ROSSENDALE councillor Liz McInnes will fight a key by-election for Labour next month.

The mother-of-two and Unite union official will face a stiff battle to stave off UKIP candidate John Bickley in the Heywood and Middleton poll caused by the sudden death of sitting MP Jim Dobbin, who had a majority of 5,971 in 2010.

She beat three rivals to be candidate in a high-profile campaign seen as a key test of her party and its leader Ed Miliband’s appeal just months before May’s General Election.

UKIP are hoping for a double triumph on October 9 with Mr Bickley and Tory defector Douglas Carswell in Clacton both winning by-elections on the same day to become the party’s first Westminster MPs.

Neighbouring MP Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, a former Blackburn with Darwen councillor, described the result as a ‘clear message’ to the party’s Westminster elite – accusing party chiefs of packing the shortlist with outside candidates.

Health worker Coun McInnes, who seized Longholme ward on Rossendale Council from the Tories in 2010, beat former BBC presenter Miriam O’Reilly, Tameside doctor Kailash Chand and Basildon councillor Byron Taylor to the candidacy.

She said: “I am delighted and deeply honoured that local people have chosen me to be Labour’s candidate.

“For working people things are getting tougher.

“We all know that UKIP aren’t the answer – they don’t share our values.

“Only Labour can make Britain better off, putting hardworking families first with a plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.”

Her win comes after Labour in-fighting over the shortlist decided by the party leadership.

Mr Danczuk said: “This sends a clear message to the Metropolitan lovey fixers in the Labour party that party members in the north will not put up with the higher echelons fixing it for the party ranks in the south.”

Coun McInnes, a clinical scientist, lives in Rawtenstall with her partner Steve and son Sam.

The other candidates are Conservative Iain Gartside, Liberal Democrat Anthony Smith and Green hopeful Abi Jackson.