ELECTION NEWS: Erdington MP hopeful Paulette Hamilton and Labour Deputy Angela Rayner visit Spitfire Services on Castle Vale

Words by Jasmine Khan / Pics by Claire Taylor

On Thursday, 3 February, Cllr Paulette Hamilton was joined by Labour Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, at Spitfire Services on Castle Vale High Street – to find out about the issues facing people on the ground who support their community on a daily basis.

Spitfire Services is a Castle Vale based charity providing ‘a range of welfare information, support and advice services’ – as well as operating local facilities including Castle Pool, Castle Vale Library, The Meeting Place Café, and the Upcycle shop and showroom.

Cllr Hamilton has been recently confirmed as the Labour candidate for the upcoming Birmingham Erdington by-election and remarked on how volunteers and staff at Spitfire Services are “like a big family.”

She told Erdington Local: “What we’ve seen on the (Castle Vale) estate, and in wider Erdington, are the aftereffects of the pandemic. Inequalities have been exacerbated.

“On certain parts of Castle Vale, you live nine years less than you would in Sutton Coldfield. I have got to fight for people locally and what their needs are.”

“The Castle Vale area has felt neglected over the last three years. The issues they (Castle Vale residents) have talked to me about on the door are HMOs and Exempt Housing. Not so much anti-social behaviour, but also waste and fly tipping in the area.

“They’ve seen their shopping bills get bigger and are also talking about gas and electricity and the rise that’s happening there.

“They’re working class and they’re worried about how they’re going to cope.”

Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, who joined Cllr Hamilton on Castle Vale, added: “It’s amazing to see the work of Spitfire Services.

“It’s bittersweet. I’m still grieving the loss of Jack (Dromey), as I’m sure many of the people of Erdington are as well. But to see the community come together in the way that they have, and the legacy of supporting each other, it’s humbling.

“What Jack stood for is looking out for each other…its lovely to see that the community are there for each other when they need it. That, to me, is what the working class are all about.”

A practising nurse for 25 years, Cllr Hamilton was made Mental Health Champion for Birmingham City Council in 2013 and Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care in 2015.

During earlier stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, she returned to nursing to help deliver vaccines to local people.

She added: “I felt it was so important for us to not just talk about it, but do it. That’s why I’m really upset and annoyed with the government.

“In the mist of Covid we saw an enormous amount of people’s mental health effected. (If elected Erdington MP) I would start to challenge and look at (mental health) legislation, and work with other politicians to ensure mental ill-health goes down.”

But some local voters are concerned that another Labour MP might not be able to hold their ground and fight for Erdington’s interests with the wider City Council.

When Cllr. Hamilton was asked whether she would be able to effect genuine change in Erdington, as a Labour MP in conjunction with a Labour Council, she said:

“I’ve lived in Erdington for the past 35 years. I’ve raised my five children here. I’ve worked as a nurse in the local area, in Warren Farm. I’ve been a governor in the local school; I’ve worked with voluntary organisations.

“Because I’m so local and I absolutely understand the needs of the community, I’m best placed, at this moment in time, to represent the community at a national level in Parliament.

“I’ve been a local counsellor for 17 years. With the current council, you have just got to talk and negotiate with them. I believe I’m best placed because I know the services well; I know what the community wants, but I also know how the council provide it.

“So, I am best placed to go in, challenge and work with them (Birmingham City Council) to get change for Erdington.”

Deputy Labour Leader, Angela Rayner, further commented: “I think Paulette will be a massive asset to us (Labour Party), because she has a long history of helping her community. She has worked in the NHS. HMO’s, housing and inequality – those things are her bread and butter, and she comes with a wealth of experience.”

“The Parliamentary Labour Party would learn a lot from Paulette. Not only will she raise things for the people of Edrington. But I’m sure my constituents in Greater Manchester will do well from Paulette being in Parliament.

“I hope the people in Edrington give her a resounding victory.”

Maggie Whitehouse, who volunteers at Upcycle, told Erdington Local: “I’m thrilled with Paulette (running for Erdington MP) because she’s on our wave length and she’ll keep traditions alive.”

Whilst Castle Vale Library Manager, Ian Bingham, added: “Paulette (Hamilton) will be a massive asset to the Erdington constituency and the Labour Party hopefully. She’ll carry on the good work that Jack started.

“Meeting Angela (Rayner), she’s so down to earth. It was humbling to meet a politician that’s in touch with grass roots.”

Erdington will vote for its next Member of Parliament on Thursday, 3 March.

At the time of writing, the current candidates who have declared their intention to contest the seat are Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Labour), Cllr Robert Alden (Conservative), Dave Nellist (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition), and Michael Lutwyche (Independent).

For more on Paulette Hamilton visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/councillors/49/paulette_hamilton

For more on Spitfire Services visit www.spitfireservices.org.uk

ELECTION NEWS: Erdington Councillor Robert Alden to run for MP as official Conservative candidate in March by-election

By Erdington Local election news team

Councillor Robert Alden has been selected by local party members as the Conservative candidate for the Birmingham Erdington by-election – with polling day scheduled for Thursday, 3 March.

Held in Pype Hayes late on Wednesday, 2 February, the selection meeting started with a minute silence in memory of the late Jack Dromey MP, according to a Conservative party source.

The Erdington ward representative, who is also leader of the Birmingham Conservatives, then face a full room of constituents, answering question on issues including Exempt Accommodation, street crime, policing, and anti-social behaviour – before being confirmed as the Conservative candidate.

Robert Alden has contested the seat for the past four General Elections – narrowing the gap between Conservatives and Labour – and is hoping to become the first Conservative MP to represent Erdington since 1945.

In his role as local councillor and opposition leader, Robert has worked with local residents on issues from Council Tax to housing repairs, street repairs and cleaner streets, to tackling inappropriate development and exempt accommodation

He has also supported residents groups and community events, in campaigns to save green spaces, local police stations, and health care centres – and sits as a local school governor and vice chairman of the Erdington Business Improvement District.

Following the selection, Robert Alden said: “I am honoured to again be selected to stand to represent residents of Erdington Constituency.

“Erdington Constituency is an incredible place to live and work and as I have shown over the last 17 years, I am determined to help make it an even better place with our long-term plan for Castle Vale, Erdington and Kingstanding.

“I know how difficult it will be to win here as there has been no Conservative MP for the area for almost 80 years. But over the last 16 years residents have seen first-hand the difference having Conservative Councillors has made and the progress we are making.

“Residents want the best possible local constituency MP, with a proven track record locally, to serve the people of Erdington and Kingstanding and force the Birmingham Labour-led council to do better for the area.

“I know there is hard work to be done, but I cannot wait to get my message out to everyone in Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale.

“As a local resident I’ve campaigned for our area continuously for 17 years, including 16 years as an Erdington Councillor, as a school governor and vice-chair of the Business Improvement District.

“Working alongside Mayor Andy Street and the Government to secure the investment we need in our local centres will be at the heart of my campaign.”

West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, who has joined Cllr Alden on several campaign across Erdington, was quick to give the local resident and Conservative candidate his full support.

Mr Street added: “Robert Alden is unquestionably the best possible person to serve the people of Erdington as their next MP.

“He has an unrivalled record of action, service and commitment to the area. He is already working closely with me on key local issues like protecting jobs, regeneration the town centre, major improvements to public transport, protecting green spaces and the character of communities.”

At the time of writing, the candidates who have declared their intention to contest the seat and become the next Member of Parliament for Erdington are Justice-4-the-21 campaigner Michael Lutwyche (independent), Dave Nellist (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), and Paulette Hamilton (Labour).

Registered voters will be selecting the next Erdington Member of Parliament on Thursday, 3 March.

ELECTION NEWS: Justice-4-the-21 campaigner, Michael Lutwyche, first independent to run for Erdington MP in March by-election

By Erdington Local election news team

A founder of the Justice-4-the-21 campaign, which succeeded getting answers for the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings, has announced he is standing in the Erdington by-election.

Michael Lutwyche lives on the Pitts Farm Estate in Erdington and is the first serious independent candidate to announce they are standing in the 3 March poll caused by Jack Dromey’s death.

The 55-year-old security expert spent the last decade taking on successive governments and the criminal justice system to help the families of the 21 Brummies murdered by the IRA in 1974.

He told Erdington Local: “I am not a single issue candidate but obviously I will use my power as an MP to do everything I can to help the Justice 4 21 campaign because it has been such a big part of my life.

“If there is one thing the campaign has taught me is that victims of crime are ignored in this country, and if you are a normal person who ask the state for help you will be ignored.”

He added: “When I said to people in the campaign about running they were very supportive and I have had friends get involved asking to help so my campaign is broad coalition.”

Mr Lutwyche believes the time is perfect for an independent candidate to make a big impact in a by-election, especially in Erdington.

“We are living in a post-politics era now where the big corporations decide the agenda and the politicians just do what they want. If you follow the money you often find the same people are funding the two main parties.

“Erdington has been deteriorating for years now, it has not been a sudden thing, Labour run the council, the Tories run the country and they are both to blame.”

The fledgling politician is putting crime and punishment at the front of his agenda.

He said: “I tried to stop the drug dealing on the High Street and in Stockland Green and ran up against a brick wall with the police. I was even told the top brass were happy for the drug dealing to be contained in the areas where there are lots of HMOs.

“Personal safety is important as is the increase in anti-social behaviour. Only last week the police admitted parts of Erdington have become ghettos. I believe they have become ghettos due to police indifference and council mismanagement. I will call both bodies to account.”

The Aston Villa fan is relishing the fight ahead and has called on local people to back him to send a clear message to Westminster they are not happy with the system.

He said: “It’s turned into a real David and Goliath struggle, the odds are firmly stacked against me, but history shows people like us thrive on odds like those. They make it hard for us, they tell us we can’t, we turn round and quietly show them we can.

“I’m in this fight for the little people, the people quickly ignored once their votes have been cast and their MP swans off to London, for the elderly who’ve now been abandoned once they’re surplus to requirements, the people from our community unable to access GPs and on ever expanding hospital waiting lists, the families who dread escorting their kids through neglected High Streets where drug dealing is openly happening.

He added: “The people who just want to enjoy their lives without having every last penny squeezed out of them and watch as every local facility is slowly lost.”

LUD FOR ERD – Michael Lutwyche for Erdington campaign has set up a GoFundMe page for donations: www.gofund.me/b99333bd

ELECTION NEWS: Paulette Hamilton launches campaign as Labour candidate for upcoming Erdington by-election

By Erdington Local election news team

On Saturday, 29 January, Councillor Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Holyhead) launched her campaign to be the next Erdington MP – meeting local Labour Party members during a special address at Highcroft Community Centre in Stockland Green.

Having been nominated to stand in the upcoming Erdington by-election via an online vote earlier in the week, winning a significant majority over her Labour Party opponent Ashley Bertie, Cllr Hamilton used her first public address as an MP hopeful to tell her supporters:

“Can I thank you all for your support. I cannot believe it, the overwhelming support I have had from people throughout the constituency.

“We have got a lot of work to do. We are going to run a clean campaign; we are going to fight at the doorsteps to take the Labour message to the people.”

In an email sent out to Labour Party members earlier in the week, Cllr Hamilton previously stated: ‘This is an election none of us wanted to be fighting but it is one we have to win. We owe it to the memory of our dear friend Jack Dromey MP and we owe it to the people of Erdington.’

At the time of writing, only Dave Nellist has also thrown his hat in the ring – with the erstwhile Labour MP for Coventry South East and Coventry City councillor declaring his intention to stand for the Erdington seat on behalf of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Joined by Shabana Mahmood MP (Lab, Ladywood), who is also the National Campaign Coordinator in Kier Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet, Cllr Hamilton launched her by-election campaign with around a hundred local Labour Party members – all giving up their Saturday to help her canvass across the constituency.

The atmosphere was a positive one; Cllr Hamilton and her team were met with raucous applause upon entering and beginning their speeches – with local Labour Party members and staff filled with optimism and excitement ahead of the campaign.

The event began with some opening words from Shabana Mahmood MP, who paid tribute to the late Jack Dromey: “I could not be more proud that we have got a local woman who is going to stand up and fight for the people of Erdington, and do Jack proud.”

The Ladywood MP was keen to kick the Labour campaign off with a “flying start”, building up excitement for the beginning of Paulette Hamilton campaign – which, if successful, would make her the first black Member of Parliament.

Addressing the crowd, Cllr Hamilton also began with an immediate tribute to Jack Dromey: “Can I start by saying; I absolutely adored Jack. I am really saddened that Jack has passed away.

“He was a stood for social justice and he championed the people in Erdington and the constituency. He fought for people who needed jobs and saving jobs.”

Cllr Hamilton then went into detail on her background – having lived in Erdington for 35 years and working as a nurse – as well as her work fighting for local residents to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

After her speech, and another raucous applause, campaigners got to work organising group photographs and teams for door-to-door campaigning.

One Labour Party member told Erdington Local: “I’m certainly enthusiastic. Paulette has definitely made a good impression.”

Judith Park, a local resident, went on to say: “I haven’t normally been involved in the party meetings etc. but I thought she really inspired us on the Zoom meeting.”

There were previous concerns over the organisation of the online meetings and voting process, with the Wednesday night candidacy selection starting hours later than scheduled – with a Labour source citing “technical difficulties” and problems verifying the identity of those attending to vote.

Andy Cook, who was present at the selection meeting, told: “We were all very impressed. Paulette was impressive in the way she came across and responded well to the questions put to her. I am more than confident we have made the right choice.”

Speaking to Erdington Local directly, Shabana Mahmood MP added: “We have got a fantastic local woman standing for a seat we already hold. Jack Dromey worked very hard for the people of Erdington.

“I think we can go into this by-election fairly confident and I hope we can do Jack proud and do right by his legacy by holding the seat strong for him and for Labour.

“Jack was an immense figure of British politics and of the Labour movement across the whole country, so naturally he leaves behind a record that few can match. However, we have an amazing candidate who is going to get stuck right in.

“I think if Jack could have chosen for himself the successor for his seat, he would have chosen Paulette, and I believe that is the highest honour I can pay her.”

For more on Paulette Hamilton visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/councillors/49/paulette_hamilton

ELECTION NEWS: Dave Nellist to run for Erdington MP as Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in upcoming by-election

By Erdington Local election news team

On Thursday 27 January, Dave Nellist declared his intention to run for Erdington MP in the upcoming by-election – standing as the official candidate for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Having previously been a Member of Parliament for Coventry South East, a seat he held for the Labour Party for nine years, Mr Nellist is a longstanding supporter of worker’s right – famously donating 60% of his MP’s salary to the Labour movement, trade unionists, and community campaigners.

It is expected his campaign will take a strong anti-austerity stance, challenge Government cuts, and put the plight of workers at the heart of its manifesto.

Accepting the TUSC nomination, Nellist commented: “With Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour welcoming a Tory MP into the parliamentary party last week – while confirming Jeremy Corbyn’s exclusion from the PLP at its national executive committee meeting on January 25th – it couldn’t be clearer that the interests of Britain’s wealthy establishment will be in safe hands if and when they decide to move on from Boris Johnson’s disintegrating premiership. Starmer is so obviously not on our side.

“That is why I am proud to represent TUSC in the Birmingham Erdington by-election and would urge other trade unionists, socialists and community campaigners to also consider standing for TUSC in the forthcoming local council elections in May.

“Red Tories, Blue Tories or Yellow Tories carrying out policies against the interests of the working class majority cannot expect to be unchallenged at the ballot box”.

With people already taking to social media to demand a ‘union man’ to replace the late Jack Dromey MP, Dave Nellist’s campaign could find a welcome voice in the Erdington constituency – home of the ill fated GKN Chester Road factory and long suffering Jaguar Land Rover Castle Bromwich plant.

Having once shared an acrimonious office with Tony Blair, when both men were entered the House in 1983, Dave Nellist has been a longstanding supporter of Militant – an internal Labour Party born movement that became the Socialist Party in 1997.

Expelled from the Labour Party for his affiliation with Militant, ahead of the 1992 General Election, Dave Nellist was continuously voted in as a Coventry City councillor between 1998 and 2012.

After announcing his nomination for the Erdington by-election, the Socialist Party went on to state:

‘Former socialist MP Dave Nellist will be standing to put forward an anti-austerity, pro-worker alternative’ – hoping to regain a place in the House ‘to give a voice to the struggles of working class people in Erdington fighting attacks on public services, for decent pay and working conditions and for urgent action to deal with the cost of living crisis.’

Dave Nellist is the second candidate to announce their intention to run for MP in the upcoming Erdington by-election, following the Labour Party’s selection of Cllr. Paulette Hamilton – who was nominated by local party members on Wednesday, 26 January.

Although with a date yet to be set, and many other parties expected to put forward a candidate, the political race for Erdington’s next Member of Parliament has only just begun.

For more from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition visit www.tusc.org.uk

For more from the Socialist Party visit www.socialistparty.org.uk

ELECTION NEWS: “As your MP I will demand the better deal that we deserve” – Cllr. Paulette Hamilton set to run for Erdington MP as official Labour Party candidate

By Erdington Local election news team

Cllr. Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Holyhead) has been confirmed as Labour’s official candidate for the upcoming Erdington constituency by-election.

Looking to take the seat left vacant after the sudden death of Jack Dromey MP, if successful Paulette Hamilton would be Birmingham’s first black Member of Parliament.

Selected by local Labour Party members during an online vote late on Wednesday, 26 January, Cllr. Hamilton won a landslide victory over her only rival Ashley Bertie – receiving nearly three times more votes than the one time West Midlands Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner.

Currently the Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Cllr. Hamilton was the first candidate to publicly declare their intention to stand for the Erdington seat – a place “where me and my family have lived for 35 years.”

During the session she spoke about the importance of mental health and social care, whilst also heralding the work of the once Prime Minister Gordon Brown, according to a Labour Party source.

Soon after the results late on Wednesday evening, the West Midlands Labour Party declared:

“Congratulations to Paulette Hamilton who has been selected as Labour’s candidate for the Birmingham Erdington by-election.”

Message of congratulations and support quickly followed, as the news quickly spread across social media. Soon after, Paulette Hamilton made the following statement:

“Thank you to the @ErdingtonLabour members for selecting me – I promise to work hard every day of this campaign and with your support look forward to representing Erdington in Parliament. I will do my best to continue the legacy of @JackDromeyMP’s outstanding work.”

In a subsequent email to Labour Party members, Paulette Hamilton established her strong ties to Erdington – where she moved to from Handsworth with her husband 35 years ago, and where they raised their five children.

“35 years is also how long I’ve been qualified as a registered nurse,” she went on to say, before reiterating her intentions to “keep fighting for more funding for mental health services while working with the police to combat anti-social behaviour and provide accessible support to those battling alcohol and drug dependency – which are blighting our area.

“As your MP I will demand the better deal that we deserve.”

Birmingham Labour’s BAME Officer, Naziah Rasheed, was also quick to celebrate the nomination – which could see Paulette Hamilton enter the house as Birmingham’s first black MP.

Following the result, Naziah told Erdington Local: “I believe Paulette Hamilton is the best choice for Erdington, she will serve this community well and I am looking forward to working with her – to ensure she gets elected and be the pride of Erdington.”

However, the evening was not all a cause for celebration as the online meeting ran into problems when officials tried to sign in dozens of members on Zoom whilst trying to prove their IDs.

The process took hours and there were complaints several members were unable log into the meeting – which was due to start at 6:30pm but due to the verification problems the winner was not announced until 9.55pm.

There were also concerns raised that by conducting the vote online it isolated local Labour Party members who did not have the right technology or digital know how.

One veteran Erdington Labour member, who did not want to be named, complained: “It was an organisational shambles.

“It was bad enough only those with computer access or smart phones could take part.

“What about a pensioner who is not online? And because it took so long online rows began breaking out.

“People understandably were fed up because of how it has been organised, families with young children disenfranchised and there were complaints that many BAME members have been excluded at verification.”

Several Labour members also complained the candidates were not grilled as they normally would at a selection meeting.

The Labour member added: “Questions also had to be submitted in advance but not all members knew.”

The Labour Party is yet to set an official date for the Erdington constituency by-election, although it is suspected polling day will land in early to mid March.

Candidates from across the political spectrum are expected to contest the Erdington seat, although at the time of writing no official announcements have been made by other parties or independents.

However, fierce campaigning for the 5 May local elections has already begun by the local Conservative Party – who currently have several councillors in the constituency, including the leader of the Birmingham Conservatives and Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden.

Cllr Alden lives in Erdington and is a prominent figure across the constituency, which could make him a viable candidate if the “go local” messaging from Labour continues to drive their campaign.