And then there were three. Three potential candidates for elected mayor of Birmingham that is, if we dismiss the challenge of ex-policeman Ray Egan, aka John Bull, about whom little has been heard recently.

It is not surprising that, among the serious contenders, Labour is on its own in producing three politicians who have said they want to be the party’s candidate for mayor. In the current political climate, given the coalition government’s unpopularity, Labour must expect to win a Birmingham mayoral election.

The latest of the three Labour hopefuls, Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart, announced her candidacy this week with a sideswipe at the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who appear to be ignoring the mayoral issue, perhaps in the hope that it will just go away. Or, possibly, they simply cannot yet identify any suitable candidates.

Whether Ms Stuart’s announcement will go down very well at Labour’s London headquarters is unclear. She will have to resign as an MP when the party’s mayoral selection process gets underway after the May referendum, opening up the certainty of a difficult by-election for Labour in Edgbaston.

Whatever he may say in public, Ed Milliband will hardly relish such a contest which may coincide with the Tory conference in Birmingham.