WITH PM Gordon Brown calling the general election, the start of what is set to be the hardest-fought campaign for many years is now under way.

Mr Brown had an audience with the Queen this week before announcing that the election will take place on Thursday, May 6.

The contest for the town seat is set to be one of the most eagerly anticipated in years, with a number of parliamentary hopefuls set to do battle.

And the message from the Conservative Party's candidate, Karen Lumley, is that ''We are ready”.

Karen, who moved to Brockhill in 2000, has been a member of the Conservative Party for nearly 20 years and first helped in the general election in 1992 in Rugby.

However, hoping to defend her seat is Labour’s candidate Jacqui Smith, who entered Parliament as MP for Redditch, Inkberrow, Feckenham and Cookhill in 1997.

Since then she has been minister of state for health, minister of state for schools, chief whip and home secretary before stepping down at the height of the row over her expenses.

The Liberal Democrat candidate is Nicholas Lane, a Lawyer who is particularly interested in issues pertaining to the access to justice and public services for all and the economic stability of the country.

Former Redditch councillor and mayor, Anne Davis, is the UKIP candidate who says if elected will work hard and be fully accountable, will listen and be accessible at all times and will serve the whole of the constituency.

Kevin White, who has lived in Redditch all his life, has been named the Green Party candidate and has keen interests in environmental and animal related issues as well as social justice, health, democracy and community issues.

Vincent Schittone is the English Democrats Party candidate and stands for the same laws and rules for everyone regardless of status and ethnic background.

For more information on any of the candidates visit www.hustings.com/constituencies/redditch.