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BEDSER "ERDINGTON'S LOCAL CHOICE"

15-02-2010

Cllr Steve Bedser

Former Birmingham councillor Steve Bedser has been outlining his credentials to replace Sion Simon as Labour’s candidate in Erdington – and while he’s too diplomatic to criticise his maIn rival, union baron Jack Dromey, it’s clear that he’s positioning himself as the prime local choice in a duel against a nationally backed “outsider”.

Bedser’s credentials are certainly impressive. He’s a time served local councillor, who spent ten years representing Longbridge before losing his seat in 2008, and has knowledge of the Westminster scene having worked as Northfield MP Richard Burden’s agent.

In his first interview since securing the nomination he told The Stirrer, “The view I have of an MP doing good job is that they are grounded in the constituency they represent…

“I know there are MPs who view the constituency as a place of work they go to on infrequent occasions to do what’s necessary; and I know there are MPs who are able to construct a good reputation from their minimal presence in the constituency, but that’s not me.

“My background is in community engagement, working with the voluntary sector – I wouldn’t know how to do the job of a MP unless I was embedded in the constituency”.

Bedser, who was Birmingham’s first openly gay councillor, has a partner and settled family life in the city, and his roots in local life are reflected in the three “manifesto wishes” he was invited to make before the NEC yesterday.

Given the chance, he would make a Hi Speed rail link a priority; seek a Council House building programme tied to local employment and apprenticeships; and (in a nod to Cadbury’s) restrict the role of hedge funds in bringing down British companies.

All sensible, grounded stuff - although hasn't prevented him tasting rejection at the ballot box. Yet if there was any sense of bitterness over his defeat to Tory Ken Wood in Longbridge, it has long since disappeared.

“I take some solace that 2008 was a particular moment in time for Labour – the party was never going to do well,” he reflects.

“When you look at the figures on election night, I lost by a couple of hundred votes, whereas analogous seats around me were being lost by 600-700 votes.

“I don’t feel rejected by the voters – you’ve got to take a grown up view that there are political tides, and I was caught up in one of those.”

On involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, he takes a opts for a “middle way” arguing that the decision to fight was made “in good faith”.

He continues, “I’m someone who has never been comfortable with the decision, but I would be very worried if anyone was comfortable with going to war.

“That said we have a responsibility to our troops and and a responsibility to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to see it through – these are matter of national security”.

Bedser’s rivals include two serving councillors, Ansar Ali Khan and Gurdial Singh Atwal, but the smart money suggests that it will come down to a straight race between him and Dromey, deputy General Secretary of the Unite union, and husbands of Part Chair Harriet Harman.

It's a classic case of the local lad with community credentials versus one of the national party’s favoured sons.

Erdington’s 176 party members have a tough choice to make.

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