Liberal Democrats are gunning for Home Office Minister Liam Byrne after party leader Nick Clegg named his Birmingham seat as a key target in the West Midlands.
Mr Clegg has ordered his party to divert resources away from Conservative-held constituencies and focus on 50 Labour-held seats where he believes his party can win.
In the West Midlands, the Lib Dems’ top priorities are Hodge Hill, Perry Barr and Hall Green, all in Birmingham.
Mr Byrne, the MP for Hodge Hill, is a Home Office Minister and the Minister for the West Midlands. Lib Dems would require a swing of 8.5 per cent in order to snatch his seat.
Hall Green, which will have new boundaries at the next General Election, will see Labour MP Roger Godsiff fighting off the Lib Dem threat, while Labour MP Khalid Mahmood will defend Perry Barr.
Mr Clegg has announced a fund-raising drive to step up campaigning in seats where the party can challenge Labour, and a shift in resources away from fighting the Conservatives. He has told party members that Labour’s current weakness, with continued speculation around Gordon Brown’s leadership and rumours of plots to unseat him, was “a huge opportunity for us”.
The Lib Dems have also sought to banish their image as a party of high spending and taxation by promising spending cuts of £20 billion and to provide tax cuts for people on middle and low incomes.
Mr Mahmood said: “Nick Clegg may think we are vulnerable and of course we all know the polls show things are difficult for Labour at the moment, but I have news for him – they are no better for the Liberal Democrats. What has happened under his leadership is that the party is actually going backwards. My guess is that they will return to the days of the old Liberal Party, when they were a small tiny group in the House of Commons.”
Mr Clegg has told activists to be ready for a snap election if Gordon Brown is ousted as Labour leader, or calls a poll in a last-ditch attempt to shore up his position.
He has sent MP Ed Davey and Lord Rennard, who between them will be responsible for organising the party’s election campaign, to attend the Democrats’s national convention, in Colorado in August, to learn about American electioneering techniques. The convention will confirm Barack Obama as the Democrats’ presidential candidate.
The Lib Dems have struggled to capitalise on Labour’s difficulties under Mr Clegg’s leaders, with one poll this weekend suggesting they had the support of 17 per cent of voters, compared with 46 per cent backing the Tories and 26 per cent supporting Labour.
However, the party did enjoy a morale boost when it beat Labour into third place in May’s local elections.