Election '05: Le Goff at large - Francois Le Goff's election diary

"First we must have some lunch; I am a great believer in a good meal," says shadow charities minister Jacqui Lait as she picks me up in her Volvo 'battle car' to show me around her constituency.

We go to a local pub to join her election team. All of them are quick to explain their involvement in the voluntary sector. One of them is president of the Alzheimer's Society in Bromley.

"People often say the Conservatives are pulling back from the charity sector, but you only have to scratch the surface of any Tory members to find them involved in some kind of charitable activity," says Lait.

She won the Beckenham constituency in south London in 1997 at a time of political turmoil for the Conservative stronghold after former MP Piers Merchant, now working for Ukip, resigned following a sex scandal. Her biggest threat on 5 May comes in the shape of Rod Reed, a member of the Conservative party for 25 years, who is standing against her as an independent.

"She refused to prevent a day care centre for the elderly from closing, even though the campaign against the move received strong local support," he has said.

After lunch, I go door-to-door canvassing in a Labour ward with a hobbling Lait, who has pulled a muscle in her foot - she puts it down to too much walking in the first part of the campaign.

I am expecting resistant Labour voters to give her a grilling, but find myself a bit taken aback to hear many of them pledging their support to her.

"I haven't definitely decided, but I don't trust Blair," says one resident.

"You can be 95 per cent sure I'll vote for you." Lait looks at me: "What do you make of that?" Well, it's what every politician wants to hear.

Francois Le Goff is a reporter at Third Sector.

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