It was almost exactly a year ago that a letter sent to the larger than life Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles accused him of gunboat diplomacy and being disparaging of the work of local councils.

The letter attacked the “draconian” Tory minister for slashing council budgets with relish to the extent that local economies would suffer and frontline services would be hit.

The open letter was signed by leading Liberal Democrats, including the deputy leader of Britain’s largest local authority, Birmingham’s own forthright political brawler Paul Tilsley.

So it was encouraging to see the pair sharing a friendly moment at a Promoting Birmingham event at the House of Commons.

But then you have to build bridges and push your networking skills when you intend to stand for elected mayor.

And Councillor Tilsley, the former market trader, has let it be known, via political friends, that he is considering putting himself forward as Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate should the referendum return a “yes” vote in May.

In most cases you would expect a man who has been Liberal Democrat group leader for seven years, as well as deputy leader in a successful council coalition, to consider himself the front-runner for the party’s nomination.

But until now the dominant figure in Birmingham’s Liberal Democrat scene has been Yardley MP John Hemming.

Mr Hemming is so vehemently opposed to elected mayors he is willing to use his own wealth to bankroll a “No” campaign.

Even against that backdrop he has maintained that he would consider putting himself forward for mayor.

Hemming has rightly stated that opposing the institution, as most Lib Dems do, does not preclude them standing for it.

After all, Lib Dems, as well as many Labour politicians, win elections under a voting system they disagree with, and UKIP politicians get elected to a European Parliament they want Britain to withdraw from.

Instead it seems that many Lib Dems, already under the cosh thanks to their unpopular role in the coalition government and the loss of anti-Iraq war protest votes in the inner-cities, are losing patience with their only Birmingham MP.

His very public affair with former Councillor Emily Cox and all the unfortunate business with wife Christine, the stolen cat Beauty and the court case are now proving more than a little embarrassing for some Lib Dems fighting for their political lives.

With every interview and revelation the “maverick love-rat MP” tag has become an electoral liability.

Fortunately, for the fourth estate, ever keen to peer into the private lives of those in high places, Hemming is the gift that keeps giving.

But one seasoned councillor told me they wish Mr Hemming would just “lie low” until after May.

Birmingham Lib Dems are increasingly of the view that Tilsley should be their man. They point to his experience, a councillor since 1968 and deputy leader in coalition which many predicted would fail.

And now with Councillor Tilsley rubbing shoulders with other mayoral candidates at the Promoting Birmingham event, it seems the charm offensive is beginning.

They recognise that the Lib Dems, as the council’s third largest party, may not be front runners in any contest but feel that a strong personality, with a good track record may be a better bet than their maverick MP.

On the other side of the council coalition leader Mike Whitby has been dropping increasingly bigger hints that he wants to be the Tory candidate.

In his statement to the Birmingham Post last month he talked about the value of strong leaders and how eager he was to hear the outcome of the referendum – all carefully worded for us to infer that he is warming up in the blue corner.

An endorsement from Tory Local Government Minister Greg Clark did not do him any harm either.

It is no secret that he has his enemies and critics within the Tory ranks – and they will no doubt be grumbling at his smooth transition.

But even some of his most ardent supporters are uncomfortable with the idea that Mike will simply “assume” the candidacy. They want a contest not a coronation.

As one suggested: “We are the Conservative Party, the party of government, not some little fringe group.

“It would be a sad indictment if we could only produce one suitable candidate for one of the biggest jobs in local government.”

They want Mike to have to fight for the role and a victory in a party contest could give him momentum going into a mayoral election.

Now the search is on to find the Tory willing to give Mike a run for his money.

I am told a couple of likely suspects have been identified but have so far rebuffed the advances.

Councillors Whitby and Tilsley on opposite sides of a mayoral battle is an interesting prospect.

We know that the self-styled “Progressive Partnership” has not been all sweetness and light.

Third hand accounts of spats, disputes and all out blazing rows have occasionally leaked from the council house, but in public the two have generally remained on message.

Who’s to say that on the mayoral campaign trail that veneer might just slip?