A FORMER Government Minister, a doctor and a Redbridge councillor are the latest candidates putting their names forward to become Walthamstow's MP when Neil Gerrard retires.

The three are in a long-list of 27 but they, and local hopefuls like cabinet member Marie Pye, party worker Laura Bruni and library campaigner Stella Creasy will find it difficult to top the experience of former MP Melanie Johnson.

A Blair babe, Miss Johnson, 52, was elected during Labour's landslide in 1997 overturning a Tory majority of 6,583 in Welwyn and Hatfield after sixth form students taped her opponent, David Evans, describing her as a single girl who had never had a proper job and had three bastard children.

A former schools inspector, she was soon given a junior minister's job in the Treasury, followed by posts in the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Health, until she lost her seat in 2005.

Unlike current Walthamstow MP, Neil Gerrard, she never rebelled against her party, according to the They Work For You website.

Cambridge-based Miss Johnson, who says she will move to Walthamstow if she gets selected, said she was an enthusiastic and dedicated person who was good at getting things fixed, and worked within the system on behalf of her previous constituents. "I think I've been quite successful in getting my viewpoint across behind the scenes."

Hina Ansari has been a doctor for the past 17 years while Redbridge Labour Cllr Nadia Sharif, 28, is currently the youngest politician elected to serve on Redbridge's Council.

Cllr Sharif said: "I am always visiting Waltham Forest and the borough is always part of my life. I would offer the people of Walthamstow a fresh alternative."

Dr Ansari, of Northcote Road, Walthamstow, is the medical director for IKEA and has been a GP in Croydon for the past ten years.

She said: "I'm passionate about health and education. As someone who has recently moved to Walthamstow, I'm determined that Whipps Cross University Hospital should retain a full range of services."

Shortlisting is on October 18 and selection on November 4.