A dramatic image of Birmingham's impressive skyline may have seemed like the perfect illustration for a website published by West Midland MEPs.

But the politicians were left with red faces when it emerged they had accidentally used an image of Birmingham, Alabama - and not the city they represented.

The error, on a website published by Conservative MEPs, went unnoticed for many weeks until it was spotted by a Labour rival.

The region's three Conservative representatives in Brussels owned up to an embarrassing mistake. They had hired a designer to re-create their website in the style used by the national Conservative Party, including the party's new green tree logo which has replaced the traditional Tory torch.

One of their first decisions was to include a photograph of the region's largest city. An image of an impressive city skyline was duly added to the site, greeting visitors to the front page.

But without realising it, the designers had added a photograph of Birmingham's namesake in Alabama, in the United States.

The error went unnoticed for many weeks until it was spotted by eagle-eyed Labour MP Tom Watson (Lab West Bromwich East).

The MEPs responsible for the website are Malcolm Harbour, Philip Bradbourn and Philip Bushill-Matthews. Now they hurriedly arranged for the photograph to be removed and replaced with an image of the futuristic Selfridges, in Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre.

Mr Harbour admitted: "It was the wrong photograph. We had the website re-designed shortly before Christmas, and one of the things we asked the designers to do was to include a good picture of Birmingham.

"There was a mix-up and clearly they used a picture of the wrong city. We didn't notice the error at first. When you operate a website, it very easy to miss something.

"But we are grateful to the sharp-eyed person who noticed the mistake."

The MEPs all knew Birmingham well, he said.

Mr Watson said: "If the three Conservative MEPs in the West Midlands want to visit Birmingham as tourists to see what it looks like, I would be delighted to show them around."

 Birmingham, Alabama, was founded in 1871 and has a population of around 230,000. Like its British namesake, it has a history as a major manufacturing centre and was one of the United State's major iron and steel producers in the 20th century.

The pace of Birmingham's growth in the early 20th century earned it the nickname "The Magic City". Today, the economy has diversified and it is one of the major banking centres of the US.