Whilst I was away in Scotland, Tony had the temerity to stand down and trigger the by-election in Sedgefield.
Spreculation in Thursday's Northern Echo has it about right. Firstly, there's a real thirst in the constituency party for a candidate with genuine local roots. The Echo pinpointed Pat McCourt, Phil Wilson and Dr Simon Henig as the favourites at this stage.
Pat is the son of the late Warren McCourt, who was a long-standing and respected local Councillor. I spent several happy days campaigning for Warren when I first moved to Darlington and he was standing in a council by-election in Ferryhill Station. (It was also the first time I met Tony, who was then Shadow Home Secretary, resplendant in a powder blue suit outside the Surtees Arms). Anyway, the media is keen to paint Pat as the "left-wing" candidate, but that may not be so apparent to local members - Pat seems to have judged the local mood well when he said after Tony resigned, "What Sedgefield needs now is somebody whose first, second and third priority is Sedgefield."
Phil Wilson is the rightly the bookies' favourite and closely associated with Tony and John Burton. The 'dark horse' is Cllr. Simon Henig, deputy leader of Chester-le-Street Council and a respected political academic. Both Simon and Phil and their private armies have been working quietly (and not-so-quietly) amongst local party members for the past 18 months.
Barring the sort of "accident" that catapulted Alan B'stard into Parliament, expect the Labour nominee, and the next MP for Sedgefield to come from one of these three.