Marie Rimmer chosen to replace Shaun Woodward as prospective Labour candidate for St Helens South

Marie Rimmer

Marie Rimmer

First published in News St Helens Star: Photograph of the Author by , News Editor

FOR a time last summer it looked as though it was the beginning of the end of the 30 year political career of Marie Rimmer.

But today she stands in pole position to become the town’s first woman MP after Labour members voted her as their candidate to contest the next general election in St Helens South and Whiston.

The candidacy paves the way for Rimmer, 67, to contest the seat she was controversially overlooked for in 2001 when Shaun Woodward, the former Conservative, was parachuted in to the ‘safe seat’ by Labour’s top brass.

Back then few would have predicted she would be in the running to replace Woodward as he prepares to step down ahead of the 2015 General Election.

And it is likely there would have been longer odds of that happening last summer, when she lost the leadership of St Helens Council to Barrie Grunewald.

With the local party seeking to head in a new direction, Rimmer, who friends say felt betrayed at losing the council leadership, appeared to have been ostracised from the new council regime.

But the announcement of Woodward’s announcement that he will be stepping down and Labour’s national executive’s decision to go for an all woman shortlist changed that.

Grassroots Labour members were adamant they wanted a candidate that was St Helens-born-and-bred and with the prominent figures such as council leader Barrie Grunewald and Mayor of St Helens Andy Bowden ruled out by the gender decision, there was not a huge choice of homegrown women politicians with either a high-profile or a burgeoning reputation to choose from.

Once Rimmer made it clear she still wanted to become an MP – and that she had the passion, energy and enthusiasm to carry out a role, that if elected, will see her serve a term of parliament into her 70s – she became the clear frontrunner. Her local campaign was led by Grunewald, with a thawing in their frosty relationship that had developed since the leadership challenge, raising eyebrows both inside and outside the Labour party.

Sources have told the Star they believe he could be positioning himself to contest the St Helens South seat if Rimmer wins and chooses to serve just the one term. Her victory following a vote by nearly 200 party members in Thatto Heath on Sunday was said to be comfortable, though given that competition came from relative unknowns – London-based councillor Catherine McDonald (who was born in St Helens) and Manchester councillor June Hitchen – it was hardly a surprise.

In what is still regarded as a Labour safe haven, Woodward took the seat in 2010 by a majority of 14,122 votes, Rimmer will be favourite to grasp power when voters go to the polls next year.

However, her long presence on the St Helens landscape means her experience, knowledge and support is countered by plenty of political bruises and scars. You only need to pore over social media and the Star’s website comments to see she has picked up some detractors and enemies along the way. An interesting race for the St Helens South and Whiston seat awaits.

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