Battle lines drawn in Leeds West

London-born economist Rachel Reeves has won the right to stand as the Labour candidate for Leeds West at the next general election.

Ms Reeves could become the city's first female MP for almost 40 years after triumphing against local favourite Coun Alison Lowe at a meeting of the Labour Party last night.

In a close-fought contest which divided the local constituency party, the 28-year-old won the right to stand for election after receiving 96 votes, compared to 88 for Coun Lowe.

Rival candidates Emma Hoddinott and Jo Cloes received fewer than 35 votes each.

Ms Reeves will replace Leeds West MP John Battle, who has held the seat since 1987.

Last night a delighted Ms Reeves, said: "I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity. It was a very close call because Alison has been such a very good and well respected councillor for many years.

"I hope I can fill the shoes of John Battle who has been a great servant to the people of West Leeds for such a long time.

"I see the main issues affecting the constituency at the moment as being housing and transport.

"The main priority for me will be to get out there and meet as many of the constituents as possible."

Oxford-educated Ms Reeves has worked in finance in the British embassy in Washington, USA and is currently an economist with the Halifax Building Society.

She stood for Parliament in her home town constituency of Bromley and Chiselhurst at the last election, missing out to the Conservatives.

Ms Reeves has lived in Kirkstall for the past two years with her Polish-born partner and fellow economist Mike Sawicki.

Throughout her campaign to stand for Leeds West, Ms Reeves enjoyed the support of local Labour Party heavyweights such as Coun Bernard Atha, Coun Denise Atkinson and Coun Ted Hanley.

Seacroft-born Alison Lowe, 42, who has been councillor for Armley ward for 17 years, said: "Obviously I am very disappointed not to get the chance to represent Leeds West but Rachel was a very fine candidate and I look forward to working with her in the future.

"This was my one chance to represent West Leeds in Parliament and I will not be putting myself forward again."

Mr Battle, recuperating after tearing knee ligaments in a fall from a ladder, said: "The party had put up an excellent list of candidates and any one of them would have made a great MP."