Express & Star

Political heavweights choose sides in Labour battle for West Bromwich

The frontrunners to land Labour candidacy for a key Black Country target seat have each been backed by a political titan.

Peter Snape and Tom Watson, seen here in 2001, are backing opposing potential candidates

Labour has this month opened applications for West Bromwich East, which will become West Bromwich at next year's general election and is seen as a key target for Sir Keir Starmer.

And the two confirmed potential candidates – former Unite West Midlands chief Gerard Coyne and Sarah Coombes, an advisor to London Mayor Sadiq Khan – have each been publicly backed by a former West Bromwich East MP as they continue to jostle for support.

Lord Snape has backed Gerard Coyne for Labour candidacy in West Bromwich

In Mr Coyne's corner is Lord Snape, who was MP in the constituency for 27 years before standing down in 2001.

And Ms Coombes has been backed by Lord Snape's successor, former Labour deputy leader Lord Watson, who she previously worked for as head of policy.

Lord Snape, who was made a life peer in 2004, said Mr Coyne was "steeped in the traditions of the Labour movement" and would do a "fine job" representing his home town of West Bromwich.

"I couldn't endorse a better potential candidate than Gerard Coyne to represent this town in future," he said.

Sarah Coombes has been backed by her old boss Lord Watson

Lord Watson, who stood down as an MP after 18 years in 2019 and became a member of the House of Lords last year, has backed Ms Coombes despite his long friendship with Mr Coyne.

He said: "If you select Sarah as your candidate I know she will give it everything she has got – and she'll win."

Councillor Jackie Taylor said she will not be standing for parliament at the next general election

Meanwhile Jackie Taylor, who represents Greets Green and Lyng on Sandwell Council, told the Star she will not be putting herself forward for candidacy.

At the 2019 general election West Bromwich East turned blue for the first time after 45 years of Labour domination. The Conservatives are also on the lookout for a new candidate, after sitting MP Nicola Richards announced she was moving on.