KATE Hollern has promised to bring real-life experience to Westminster if elected as Blackburn MP next May.

The 58-year-old rejected claims she is too old to follow 66-year-old Jack Straw as the town’s Commons representative.

The Dumbarton-born Blackburn with Darwen borough leader pledged her experience would benefit her adopted home.

Mr Straw was 31 when he started his 35 years as MP and his predecessor Barbara Castle was 34. The average age of MPs is 50.

Labour constituency secretary Phil Riley said: “The question of Kate’s age was raised in the selection process.

“To have two MPs elected so young and serve 30 years each is unusual.”

Coun Hollern, a mother-of-two with two grandchildren, came to Blackburn in 1977.

She was a supervisor at Newmans Shoes for 19 years and contracts manager at Blackburn College for 13 before retiring in January last year.

She said: “I think the House of Commons needs the mix of all ages, all genders, and all classes.

“There has been a danger in recent years it’s been a target for young graduates which is great because we need a future but you also need experience.

“You need someone who understands the people they are going to represent with a passion for that area.

“I’m bringing a lot of experience of life. I’ve had a 19-year apprenticeship on the council and I think it will bring more of a balance to the Commons.

“And a strong voice of Blackburn, who understands the impact of current policies.

“There’s definitely a growing division between the north and south.

“I will make sure, if I get in and Labour forms a government, the interests of Blackburn are fully represented in the policy-making process.”

She believes her 19 years on Blackburn with Darwen Council, 10 of them as borough leader or leader of the opposition, would benefit the Commons.

She said: “There are too few politicians at Westminster now who have run or understand local government. They are working on theory.

“I can bring real experience of what councils do.”

Coun Hollern admitted she had a hard task to win the election and follow Mr Straw.

She said: “Jack is a big act to follow but they said that about Jack when he replaced Barbara.

“I’m in a more comfy position. I’ve been Jack’s apprentice and Jack’s not going away.

“He’ll still be there and I’ll be able to tap into that experience.”

She has no plans to stand down as council leader and said: “I’m in the fortunate position of having a number of key members who have the experience and skills to continue the work we’re doing.

“I think the question of when I stand down will be reviewed at some time this year.”

She denies any front bench ambitions and added: ”I have never been a career politician.

“I got into politics because I cared. I continued because I cared. I want to take it to national level because I care.”