KATE Hollern has become the first Labour politician to officially bid to succeed Blackburn MP Jack Straw at next year’s general election.

The borough council leader has written to constituency secretary Phil Riley after the party’s national executive fired the starting gun for the contest earlier this month.

It also ordered an all-female shortlist for the seat, held by Mr Straw with a majority of 9,856 at the 2010 election.

The 58-year-old Blackburn with Darwen Council leader denied she was now favourite to win Labour’s nomination for the May vote, and said she would rather have had an open selection.

Already, Hyndburn Council’s deputy leader Clare Pritchard, and several Asian female Labour politicians from Manchester and London are understood to be interested in seeking to fight Blackburn for Labour in 2015.

Dumbarton-born Coun Hollern came to the town aged 22 in 1977, working first at Newman’s Footwear, and then at Blackburn College.

A mother-of-two with two grandchildren living in the town, she has been a councillor for 19 years, and leader of the borough’s Labour Group for a decade.

She said: “Jack will be an incredibly hard act to follow.

“I think we should have someone who knows the town, and is passionate about it.

“Blackburn is my home and where I brought up my children.

“I want to do everything I can to look after the town and its residents who have had a hard time under this government.

“I would rather be at Westminster fighting for the town against Conservative/Liberal Democrat cuts than having to impose them.

“If I am selected as Labour’s candidate, and it is a big ‘if’, who is leader of the council is a matter for a vote of the Labour group.

“I would rather have had an open selection than an all-women contest.”

Coun Riley said: “I hope Kate is just the first of many excellent candidates seeking to become Labour’s candidate for Blackburn.”

Burnley Council leader Julie Cooper was chosen as Labour candidate for the town.

Mr Straw’s son, Will, was chosen for Rossendale and Darwen, and Nelson county councillor Azhar Ali for Pendle.

Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle and Hyndburn MP Graham Jones will stand again next year.

Labour has yet to start selection in Ribble Valley.