The first skirmishes of the council elections in Sheffield broke out this week over Liberal Democrat leader Shaffaq Mohammed’s switching of seats from Broomhill to Crookes.
Labour said that Coun Mohammed, opposition leader for three years and a Broomhill councillor for 10, may be trying to save himself from an electoral reaction to the coalition government.
But the Lib Dem leader denied he was looking for a safer seat, saying he was already well known in the neighbouring Crookes ward.
He said: “The local party approached me to ask if I would be interested in standing in Crookes due to the amount of work we have been doing cross border and we have a young enthusiastic student in Broomhill.”
Coun Mohammed added: “There is no guarantee of winning any seat.”
The Lib Dems lost a seat in Broomhill at the last election, in 2012, when former council leader Paul Scriven trailed winners Labour and runners-up the Greens. Coun Mohammed is currently the party’s only ward representative alongside two Labour councillors.
Labour’s candidate in Crookes, Anne Marie Murphy, said: “Having lived in Crookes all my life, I find it odd that with just a few weeks to go Coun Mohammed has suddenly decided to stand here.
“He has no previous connection to Crookes or Crosspool that I’m aware of, and I don’t know how he thinks he can hope to understand the needs of the community in just 35 days. He may be scared to face the voters in Broomhill, but he’ll be sorely mistaken if he thinks people in Crookes will give him an easier ride.”
Sheffield Green Party election agent Eamonn Ward said: “Shaffaq’s move is likely to have been influenced by years of solid work by the Greens and our strong candidate, Brian Webster. We finished a close second to Labour last time, with the Lib Dems a distant third. It is now clear that next month’s Broomhill election will be a straight fight between Greens and Labour.
“Shaffaq has been a good Broomhill ward councillor for 10 years. His experience will continue to be helpful to the Broomhill Library Action Group who have the massive task of running an independent library from the autumn, following the Labour council’s recent decisions.”
Student Harry Matthews is to stand for the Lib Dems in Broomhill. In Crookes, Liberal Democrat Sylvia Anginotti’s term of office is ending.
One-third of council seats are up for grabs on May 22.