The woman planning to overthrow Ian Ward as deputy leader of Birmingham City Council’s opposition Labour group claims her decision to stand is "nothing personal".
But Kingstanding councillor Cath Grundy said the Labour Party had to get in touch with communities and campaign more effectively if it was to succeed in future.
Cath Grundy surprised some of her colleagues by announcing her bid for the deputy leadership, which will be decided at a group meeting at the weekend. She is the only challenger to Coun Ward (Lab Shard End), who has held the position for three years.
Coun Grundy’s move was all the more surprising because she denied having leadership ambitions little more than a month ago. She was at the centre of controversy after announcing in March that she would not stand for re-election in Kingstanding at last week’s council elections, but then changing her mind at the last minute.
At the time she denied being involved in a plot to topple Labour group leader Sir Albert Bore, but now Coun Grundy has confirmed she had been considering mounting a challenge for the top job for a year.
A number of colleagues wanted her to stand either for the leadership or the deputy leadership, she said.
Coming hard on the heels of poor elections for Labour, with six seats in Birmingham lost to the Tories, Coun Grundy’s candidacy is already being interpreted as a thinly-veiled challenge to the authority of Sir Albert Bore, who has been group leader since 1999.
Coun Ward is a close ally of Sir Albert and has been his deputy since May 2005, but the balance of power in the depleted 36-strong Labour group is far from clear.
Coun Grundy (Lab Kingstanding) said: "This is nothing personal. It is not about individuals. It is about bringing the group together and looking at the vision and where it needs to go to make sure we have the right priorities.
"I feel we are not going in the right direction at the moment. There are issues we should be challenging that haven’t been taken up in the past."
She said Labour had not always been as successful as it could have been at opposing the city’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition and at getting its own message across.
Coun Grundy added: "If you are going to change something you have to do it from within. People are saying to me ’we are really pleased you have decided to stand, we want you to go ahead with this’."
She said she wanted to examine how the group’s values and principles related to Birmingham’s many different communities. "We must be a more coherent group," she added.
Coun Grundy’s hesitancy in standing for re-election in Kingstanding sparked controversy in Labour circles. She denied any involvement in leadership plots, adding that her reluctance to stand was driven by pressure of work outside of the council.
Attempts were made to have her replaced by Andy Howell, a former deputy Labour leader who found himself forced out of the group after leading a failed coup against Sir Albert in 2003. But Howell’s selection was blocked by Labour’s regional selection panel.
With less than an hour to go before nominations for election candidates closed, Coun Grundy changed her mind and agreed to be Labour’s candidate in Kingstanding.
She narrowly beat 18-year-old Tory Gary Sambrook, with an 80-vote majority, in a close battle which resulted in a 10 per cent swing to the Conservatives.
Kingstanding Labour Party chairman Hugh McCallion insisted the challenge to Coun Ward should not be seen as divisive. Mr McCallion, himself a former deputy council leader, said: "If you go back into the history of the Labour group, positions such as leader and deputy leader were always challenged. By and large this is a healthy thing.
"Cath Grundy is a caring and hard working person who is in local government for the right reasons. She is a grafter and very bright."
Coun Ward welcomed the contest. He added: "We are an open democratic party and she has a right to stand. We will see what happens, but I am confident about the outcome."