THE Labour candidate to fight the Hartlepool by-election will be chosen from four hopefuls.

All four on the shortlist drawn up by national party chiefs yesterday are councillors - one in Hartlepool, one in Sunderland and two in County Durham.

They will be interviewed by local members tomorrow night before a secret ballot to choose the person to contest the seat being vacated by Euro-bound Peter Mandelson.

The four are Hartlepool councillor Iain Wright, 32; Darlington councillor Lee Vasey, 47; Durham County councillor Phil Graham, 51; and Sunderland City councillor Kathryn Rolph.

The Labour selection process suffered a hiccup when one of the 12 candidates listed to be seen by the party's National Executive Committee on Tyneside yesterday, pulled out.

Jamie Corrigan, chief executive of Ferryhill Town Council, withdrew just hours before he was to be interviewed.

Mr Corrigan, 36, who lives in Hartlepool, said: "I withdrew for family reasons, and professional reasons to do with my job."

Conservative Party bosses last night told The Northern Echo that their nomination of a candidate was imminent, while Gus Robinson is still considering the prospect of running as an independent.

Senior officials from the UK Independence Party travelled to the North-East yesterday, but they are still to declare a candidate.