured by the party at the 2010 General Election.
UKIP have selected Phil Hendrick as their candidate for the campaign and at the time of going to press there are no further candidates having put their hat in the ring.
The Meriden Ward – of which Conservative MP Caroline Spelman is the incumbent MP – is not traditionally such a hard-fought seat, with the Tory stalwart enjoying a healthy 51.7 per cent of the votes – 16, 253 votes more than closest rivals Labour.
The battle for the Meriden ward – which incorporates Knowle, Dorridge, Hockley Heath, Balsall Common and the north of the borough, has in recent times been a two-horse race between Conservative and Labour with the Liberal Democrats pushing Labour hard for the runner up spot at the 2010 General Election.
Conservative MP Mrs Spelman has been the Meriden MP since 1997 during which time she has been Environment Secretary, Conservative Party Chairman and Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
She will be going head to head with the following election hopefuls in the Meriden ward:
* Ade Adeyemo for the Liberal Democrats.
* Alison Gavin for the Green Party.
* Tom McNeil for Labour.
* Mick Gee for UKIP.
*********** in a box please **************
In the coming months we will be bringing the candidates to you – in their own words.
We have asked every candidate in both the Solihull and Meriden wards to get involved and everyone is signed up.
In the first of our features – beginning next week – we have given all of the candidates a free reign to tell Observer readers about themselves and what they have, will and can do for Solihull.
The only stipulation was a word limit of sorts so what you read is straight from the mouth of those who want your vote.
In the coming weeks and months we will also be asking candidates to answer a questionnaire – political and personal – to give you more of a flavour of what they stand for and who they are as a person.
And then, in the final run up to the election we will hand the pages over to the candidates once more – giving them another 750 words to try and win your vote.
Meriden seat – Caroline Spelman MP – Conservative
Solihull Ward – Julian Knight – Conservative
Meriden Ward – Ade Adeyemo – Liberal Democrat
Solihull seat – Howard Allen – Green Party
Meriden Ward – Alison Gavin – Green Party
Meriden Ward – Tom McNeil – Labour
Solihull Ward – Nigel Knowles – Labour