The deputy leader of the Conservatives in Birmingham has described the local election result as his party’s Dunkirk and warned of the need for a major change in direction if they are to return to power at the city council.
But Coun Robert Alden (Erdington) has stopped short of calling for leader Mike Whitby to stand down when the group meets on Monday and, according to colleagues, is unlikely to launch a direct challenge.
In an email to colleagues following last week’s election rout Coun Alden said they could not simply blame their poor performance on the Coalition Government but suggested that it was a trend which had been developing over several years.
He said: “Our current course over recent decades has led us to a path where we win fewer seats in our good years and lose more in our bad years.
"This is down to the city changing and few die-hard Tory voters being here. That is why we have to give people a local reason to vote for us.”
He added that waiting for the new Labour administration to fail will not be good enough, the Tories must have a vision for the city and give people a reason to vote for them.
And pointed out that Mayor of London Boris Johnson proved that popular Tories campaigning on local issues could buck the national trend.
“To put it bluntly, we need to ensure there is clear blue water between us and the other parties," said Coun Alden. "A reason why you have to vote Tory no matter the national picture.
"Reasons like drastically lower Council tax (like Hammersmith and Fulham Council), keeping and growing grammar schools (like Trafford and Essex Councils), or a quality refuse service (like Wandsworth Council).
“None of this is impossible and working together we can achieve it - as long as we look forward and decide on a proper plan and policy platform.”
There had been criticism that the Tories had not produced a manifesto for the city campaign and left individual councillors to highlight their local records and look back at eight years of council control
In a thinly-veiled attack on Coun Whitby, Coun Alden said: “We cannot go into another election, looking out of touch and dated, with no vision or manifesto.”
And added that they must now pull together and ready themselves for the 2014 election. “We can and will ensure the this was our low point, our Dunkirk, and by 2014 we will be back stronger.”
Coun Whitby announced he would stand as Tory leader at the party’s meeting on Monday (14) and is thought to have enough loyal supporters among the 28 strong group to head off any challenge.
He is believed to have told colleagues he would consider bowing out gracefully after 12 months as leader of the opposition. His Harborne seat is under threat in the 2014 election.
A number of Conservative councillors have discussed a challenge but it is thought they could not depend on enough support to unseat Coun Whitby.
While a Labour victory was expected at the polls, they blame the lack of manifesto or city wide vision for the extent of the Tory losses and believe more could have been done to limit the damage.
Coun Alden almost certainly lacks enough enthusiastic backing after upsetting some Sutton Coldfield colleagues through his strident support of Boundary Commission plans to move the Sutton New Hall ward into the Erdington constituency.
Coun Alden was the Conservative candidate for Erdington in the 2010 general election and the controversial switch would have improved his chances of unseating Labour.
The 11 councillors in Sutton Coldfield can wield considerable influence in the 28 strong Tory group. The Conservatives lost 11 seats at the polls last week and find themselves in opposition for the first time since 2004.
*It has been confirmed there will be no challenge to Mike Whitby's leadership of the city's Conservative group as the deadline for challenges has passed.