Revealed: A new model candidate

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She is aged 40 to 44, is or was a teacher and is awfully proud of the way her school performed in the national league tables. Articulate, serious and earnest, she is a practising Christian, has strong family values and is a firm believer in law and order.

Deeply committed to improving the lot of her local community, she sits on the town council and devotes a large portion of her life to helping others. Small talk is not something she revels in, preferring instead to discuss how best former industrial sites can be regenerated and new jobs created.

Ambitious and competitive, she seems to enjoy matching the exacting standards of government initiatives like the Citizen's Charter and the Ofsted inspectors. Tough and uncompromising, this thoroughly modern figure makes little attempt to disguise her contempt for the left, proclaiming her public stance against its sacred icons like Arthur Scargill.

On her future hangs the fate of Tony Blair and his efforts to revitalise Labour. She is not a Tory but you could be forgiven for thinking so. In short, she is the archetypal candidate selected by Labour to fight its key seats at the next general election.

A study of Labour's Key Seat Candidate Profiles by The Independent reveals the remarkably similar make-up of those in which the party has entrusted its fate. Of the 87 seats in the guide, identified by Labour as the ones they must win, over half have gone to women, mostly in the 40 to 44 age group.

The changing face of Labour is clearly marked: no miners or former miners are on the list, no factory workers, nobody about whom it could be safely said they once got their hands dirty.

Gone is the stereotype images of working-class Labour MPs with rough- hewn hands and broad, regional accents. A process that has been apparent in the last few general elections has moved up another gear this time round. Accountants, lawyers, management consultants, economists, full- time political activists, will, if the present opinion polls are correct, be on their way to the House of Commons. Modesty is not a premium. Lynda Clark QC is described as "the most senior woman in practice at the Scottish Bar".

Ordinary Dennis Skinner will find himself more outnumbered than ever, by people like Sally Keeble, standing in Northampton North, who tells how, as head of communications for the GMB union, she helped "shed its cloth-cap image".

Ms Keeble is typical of the few who list trade-union involvement. No shop stewards or, heaven forbid, flying pickets, here but media and political advisors. She could be joined on the Labour benches by Siobhain McDonagh from Mitcham and Morden, whose entry relates how she made "a widely publicised speech attacking Arthur Scargill's attempt to re-open the Clause IV debate at the 1995 Labour conference."

They could find themselves rubbing shoulder pads with Liz Blackman from Erewash. Ms Blackman is head of the upper school at Bramcote Park Comprehensive, which she declares. "achieves some of the best results in Derbyshire."

Ms Blackman is among nine of the "key candidates" to mention how they have been associated with schools with good exam or Ofsted results.

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