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April 11, 1997

Lorna Fitzsimons, 29, attracted attention for not going into party politics, unions or the media when her term as president of the National Union of Students ended in 1994, instead taking a lobbying job. But she now has the chance of becoming one of the youngest members of the new House, as the Labour candidate attacking a Liberal Democrat lead projected at 128 after boundary changes.

Ron Beadle's Liberal Democrat candidature for Sedgefield is dominated by the opponent who isn't there - Labour leader Tony Blair: "I don't expect to see him before polling day," says Mr Beadle, 31, a senior lecturer in human resource management at Northumbria University. With Blair more than 23,000 votes ahead of him, he would be delighted to dislodge the Conservatives from second place.

Few aspirants inheriting fourth place candidacies will be doing anything but making up the numbers. But Mary Scanlon, 49, is an exception. As Conservative candidate for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber she is bidding for the tightest four-way marginal in the country, where only 1,700 votes separated her party from winning Liberal Russell Johnston last time. Mrs Scanlon, a lecturer in economics and management at Inverness College, hopes to regain a seat lost in 1964.

She has to reckon with the vast size of the constituency and the complications of multiple-marginality: "When I was candidate for North East Fife last time, I could concentrate on attacking the Liberals. Knowing who to attack under these circumstances is trickier."

Neil MacCormick, provost of the faculty group of law and social science at Edinburgh University, and the Scottish National Party candidate for Argyll and Bute, faces a gruelling campaign. This is not because his chances of winning are poor - many commentators predict it will be a two-horse race between himself and sitting Liberal Democrat MP Ray Michie. But the constituency covers a massive rural area. He is regius professor of public law at Edinburgh, and his expertise in constitutional law is sought by the SNP on the party's policy of Scottish independence within Europe.

"The breakup of the United Kingdom is not really the right way to look at it. We're trying to get co-membership of a larger union, because you can't federate one huge country and three little ones," he says.

Huw Edwards, 43, hopes to regain for Labour the Monmouth seat he lost at the last general election after winning a by-election 1991. A senior lecturer at Brighton University, he found his year in the Commons enormously helpful on returning to academia. "It allowed me to teach politics and government as well as my previous speciality in social policy, and that in turn has helped me as a candidate by giving me a knowledge of key constitutional issues that are particularly important in Wales." Confident of overturning a Conservative majority of just over 3,200, he has already had one reminder of his time in Parliament:"I spoke in debates on the Further and Higher Education Bill in 1992. The Conservative minister was Alan Howarth, who is now Labour candiate for a neighbouring constituency."

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