Page last updated at 20:12 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 21:12 UK

Bracknell mood mixed on MP's plight

By Ben Geoghegan
BBC News, Bracknell

Andrew Mackay
Mr MacKay is the latest MP to find himself in the spotlight over expenses

The Tories in Bracknell are proud of their election slogan: "Everyone knows somebody who's been helped by Andrew".

And it is his reputation as a local problem-solver which Andrew MacKay's agent Mary Ballin hopes will save him.

She reminds me a little of Miss Marple - charming and wily and she perhaps knows more than she is letting on.

Certainly, if she disapproves of his two-mortgage expenses arrangement, she does not express it.

"We've had lots of messages of support for Andrew. He's very popular in the town".

If they had stocks in the town you half imagine he would allow people to come and throw tomatoes at him

Having resigned as David Cameron's special adviser, Mr MacKay has apologised "profusely" saying he was simply following advice from the House of Commons fees office.

This is a week when many MPs have decided the best policy is to lie down and take a kicking in the hope that voters' anger subsides.

Mr MacKay is giving his constituents an opportunity on Friday next week.

He is holding a public meeting to ask them if they think he should remain as their MP.

If they had stocks in the town you half imagine he would allow people to come and throw tomatoes at him.

"I've no idea where we're going to hold it. There aren't many halls round here and they're all very well used", says one of the assistants in the constituency office.

But there's no sense of panic.

However, judging by the response I got from people in the town centre, his fate could be hanging in the balance.

Several people simply said he "should go."

But others felt they should not lose a good MP.

"He's given me a lot of help with my housing and, let's face it, we'd all do what he's done if we could find similar loopholes in our work expenses," said one woman.

Andrew MacKay has been the MP here for over 25 years. His supporters say he is a determined door-stepper and a very visible presence in the town - although one place he does not have a home is Bracknell.

So this looks like being the moment when local loyalties are tested, when he might have to cash in on his long-enjoyed popularity in the town.

Perhaps Bracknell Conservatives need a new slogan: "Everyone knows somebody who can help Andrew survive".

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