All-women shortlist for Wigan

By Richard Bean WIGAN'S next MP will be a woman.

History will be made at the next general election with, barring a political upset of volcanic proportions, the return of the town's first ever female Member of Parliament.

Officially, Labour chiefs are remaining tight-lipped about the selection process at this stage.

But well-placed party sources have confirmed that national Labour chiefs are intending to order an all-female selection short list for their candidate to replace Neil Turner in Westminster, following his decision to retire.

However Makerfield - which also needs to select a new Labour champion after Ian McCartney's shock decision to also step down - will be an 'open' selection, it's said.

Labour's National Executive Committee's organisation sub committee, which will eventually decide on the due process for each constituency, will meet next week after abandoning plans for a gathering as part of the Brighton party conference.

And adoption of such a move could yet see another Metro councillor elected to take the place of former councillor Mr Turner.

Cabinet member for children and young people's services (education) Coun Susan Loudon is known to be being encouraged to stand by party and council supporters.

Coun Loudon, a 57-year-old mother-of-one, has lived in Artherton for the past 38 years and worked in local government as a librarian in Leigh and a Road Safety Officer in Greater Manchester.

She was first elected in 1994.

However she is likely to face strong opposition on the all-women panel from Labour Euro-candidate and shop steward Theresa Griffin.

Labour rules forbid potential candidates from specifically commenting about their intentions.

But Coun Loudon did say today: "As far as I am aware no decision has been made about Wigan Selection process however it will be interesting to see what recommendations are made by the Labour Party.

"I am sure that whoever is eventually chosen as the Prospective Labour Party Candidate for Wigan, when given the opportunity, will work hard for the constituency and its residents."

The party has the power to impose all-women candidate panels on "safe" constituencies following a decision by the Party Conference a decade ago.

Such positive discrimination may be controversial in some quarters, but Labour see it as practical way of increasing the number of women MPs in Parliament.

A fifth of Labour MPs are currently women but the party hopes eventually to make it 50/50.

A Wigan Consistuency Labour Party member admitted: "This may end up being a bit controversial with some of the older male members.

"But there are plenty of women members at Wigan, particularly among the real doers, who would be really invigorated by having a woman candidate to campaign for in this town for the first time.

"And that could really get them out on the doors and working flat out for a Labour win.

"There is also something of a novelty factor for a woman Labour parliamentary candidate in Wigan which may boost the turn out from our own support, because there is a feeling that we have been a bit stuck in a rut."

* WIGAN Labour organiser Paul Kenny is the only candidate yet declared for Makerfield selection panel, although Metro deputy leader Coiun Dave Molyneux and Golborne councillor Ged Bretherton are said to be considering putting themselves forward.