THE number of candidates vying to become the Labour hopeful for St Helens South and Whiston at the next General Election is down to the final three.
Following meetings held by the local Labour Party, former council leader Marie Rimmer, London-based councillor Catherine McDonald and June Hitchen, a councillor in Manchester, were put on a shortlist that will go forward to the final ballot on Sunday, April 6.
Members of St Helens South and Whiston Labour group will meet in Thatto Heath where the candidates will state their case in front of party members before votes are cast.
The candidates have been chosen from an all-woman shortlist following a decision by the party at national level to increase the amount of women in Parliament.
The winner will replace Shaun Woodward – who announced last year that he won’t be standing in the 2015 election – as the party’s candidate. With the town still regarded as a Labour stronghold they will be the favourite to be elected, opening the possibility of the town’s first woman MP.
McDonald, 39, who was born in Moss Bank before moving to London with her family, is a cabinet member for health on Southwark Council in South East London.
Rimmer, 67, is a former leader of St Helens Council who is the most familiar name on the list. Her long career as senior politician appeared to be over last summer when she lost a power struggle for the local Labour party leadership.
However, Woodward’s decision to stand down has opened the door for her to mount a fresh challenge.
Hitchen is a branch secretary with Unite and a councillor in Newton Heath, Manchester. She does not have local ties but has been described as a strong candidate.