LABOUR last night announced the five names on its shortlist to succeed Tony Blair as MP for Sedgefield.

They are Simon Henig, Melanie Johnson, Pat McCourt, Alan Strickland and Phil Wilson.

One of the five will be chosen tonight by the local party as the candidate to fight the by-election on July 19. The Liberal Democrats will also choose their candidate tonight, but as Mr Blair had a 18,457 majority, the Labour candidate will be the favourite to hold the seat.

Dr Henig is the deputy leader of Chester-le-Street District Council and the principal politics lecturer at Sunderland University. He has lived in the North-East for 12 years and has written several books about elections.

Ms Johnson was MP for Welwyn Hatfield in Hertfordshire from 1997 to 2005. She has been a junior minister at the Treasury and in the DTI, and when she lost her seat was the Minister for Public Health.

Mr McCourt describes himself as centre left and is backed by the Amicus section of his union, Unite. He is the recently-elected deputy leader of Ferryhill Town Council. His father, Warren, worked closely with Mr Blair in his early days in the area.

Mr Strickland is the youngest on the shortlist at 23-years-old. He comes from Newton Aycliffe, studied at Darlingtons Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College and went to Merton College at Oxford University to study politics, philosophy and economics in 2002. In January 2006, he was elected president of Oxford University's Student Union.

Mr Wilson is one of the "famous five" who discovered Mr Blair in Trimdon, in 1983, and then championed his cause. He has worked for the party and runs a PR company in Trimdon and London. He has the backing of the T&GWU section of the Unite union.

Labour had more than 50 applications for the seat. All on the longlist of 11 were interviewed by the National Executive Committee in London yesterday to create the shortlist. Tonight's hustings, at which the 600 members of the party will elect the candidate, is at Trimdon Labour Club.

The Lib Dems hustings is at Stressholme Golf Club in Darlington. Their shortlist was being worked on at the party headquarters in London late into the night. It is understood that those being considered include Robert Adamson, who has twice stood for the party in Darlington, Greg Stone, a Newcastle councillor who has also stood twice for Parliament, and Nigel Boddy, a Darlington solicitor who stood for Hartlepool in 2001.