Election '05: Little at large - Mathew Little's election diary

"What percentage of the British public pay tax?" The question came from a serious 12-year-old as voluntary sector minister Fiona Mactaggart took part in a hustings at a grammar school in her Slough constituency last week. The town's reputation may have been fixed forever by John Betjeman, Ricky Gervais and the Queen Mother, who said affectionately that it spoilt her view from Windsor Castle, but eight years of Labour appear to be bearing fruit in the local classrooms.

Another challenge to Mactaggart came from George Galloway's Respect party, which is targeting the seat and could dent her winning margin. They certainly had more balloons out at the school hustings, and if anything can hurt Mactaggart, it's the war. She voted for it while the local voluntary sector marched against it.

"She's one of the original Blair babes," said one woman at Slough CVS. "She's never voted against Tony Blair." Her stance has alienated many constituents in one of the most racially diverse towns in Britain - 40 per cent are from an ethnic minority.

But Mactaggart has a thumping 12,000 majority and she seems certain to cruise home on 5 May, especially as the local Conservative opposition has imploded. Their first candidate managed to get himself photographed posing with an AK47 assault rifle. A hastily selected successor then condemned the EU as a papal plot to destroy Britain's Protestant heritage - it's unnerving to wonder about the political aspirants who lost out in their selection contests. Their third candidate in four months, the unfortunately named Sheila Gunn (no pun intended), has the proverbial snowball's chance.

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