MORE than 150 members of Blackburn Labour Party will pack the Windsor Suite of King George’s Hall on Sunday to pick their candidate for May 2015’s General Election.

The decision on who replaces Jack Straw, the town’s MP for more than 30 years, has generated a fierce battle between the four shortlisted candidates.

Despite inevitably having built up some enemies over a 19 year-council career, Blackburn with Darwen borough leader Kate Hollern remains the favourite.

In recent weeks, the three other candidates have been working hard to combat her local advantage.

With 220 postal votes already cast, the ballot of activists after tomorrow afternoon’s hustings means two thirds of the local party’s 550 members will have taken part in the process.

Local government report Bill Jacobs profiles the wannabees in only the second such contest since Baroness Castle became Labour MP in 1945.


Married mother of two children aged 24 and 18.
Born in the Punjab, Pakistan and came to Manchester aged nine.
Lives in Huddersfield.
A Kirklees borough councilllor and expert in developing social enterprises.
PITCH: Experienced local politician who is a councillor in a borough with a similar history, make-up and problems to Blackburn as well as relatives in the town.

She has emphasised her achievements in housing and community affairs for which she received the MBE in 2003. Believed to have strong support in Bastwell ward which accounts for 40 per cent of party membership.

Aged 51, married mother of four.
Born in Bury, Greater Manchester.
Lives in Middleton, Rochdale.
An environmental scientist and businesswoman with a doctorate from Oxford University.
PITCH: She has stressed her North-West background and the need to encourage new businesses and ‘green’ technology for the future economic growth of Blackburn.

Having worked with senior Labour figures and with US president Obama’s campaign team, she has visited many local Labour members at home making a good impression.

Aged 30. Single. No children.
Born in Perivale, West London.
Lives in West London.
Equalities barrister with a practice that covers the North-West. School governor.
PITCH: Highlights her work representing people tackling disadvantage and her commitment to fighting inequalities which she believes is the key to improving Blackburn’s future.

Young and ambitious with an executive role in the Fabian Society, she appeals to members who want another long-serving MP who is a player in the party and nation’s corridors of power.


Aged 57, divorced mother of two.
Born Dumbarton, Scotland, came to Blackburn 37 years ago.
Lives in Darwen.
Leader of Blackburn and Darwen Borough Council, former manager at Newman’s shoe factory and worker at Blackburn College.
PITCH: The local candidate with extensive experience of Blackburn, its people and its problems and fully involved in the current redevelopment plans.

She has emphasised her long-standing commitment to community cohesion and appeals to members who want an MP steeped in the town and its traditions .