The battle for Ladywood

Birmingham City CouncilBirmingham City Council Claire Short the ex-Labour, now Independent, MP for Ladywood, Birmingham is to stand down at the next election and the fight is now on for her successor in one of the safest Parliamentary seats in the city. The Labour constituency association has already banned all men from standing and now says it wants a black or Asian woman to stand. Evidently the party executive has expressed such a preference. The preferred candidate is one Yvonne Mosquito a Labour councillor. She has still to pay her election expenses of £600 for the May elections so is not too popular at present. But then, care with other people's money seems to be a problem for Councillor Mosquito.

Back in 2004 she was a director of Beta First- the Birmingham Education and Training Academy, a not-for-profit organisation which was to help reduce the high unemployment rates in the Handsworth area. Beta First obtained more than £4 million in funding; the sources were the usual byzantine mix of grants which are impossible to trace and scrutinise, administered by swathes of organisations, quangos and charities that further complicate the maze of bureaucracy that lubricates the 'professional' black (ie dodgy) economy. People are no longer shocked. It's normal in the cities. Loads of money comes and then goes, who knows where? The occasional scandal surfaces and dies. More money arrives and things carry on as normal. The European Regional development Fund, the Millennium Commission, SRB6, the Council's many privatised agencies, the list goes on and on and still they pour out the money. Needless to say Beta First paid one 6-figure salary; the Chief Executive of Beta-First, Grace Macaulay, chaired the Single Regeneration Board's education, training and employment implementation group which awarded grants to her own organisation. In its final year only £22,000 was spent on 'direct costs and trainee support' out of nearly half a million pounds. Anyone blamed? Of course not.

Birmingham PostBirmingham Post The neighbouring Labour MP Khalid Mahmood says he thinks it OK to specify a woman but not a colour. Mr Mahmood is himself no stranger to allegations of wasted public funds, conflicts of interest and political patronage. It was also said that friendly local Kashmiris packed the Perry Barr Constituency meeting when he was selected in 2001. ( In all this time he still hasn't been bothered to get himself a website.) The stakes are high as friends of politicians do very well in the cities. Obviously the Liberal democrats think they may have a chance. Their regional officials recently suspended the Perry Barr and Ladywood constituency party amid claims of infiltration by militant Asians. At least 60 new members face investigation.

So, here we are with hundreds of millions of pounds having been spent in the area which was termed 'worse than a banana republic' in terms of electoral corruption regarding postal votes. Too right there's a lot at stake.