Mayor Ray Mallon not ruling out Middlesbrough MP bid

Ray Mallon Mr Mallon paid tribute to Sir Stuart's work

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Middlesbrough mayor Ray Mallon has said he would stand as the town's MP if no other "high quality" candidates emerged.

A by-election is due to be held after Sir Stuart Bell died earlier this month following a battle with cancer.

Former detective Mr Mallon said he wanted to "protect" the town's interests.

But he said he hoped it would not be necessary for him to contest the election.

"What I intend to do is protect the interests of Middlesbrough and therefore I want to see an outstanding member of parliament brought into place for this town," he said.

'Perfect' relationship

"Now I intend to view the candidate list and, if I conclude that candidate list is high quality, then there is no need for any intervention from me.

Ever since he became a political player, there's been speculation about whether Ray Mallon would want to be Middlesbrough's MP.

There's no question Labour would be deeply worried if he did decide to stand.

But this does seem to be more of a shot across the party's bows than a serious statement of intent.

There seems to be a feeling in Middlesbrough that the town needs a strong local champion to succeed Sir Stuart Bell.

Ray Mallon certainly doesn't want to see Labour parachute someone with no local links into what is a safe seat.

But voters might also be entitled to ask what Ray Mallon could achieve as an independent MP in a parliament dominated by the political parties?

Labour will remain the favourites to win the forthcoming by-election but the mayor's intervention might focus the party on what kind of candidate they want to select.

"If the candidate list isn't of high quality then I will stand, it is as simple as that."

Mr Mallon said he believed Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats would ensure there was a high quality list, meaning he would not have to stand.

He added he had never had any "aspiration" to be an MP.

Mr Mallon, who was nicknamed "Robocop" for his tough stance on crime during his time with the police, was first elected mayor in 2002 and re-elected in 2007.

Senior Labour backbencher Sir Stuart, 74, who died from pancreatic cancer, had been Middlesbrough's MP for almost 30 years.

Following his death, tributes poured in including from Labour leader Ed Miliband, Prime Minister David Cameron and former prime minister Gordon Brown.

Mr Mallon said he had great admiration for Sir Stuart and enjoyed a "perfect" relationship with him while working closely together.

No date for the by-election has been set.

There will be more on this on the Sunday Politics, North East & Cumbria, Sunday, BBC1, 1100 BST.

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