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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 21:54 GMT
Labour shortlists five women
Protesters at Ebbw Vale
Feeling against the move has been strong
Labour Party members in a south Wales constituency have drawn up a shortlist of five women to replace their MP at the next election.

Llew Smith has decided to step down from his role as the elected member for Blaenau Gwent, and the party centrally has controversially decided to opt for a woman to take his place as their parliamentary candidate in the safe Labour seat.

Around 50 local consistituency members demonstrated in Ebbw Vale as the shortlist was whittled down behind closed doors on Friday night.

Women-only lists were introduced in an effort to get more Welsh women Labour MPs into parliament.

But the decision by the Wales Labour Party to impose the system has outraged local Labour members, who claim it is unfair.

They were so inscensed they decided to boycott the selection process and stage a placard-waving protest outside the building where the meeting was held.

Among those protesting was the Labour AM for Blaenau Gwent, Peter Law, who has previously said he might stand as an independent if a woman was selected.

Party officials said around 70 local Labour members attended the meeting, where 16 women candidates were reduced to the final five.

The final five are Sonia Behr, Sian James, Gwennan Jeremiah, Maggie Jones and Mary Creahg.

The final selection will take place in three weeks time. It remains to be seen whether the local party will support the successful woman candidate.

Both Mr Smith and Mr Law have been strong opponents of the policy.

The seat, which has been held by the likes of Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot, is one of Labour's strongest in Britain, and Mr Smith has a majority of almost 20,000.

The Welsh Labour executive has said it is implementing a policy backed by the party conference.

There is a similar women-only shortlist rule in Swansea East, where MP Donald Anderson is also standing down.

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