GRASSROOTS Labour members fear a candidate from outside St Helens will be “parachuted in” to contest the MP’s seat that will be vacated by Shaun Woodward at the next general election.
The Star revealed at the start of January that the Labour Party will select its candidate for the St Helens South and Whiston seat from an all woman shortlist.
The decision – taken at national level by the party as part of policy to ensure greater diversity in Parliament – was unpopular among Star readers in an online poll.
Despite the fact the move could result in the town getting its first ever woman MP, 87per cent of voters would prefer an open selection process.
There is also a genuine fear among Labour figures in St Helens that there will be a repeat of 2001, when Labour parachuted in Mr Woodward, a former Tory MP for Witney in Oxfordshire, to one of the safest Labour seats in the country.
Local Labour sources – who are determined that a candidate with strong St Helens ties gets a chance - say several possible candidates are ex-special advisors who want selection.
The source said: “Special advisors are often seen to receive preferential treatment when it comes to selections and many have been parachuted into constituencies in the past.
“The local party have made their views known that they wish the candidate who is selected to be a local person with strong ties to the constituency.”
As predicted in the Star a fortnight ago, Marie Rimmer, the veteran councillor and ex-town hall leader, confirmed she will be entering the fray as a contender at the age of 66.
She was controversially overlooked in 2001 when Mr Woodward was brought in at the last minute to replace the outgoing Gerry Bermingham.
In a statement she said: “Representing my hometown in Parliament would be a tremendous honour and I’m certain I am capable of doing the job and fighting for St Helens South and Whiston.
“I have been inundated with Labour members asking me to consider standing, it was an easy decision to make and I’m standing because I’m passionate about our town.
“It’s my home, it’s where my family grew up, and I believe our best days are ahead of us.
“As the selection process moves ahead I am looking forward to campaigning to be selected.”
Intriguingly, Cllr Rimmer’s announcement was issued by council leader Barrie Grunewald, who claimed her seat of power on St Helens Council after a leadership challenge last May.
Relations between the pair were thought to be frosty but this week he offered a glowing endorsement of her candidacy.
Grunewald said: “Marie Rimmer has shown a lifetime of experience and commitment to St Helens. I can think of no stronger voice to fight for St Helens and Whiston at Westminster.
“I know Marie will fight for our town and has the ability to deliver results – there simply is no one better to be St Helens MP.”