MAKING A POLITICAL CHOICE WITH A PINT

LONDON - Some lucky London voters combined a trip to the polls with a stop at the pub yesterday, as they cast ballots in one of the British general election's more unusual polling stations.

LONDON - Some lucky London voters combined a trip to the polls with a stop at the pub yesterday, as they cast ballots in one of the British general election's more unusual polling stations.

Locals who would normally pop into The Anglesea Arms pub for a pint of ale were instead making the more serious decision of who should represent them in parliament.

Regular punters poured into the boozer in plush South Kensington to choose their MP, rather than their main course, as they sidled into the half-dozen voter booths in what is normally the restaurant section.

"It's a slight inducement to come and vote! I can't think of many places where you can vote and drink at the same time," the senior presiding officer Martin Carver said.

The pub is around the corner from 1920s prime minister Andrew Bonar Law's old house. Writers Charles Dickens and DH Lawrence lived in the neighbouring terrace.

One mother trooped in with three children, all wearing their school uniform.

A young family turned up with their baby in a pram.

Outside, the Conservative teller, wearing a blue rosette and a smart suit, took a risk by leaving his overcoat under the freshly-watered hanging baskets of pansies.

A police officer in a high-visibility jacket stood by.

"I'm fortunate to vote in a pub," said the retired Judy Carter, whose home overlooks the pub. "I think I'll pop in for a drink later on."

Paul Denley said: "You would have expected a church or a hall but this is just as good. It's ideal, and I know where my polling station is, being a local."

Jonathan Shelton said it was "a bit early" to consider a pint as people cast their ballots before going to work.

"It's good fun to vote in the pub. It's a real focal point for the community. It smells nice and clean inside," he said.

But for the officials, there will be no quenching their thirst after 15 hours' work once the polls close at 10pm.

"We need to get the boxes back to the town hall, so we can't hang around afterwards," said Carver.

The rejigged constituency is being defended by the Conservative former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind. He won the former Kensington and Chelsea seat in 2005 with 58 percent of the vote.

Candidates from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the UK Independence Party, the Green Party and the Alliance for Green Socialism are also standing.

Early morning voters did not have the option of a swift half after voting, as the pub doesn't open until 11am.

"It's a shame it's not open to have a drink at the same time," said Louise Hannah before cycling off to work. "At this time in the morning, with a slight hangover, I'd have a Bloody Mary if it was."

In what is forecast to be the closest election since 1992, the Conservatives seemed to be struggling to convert their opinion poll advantage into an outright majority.

The six latest newspaper polls put the Conservatives - led by David Cameron - between six and nine percentage points ahead of Labour, making them the largest party, but denying them outright control. - Sapa-AFP-Reuters

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