PHIL Wilson was last night elected as the Labour candidate who bids to retain Tony Blair's Sedgefield seat at the forthcoming by-election.

Among his opponents will be the Liberal Democrats' Greg Stone, who was selected by his party late last night.

Mr Wilson will be seen as a "Blairite" candidate as he is one of the "famous five" Trimdon activists who helped Mr Blair get elected in 1983.

Mr Wilson, who lives in the village with his partner, Margaret, has worked for the party and runs a public relations company.

More than 300 constituency Labour Party members crammed into Trimdon Labour Club - the scene of many of Mr Blair's most famous moments - to choose the candidate from a five-person shortlist.

Mr Wilson's victory was announced at 10.15pm and was said to be "comfortable".

Mr Wilson said: "I am honoured and overwhelmed by the support shown to me by the members here tonight. Like local people, I live here. What matters to them and their families, matters to me. That's why I'll always fight for this area."

Also on the shortlist were former minister Melanie Johnson, Chester-le-Street councillor Dr Simon Henig, Ferryhill town councillor Pat McCourt and Alan Strickland, a young Oxford University graduate from Newton Aycliffe.

It will be Mr Stone's third tilt at Westminster. In 2001, he stood for the Vale of York and in 2005, he contested Newcastle Central, where he increased his party's vote by 12.35 per cent and gave Labour's Jim Cousins a scare. Mr Stone, 32, has been a Newcastle City councillor since 1998 and works as a sustainable development consultant.

He said: "If elected, I will be a local MP living in the constituency and working full-time for the people of Sedgefield."

He was selected by 50 or so members of the Darlington and Sedgefield party at a hustings held at Stressholme Golf Course, in Darlington. The other candidates on the shortlist were Neil Bradbury, a Northumberland councillor, and Nigel Boddy, a Darlington solicitor.

The by-election will be on July 19. It has been caused by the former Prime Minister Mr Blair stepping down from Parliament to become a Middle East peace envoy. Mr Blair increased his majority at the last election to 18,457.

The other candidates already declared are Graham Robb (Conservative), Toby Horton (UK Independence Party) and Paul Gittins (Independent).