Ex-council leader Marie Rimmer is set to stand as a parliamentary candidate to replace Shaun Woodward amid fears the national Labour party may parachute a candidate in.
The long-serving Town Hall leader hopes to succeed the former Northern Ireland secretary and become the town’s first female MP once he stands down from Parliament at the next general election.
Labour began a selection process for the St Helens South and Whiston seat after Mr Woodward, who has represented the constituency since 2001, announced in November last year that he would not seek re-election.
But a senior Labour source said the local party were concerned about the possibility of interference from the national party – particularly as the seat is classed as one of the safest in the UK.
“The local Labour party is concerned that there may be interference from the national party as it has been said several possible candidates have strong ties to the national party as they are ex special advisors and are interested in seeking selection,” the senior local party figure told The Reporter.
“Special advisers are often seen to receive preferential treatment when it comes to selections and many have been parachuted into constituencies in the past.
“The local party have made their views known that they wish the candidate who is selected to be a local person with strong ties to the constituency.”
The intervention can be seen as a direct response to events 13 years ago when Mr Woodward, who crossed the floor of the House of Commons in 1999, was unexpectedly announced as St Helens South’s candidate.
He stood against Ms Rimmer and several other local candidates, securing the nomination by a healthy margin.
However, Mr Woodward and the local party never quite shook off the accusation he had been parachuted in at the expense of local candidates, and St Helens party bosses are keen to learn from the lessons of the past.
Coun Rimmer, who has dedicated more than 30 years to public service in St Helens, remains highly respected and is eager to use her local experience in Westminster.
Speaking ahead of the launch of her campaign, she said: “I’m pleased to be announcing that I intend to seek selection to be the next Labour MP for St Helens South and Whiston.
“Representing my home town in Parliament would be a tremendous honour and I’m certain I am capable of doing the job and fighting for St Helens South and Whiston.
“I have been inundated with Labour members asking me to consider standing. It was an easy decision to make and I’m standing because I’m passionate about our town. It’s my home, it’s where my family grew up, and I believe our best days are ahead of us.
“As the selection process moves ahead I am looking forward to campaigning to be selected.”
Coun Rimmer has already secured the support of Town Hall leader Barrie Grunewald - despite him ousting her as council leader last summer.
He said: “Marie Rimmer has shown a lifetime of experience and commitment to St Helens. I can think of no stronger voice to fight for St Helens and Whiston at Westminster.
“I know Marie will fight for our town and has the ability to deliver results – there simply is no one better to be St Helens MP. Marie is ready to serve.”