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LONDON barrister Sara Ibrahim has emerged as a serious challenger to Kate Hollern in the contest to become Blackburn’s Labour candidate in the 2015 general election.

The 57-year-old borough council leader has received several nominations from ward branches.

But Ms Ibrahim has also been well backed, gathering a local following.

The last of the six women to apply for the seat, which has an all-women shortlist, she is a cont ributor to the ‘Left Foot Forward, Labour blog, and appears to have support at national and regional level.

Manchester city councillor Nasrin Ali, and Huddersfield councillor Naheed Arshad- Mather have also gained several ward nominations.

Blackburn Labour Party secretary Phil Riley is now awaiting trade union branch nominations before compiling a shortlist of three, or four, candidates to go before a hustings and selection meeting at the end of March.

Each woman will make a speech and answer questions before votes of Labour members at the meeting, and those submitted by post, are counted to decide who will be Labour’s candidate in May 2015. Also in the running are Rochdale Labour activist Ann Courtney, and Agnieska Grabianka- Hindley, a London solicitor and daughter of former East Lancashire Euro MP Michael Hindley.

Last year, 67-year-old Jack Straw announced he would be standing down as MP for Blackburn after more than 34 years.

The former Home, Foreign and Justice Secretary had a majority of 14,884 at the 2010 election, making the seat a desirable target for would-be Labour MPs.

Ms Ibrahim is a barrister who focuses on employment, education, and equalities issues, a school governor, and former executive of the Fabian Society.

Mr Straw and Mr Riley have refused to make any comment on the candidates.

An announcement of the shortlist is due later this week.