It was a huge shock to the Conservative Party when it lost its iron grip on the safe Solihull seat back in 2005 when Lib Dem Lorely Burt replaced John Taylor as MP.
It was perhaps even more surprising that despite winning with a wafer-thin majority of 279 votes, Ms Burt managed to hold the seat in 2010.
With the Lib Dem vote slipping away at a national level the Conservatives now have high hopes of seizing it back when the country goes to the polls in 2015.
The Solihull Conservatives have turned to finance journalist and self-proclaimed working-class Tory, Julian Knight, to battle for the once safe seat.
Mr Knight, who writes for the Independent and Evening Standard, has been selected as part of a conscious shift in the party away from outside the Westminster bubble and the circle of political careerists to people who have real world experience.
And the Solihull Tories believe this will appeal to the aspirational views of the borough’s electorate.
The Lib Dems, hoping for a third against-all-odds victory in 2015, have already gone on the attack painting Mr Knight as a parachute candidate sent to the provinces from London – the cosiness of the coalition government does not extend to Solihull.
Even with the Lib Dems haemorrhaging support since joining the coalition, Mr Knight admits he cannot rest, especially as UKIP could yet prove a distraction for Tory supporters. He also points out that Lib Dems tend to be at their campaigning best when strong local activists are defending a sitting MP.
“I can’t take the national polls for granted,’’ said Mr Knight. “They may show the Lib Dems at about nine per cent, but I don’t believe that will be reflected in Solihull. Incumbent Lib Dem MPs have proven very difficult to dislodge in the past. I still see myself as a bit of an underdog.
“They have attacked me for coming from outside the area, but of course Lorely came from outside the area.”
An early attack has seen Mr Knight say he would have voted against the recent reform of planning laws to double the size of extensions allowed under permitted development rights, as garden grabbing is a major concern for residents – while Ms Burt merely abstained from the vote.
He says it has taken some time for the Solihull party to recover from the shock of the 2005 election but that the activists are ‘invigorated’ and getting into the doorstep campaigning.
And he must have fairly reasonable prospects as he, and fiancée Philipa, a former nurse who works for a children’s charity, are in the process of securing a home in the constituency.
Mr Knight was born in Chester in 1972 and raised in the Potteries. At the age of ten his travelling salesman father left home – the biggest event of his early life.
“My mother had to work two jobs to keep a roof over our heads. We moved back to Chester to better cope. She then got ill with a debilitating back condition and I had to run the home during my teenage years as well as work from 16 in a supermarket to bring in extra cash.”
He says his mother never turned to the state for help and this shaped his views. After attending university he found himself working in bars and shops in London, before entering journalism as a part-time editorial assistant.
A job with the BBC as finance correspondent, covering poverty and financial exclusion, followed before he switched to the Independent in 2007 as money and property editor.
“I like to think of myself as a working-class Tory, moulded by Thatcherism and self-reliance, a Euro sceptic for sure and a profound believer in welfare reform and that the state shouldn’t keep people down trapped on benefits, but should be there to provide a safety net but with a real way out,” he said.
He is also getting immersed in the local community supporting the opening of Solihull’s new Marie Curie Hospice with a fundraising 120-mile marathon bike ride from the hospice to the site of the first Marie Curie hospice in Hampstead on June 15 and 16.
Mr Knight said: “Marie Curie is very close to my heart and that of Silhillians. They helped my grandfather in his final illness and I have never forgotten the kindness they showed him.”