Hartlepool MP and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson faces a fight at the next General Election - from a boxing promoter.

Businessman and fight promoter Gus Robinson has thrown his hat into the ring on behalf of the town's Conservative Party. He beat 25 other candidates to win the endorsement of Hartlepool Conservative Association.

Mr Robinson, 51, said: "To be given the opportunity to serve the people of Hartlepool, the North-East and hopefully the country is tremendous, and it is something that I'm excited about."

Meanwhile, a Labour backbencher is to face a left-wing challenge for his seat. Members of the new Teesside Socialist Alliance (TSA) expect members of the mainstream Labour Party to vote for their candidate against Middlesbrough MP Stuart Bell.

"We are hoping to get a lot of Labour voters who are disillusioned and dissatisfied with Tony Blair,'' said Geoff Kerr-Morgan, a spokesman for the alliance.

Made up of left-wing political parties, individuals, trade unionists, anti-racists, environmentalists and the Socialist Workers' Party, the alliance's parliamentary candidate will be chosen next Tuesday.

Barrister Mr Bell, 62, could not be contacted for comment last night.