Gordon Brown set his sights on seizing control of Coventry in May’s local elections - but stayed away from Birmingham, as he launched Labour’s campaign in the West Midlands.
The Prime Minister’s failure to visit Birmingham when he came to the West Midlands on Monday suggests Labour holds out little hope of seizing control of Britain’s second city.
But Mr Brown visited Coventry, accompanied by Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, his most senior Minister in the region.
Labour has high hopes of winning back control of Coventry City Council in the local elections on May 1. The city has traditionally been a Labour stronghold, but it is currently run by the Conservatives with a majority of two councillors.
However, the Conservatives are the largest party in the city, and run the council in partnership with the Liberal Democrats.
The Prime Minister’s visit, which focused on plans to improve neighbourhood policing, coincided with a series of visits by Home Office Ministers across the country.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill) met police officers in Kings Heath, in Birmingham, while fellow Ministers were in Cambridge, Nottingham, Watford and Merseyside.
A high-profile scheme to ensure the contact details of every neighbourhood police team are available to the public has started, meaning residents can look up the names, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of their local police officers on a website.
Mr Brown and Ms Smith highlighted plans to allow local people to set priorities with community officers in their areas, as they met residents and police officers at Stoke Heath Community Centre in Coventry,
Neighbourhood teams will draw up "pledges" to tackle issues like anti-social behaviour and drug-related crime, based on the demands of local people.
National targets are also to be introduced to determine how quickly a call to the police should be answered and the provision of crime information to the public.
Mr Brown said: "The first thing I want to do is thank all the police and PCSOs that are here. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all police and all PCSOs."
He added: "Neighbourhood policing is working. The reason it is working is because people can see a visible police presence on the ground. There are more police than ever before in this country."
Ms Smith added: "Today marks the start of a fundamentally different approach to policing - with the citizen at its heart."
Residents and police and had to work together to fight anti-socuial behaviour, she said.
"Cutting anti social behaviour is not something the police can do on their own."
Conservatives have also pledged to make police services more accountable to residents, but say they wil do this by creating directly elected mayors or police commissioners to take responsibility for policing.
Caroline Spelman MP, Conservative Party Chairman and MP for Meriden, said: "Conservatives control more council seats than Labour or the Liberal Democrats in the West Midlands. This is because our councillors have shown that they provide real improvements in services whilst providing good value for money.
"Gordon Brown’s visit to the West Midlands today will remind people that Labour have shown that they dither, waste money and have serious issues with competence."
Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, backed neighbourhood policing.
But he added: "The Government needs to make a much more serious commitment to neighbourhood policing by putting more police on the beat, by ensuring that police authorities are elected and accountable to local people, and by publishing crime and conviction figures at ward level throughout the country.
"This must not be another New Labour gimmick, but a deep improvement in the relationship between the police and the communities they serve."
A third of council seats in West Midlands metropolitan authorities will be contested. In Birmingham, 40 seats are up for grabs. They include a number of wards held by Labour but targeted by the Conservatives, including Erdington, Longbridge, Quinton, Oscott and Stockland Green.
With opinion polls showing a stong national lead for the Conservatives, the poll could see the Tories strengthen their control over the council. However, the ballot will also be a major test for Tory leader David Cameron, who will be expected to prove his party is gaining enough support to win a general election.
One opinion poll last week gave the Conservatives a 14 point lead over Labour, by 43 per cent to 29 per cebt, with the Liberal Democrats on 17 per cent.
The pressure is also on Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, who replaced former leader Sir Menzies Campbell after the party’s MPs concluded Sir Menzies was failing to communicate the party’s message effectively.
Mr Brown last night warned Labour backbenchers to hold their nerve. In a speech to backbench MPs, he was warning the party to "stay focused" if they want to win the next election, according to reports.
The warning came as Health Minister Ivan Lewis claimed that Labour was out of touch and ignoring important issues such as crime and immigration.