THE by-election to decide who will be Middlesbrough's next MP will be held on November 29, which means residents will go to the polls twice in a fortnight.

The Northern Echo has been told that the contest will be staged on the last Thursday of the month, following the death of long-standing town MP Sir Stuart Bell on October 13.

The announcement of the date comes ahead of Sunday's selection of Labour's candidate - the hot favourite to claim the seat - from a six-strong shortlist revealed today.

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Joe Docherty, the former chief executive of the Tees Valley regeneration company, and Andy McDonald, a solicitor and former Middlesbrough councillor, are thought to be the frontrunners, ahead of hustings at Teesside University.

Staging the by-election at the end of the month means people in the town will vote twice in two weeks because Britain's first elected police chiefs will be chosen - in Cleveland and across England - on November 15.

There are fears of a dismal turnout in the race to be police and crime commissioners (PCCs), because of the short winter day and widespread ignorance about the elections.

Meanwhile, Labour is hot favourite to win the parliamentary election, having held the Middlesbrough seat ever since it was recreated - after a 56-year interval - in 1974.

At the last general election, in 2010, Sir Stuart triumphed comfortably, with a majority of 8,689 over the Liberal Democrats and almost 46 per cent of the vote.

However, only just half of eligible voters bothered to cast their votes - raising fears that Middlesbrough's new MP will head to Westminster on much lower turnout.

The other names on Labour's shortlist are; Amina Ali (a Middlesbrough-born welfare advisor and former BBC journalist), Emma France (a charity director), Mahroof Hussain (a Rotherham councillor) and Ed Malcolm (who works for Middlesbrough Citizens Advice Bureau).

The Lib Dems have selected George Selmer, who grew up in Middlesbrough and works in employment services, as their candidate.

The Conservatives have not yet made their selection. Asked, yesterday, by The Northern Echo, when a name would be chosen, the party declined to comment.

Last month, Ray Mallon, Middlesbrough's Independent Mayor, said he would run, if no "high quality" candidates emerged, saying: "If the candidate list isn't of high quality then I will stand, it is as simple as that."

Sir Stuart, 74, who had served as MP for Middlesbrough from 1983, died at his Linthorpe home, following a short battle with pancreatic cancer.

The by-election is one of no fewer than six now pending, following yesterday's resignation of Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotheram, in a fresh expenses scandal.