A WHITEHAVEN health campaigner who was named Cumbria Woman of the Year for fighting to set up a hostel for homeless veterans in Egremont is bidding to become Copeland’s next MP.

Mum-of-two Rachel Holliday has today confirmed she is standing to become Labour’s candidate in the upcoming by-election, which follows the resignation of current MP Jamie Reed.

Mrs Holliday, 37, who founded Calderwood House hostel to help homeless people including ex-servicemen, is pledging to stand on local issues, including the future of the West Cumberland Hospital, if she is chosen as Labour’s Parliamentary candidate.

She is among a number of people who have thrown their hat into the ring as contenders since Mr Reed announced he was standing down to take a job at Sellafield at the end of January.

Copeland councillor Gillian Troughton, a borough and county councillor, has also formally entered the race to succeed Jamie Reed - who will stand down as MP at the end of January.

She too has pledged to fight to protect the Whitehaven hospital from planned service cuts and is pro-nuclear.

Mr Reed's shock resignation, to take up a new post at Sellafield, has triggered a high-profile by-election.

The Labour Party has given interested members until Monday to formally apply to be a candidate. It will announce next week which ones made the long list and interview those successful.

Born and still living in Whitehaven, Mrs Holliday said that, if selected, she would be “Copeland’s voice” in Parliament.

An active member of the We Need West Cumberland Hospital and a former Sellafield worker, she said retaining local health services and campaigning against pension changes threatening thousands of nuclear workers would be top of her agenda.

Mrs Holliday, who lives in Hensingham, said: “We have already taken the fight for our hospital to Westminster, met with Government officials and told them what we need.

“Now I’m seeking the support of the local Labour Party, and the people of Copeland, so I can continue our campaign in Parliament and speak up for our people full-time. We need a hospital that is fit for purpose, and that means being properly staffed and delivering vital services, especially life-saving ones, right here on our doorstep.”

Mrs Holliday, whose father and grandfather were miners, is a long-time Labour Party supporter and a member of the Unite union.

She describes herself as pro-nuclear and left of centre, supporting Jeremy Corbyn in Labour’s recent leadership elections.

Although not an experienced politician, Mrs Holliday said she was encouraged to stand by friends and local party members.

“I was overwhelmed and really humbled by the number of people who asked me to stand. I sat down with my family and asked them. They’ve told me to go for it,” she said.

“It was a major shock when Jamie announced he was standing down. I’ve got to know him well through the hospital campaigning we have done together and I respect him greatly.

“Jamie has to do what’s right for him and his family and I thoroughly respect his decision. But Copeland still needs a strong voice, and I’m standing to be just that.

“I’ve spent years campaigning for the hospital and fighting for those without a voice. I think Parliament needs people from all walks of life to so they can better represent society.”

Mrs Holliday was also named Social Entrepreneur of the Year due to her work as founder and company director of Time to Change (West Cumbria) Project - a social enterprise that tackles homelessness and poverty in West Cumbria.

She opened Calderwood House in October 2015.

Mrs Holliday explained her stance on Trident - an issue which dominated the Labour Party leadership contest.

She said: “While as a mum I ultimately want my kids to live in a world without nuclear weapons, it’s vital we protect the tens and thousands of high-skilled jobs, livelihoods and communities that are reliant on it. So I fully understand and support Labour’s policy of backing the ‘Successor’ programme to replace the Vanguard submarines.”

Mrs Holliday will hold a meet and greet event at Solway Hall in Whitehaven from noon until 1pm tomorrow.

Mrs Troughton, of Moresby Parks, is also keen to stand on mainly local rather than national issues.

An active Remain campaigner during last year's EU referendum, she said: "I want to represent this wonderful area that I live in.

"I believe I can protect public services like the West Cumberland Hospital, for which I have been a great campaigner over the years. I am also a champion for low-carbon resources, including nuclear."

Mrs Troughton, 51, was elected to Copeland Council in 2011, representing the Bransty ward, and held the finances and resources portfolio on the Executive until 2015. She was re-elected to Copeland in 2015, having switched to the Distington ward.

She won her seat on Cumbria County Council, representing Howgate, in October 2015, winning a by-election to replace Sue Hayman who vacated her seat when she was elected to Parliament.

A married mother-of-two who holds a number of voluntary roles, Mrs Troughton trained as an orthopaedic surgeon, before working in Cumbria County Council's children's services department between 1999 and 2011.

"I believe everyone can achieve what they are capable of with a good education, good health, and a good safety net when things go wrong," she added.

The Labour Party has given interested members until Monday to formally apply to be a candidate. It will announce next week which ones made the long list and interview those successful.

Local Labour Party members will attend a hustings on January 19 to choose their candidate from the shortlist.