THE PICTURE is becoming clearer who the runners and riders are to be local Labour Party candidates in the next General Election.

Labour campaign strategists believe success in Halesowen and Rowley Regis, Stourbridge (which includes Cradley) and Dudley South as vital in their quest for power in the 2015 national poll.

The selection process is starting this month and the national party want the candidates to be installed by the middle of the summer, although Stourbridge might not be completed until the Autumn.

Each constituency’s party will draw up a shortlist and then vote which candidate will get the right to face the Conservative incumbent at the election.

In Halesowen and Rowley Regis the battle looks set to be between local party member Stephanie Peacock and Najma Hafeez, the former chairman of Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.

Miss Peacock has held a variety of positions in the Labour Party including sitting on the National Executive and currently represents the West Midlands on the National Policy Forum.

Sue Hayman, who lost in 2010 to Conservative James Morris, has bowed out the race and is supporting Miss Peacock.

She said: "Halesowen and Rowley Regis needs a fresh candidate with new ideas.

“Steph campaigned for me in 2010 and I know she has what it takes to win this seat back for Labour."

Miss Peacock has already set up a website to help her bid for the nomination which includes pledges of support from former MP Sylvia Heal and Halesowen North Cllr Hilary Bills amongst others.

However, Najma Hafeez has had a long, and sometimes controversial, public life in Birmingham where she was a councillor for over 13 years.

She is the former wife of Birmingham City Council’s Labour leader Sir Albert Bore and in 1983 was the youngest and first Muslim woman elected to office in the city.

She rose through the ranks and became chair of several powerful committess including education, chair of social services and community affairs.

In the Stourbridge constituency Labour insiders believe the right to battle Conservative incumbent Margot James will see Lye Cllr Pete Lowe, who is Dudley Council’s cabinet member for finance, face BBC London journalist Warren Nettleford, who hails from Dudley.

In Dudley South there should be an all woman affair between Brierley Hill Cllr Rachel Harris, who lost the seat last time, Brockmoor and Pensnett Cllr Judy Foster and local Labour and UNISON organiser Natasha Millward.