Labour officials are bracing themselves for a flood of applications to become the party’s candidate in Erdington.

It will be one of the last relatively safe Labour seats to become available before May’s general election, and competition for the party’s nomination will be fierce. Mr Simon gained a majority of 9,575 at the last election.

But the party is hoping to avoid a repetition of the vicious in-fighting which marred the selection process in Ladywood, where supporters of Birmingham councillor Yvonne Mosquito were furious when she was beaten to the nomination by barrister Shabana Mahmood, daughter of the chair of Birmingham Labour Party.

Labour insiders are tipping a range of possible candidates to replace him. They include Coun Mosquito, who may try again following her disappointment in Ladywood.

Other contenders could include Neena Gill, the former West Midlands MEP who lost her seat in last year’s European election, after serving for ten years. It followed a cut in the number of MEPs the West Midlands sends to the European Parliament from seven to six.

City councillor Ansar Ali Khan (Washwood Heath) is believed to be another contender. He is seen as a respected figure in the Kashmiri community.

Labour insiders believe television historian Tristram Hunt could apply for the nomination. His speciality is urban history during the Victorian era, which means he has focused particularly on the life and work of Birmingham’s great reforming mayor, Joseph Chamberlain.

He has previously applied unsuccessfully for the safe Labour seat of Liverpool West Derby.

Trade unions may push for Gerard Coyne, regional secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, to receive the nomination. He is a former Longbridge councillor who chaired the authority’s economic development committee, and a seat in Parliament would allow him to highlight concerns of workers in manufacturing industries including the Jaguar plant on Erdington.

Because Mr Simon has announced his retirement from the Commons so close to an election, a streamlined selection procedure will be used which should take only three weeks.