"PEOPLE'S champion" Brian Jarvis has withdrawn from the parliamentary battle at the 11th hour.

The man whose close friends describe as "like a stick of rock -- if you broke him you'd find Leigh and Leigh people written all through him" is under doctor's orders and keeping out of the public eye.

The shock announcement came less than three weeks after the Leigh East representative on Wigan Council declared his interest in becoming Labour's successor to MP Lawrence Cunliffe at the next General Election.

The news was delivered by council leader Peter Smith who said Cllr Jarvis was under doctor's orders to take a break from his hectic political life.

Unsurprised colleagues later said the Leigh-based Wigan councillor had been working too hard.

On Friday he had been at a social gathering at Hindley Green Labour Club along with 20-odd other Parliamentary candidate contenders out to impress Leigh Constituency Labour Party.

But some CLP members who attended the meeting felt Cllr Jarvis was upset by his showing when given the chance to tell members why they should be backing him.

One confided: "He's been told to lay off by those who told him to put up.

"He's been told to cool it by the hierarchy who want to get their own person in. He was really upset after the meeting."

On Monday, before leaving for the House of Lords, Labour Lord Peter Smith, said: "After a period of intense work both on behalf of his constituents and for Leigh and in seeking the Labour nomination for Leigh, Cllr Jarvis has been ordered to have a period of complete rest to recover his health.

"Under these circumstances Brian has withdrawn from the parliamentary selection process. As he does need peace and quiet at the moment for his health's sake Brian and his family request he be left alone. Constituents with problems are being requested to approach other councillors." This week Cllr Jarvis's partner, Barbara, said from their home in the Plank Lane area of Leigh: "He is seeing the doctor. Brian has been doing too much. His life revolves around doing things for other people." A council colleague, who did not wish to be named, said: "I am not surprised. He was taking on too much, you just can't keep going like that. He has been missing from several meetings of late." But one of Cllr Jarvis's closest confidants, Leigh CLP member Peter Bowdler, said Leigh would undoubtedly be a poorer place if the former trade union leader withdrew from the political scene. Mr Bowdler, of Dakins Road, Leigh knows more than most about what makes Cllr Jarvis tick. On July 6 they are due to tie a double knot with their respective partners, Audrey and Barbara, at a wedding ceremony at Leigh Town Hall. Former David Brown Tractors employee Mr Bowdler confided: "Brian put up for selection because he wanted a Leigh person to represent Leigh people in Parliament. Brian is like a stick of rock which if you broke you would find 'Leigh' written all the way through."

The closing date for nominations is February 5 and the short list of a minimum of four names is due to be announced on February 13 with the final choice made by a ballot of CLP members by the end of the month.