TWO Knowsley councillors and a London-based politician are among those believed to be vying to become Labour’s MP candidate for St Helens South and Whiston.

Former council leader Marie Rimmer’s declaration last week that she will be challenger effectively fired the starting gun in the race to be the party’s contender.

Labour’s national executive has decided the candidate to replace Shaun Woodward will be selected from an all woman shortlist.

The Constituency Labour Party (CLP) is due to meet this week to agree on a selection panel which will examine a “long list” before consulting members on who should make the shortlist.

Among those names linked with challenging Knowsley councillors Sandra Gaffney (Whiston North) and Denise Allen (Prescot East), and St Helens-born Catherine McDonald, a Southwark councillor in London.

Allen, aged 54, a vocal campaigner in the fight to save Whiston Hospital’s burns unit, confirmed to the Star she will be putting her name forward.

Warrington council officer Eleanor Blackburn, the daughter of a former Labour councillor, is another tipped to challenge.

As Rimmer’s candidacy was announced last week, Labour sources voiced concerns the national party “parachuting in” a candidate to mirror the situation with Woodward in 2001.

In a Star poll that asked should the Labour candidate have strong local ties, 76 per cent of people have so far voted yes, indicating a mood in favour of a home grown candidate.

McDonald would appear to present a different option. She is originally from Moss Bank but is currently a cabinet member on Southwark Council in South East London.

The 39-year-old said: “I have long been thinking that I would like to come home. I have lived in London and been a councillor here and would hope to bring some fresh ideas.

“We have been down her for around 15 years since my family moved down, but my dad and sure I followed Saints.

“I’m currently a cabinet member for health and social care and equality and used to hold the position for children’s Services.

“This is effectively my day job.”

She added: “St Helens never leaves you. When I heard that Shaun Woodward was stepping down I knew I had to go for that.

“We are doing some good work in the party at the moment such as social mobility and the living wage but you can only do so much as a councillor.

“I strongly feel that this government has launched an onslaught on those on low income and I want to direct this fight in parliament.”