British voters cast ballots at boozer

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Some lucky London voters combined a trip to the polls with a stop in the pub Thursday, as they cast their 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 Broadside, Breakspear or Wandle ale were instead making the much 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 you can vote and drink at the same time," the polling station's senior presiding officer Martin Carver told AFP.

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

One mother trooped in with her three children, all wearing their school uniform of navy blue blazers and straw boater hats.

Another 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 community support officer in a high-visibility jacket stood by.

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

"It will probably be at its busiest tonight, with people coming home from work thinking 'I'll vote when I get home and have a drink too'."

Paul Denley said: "You would have expected a church or a hall but this is just as good, if not better. It's ideal, and I know exactly where my polling station is, being local."

Voter 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 nice, 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 10:00pm (2100 GMT).

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

The rejigged local 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 United Kingdom 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 11:00 am (1000 GMT).

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

© 2010 AFP

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