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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April, 2005, 20:11 GMT 21:11 UK
Fight over Kent's marginal seat
Ramsgate beach
The seaside town of Ramsgate is in Kent's most marginal seat
A battle has begun for one of the most marginal seats in the South, with John Prescott and Shadow Trade Secretary James Arbuthnot both in Kent on Monday.

The Thanet South constituency is narrowly held by Labour's Health Minister Stephen Ladyman.

The Conservative candidate Mark MacGregor needs a 2.3% swing to take the seat off Labour.

Also standing for election in Thanet South so far are Lib Dem Guy Voizey and UKIP's Nigel Farage.

Landslide result

Thanet South includes the resorts of Ramsgate, Sandwich, St Peters, Eastcliff, Westcliff and Broadstairs.

Until the Labour landslide of 1997, Kent was entirely represented by the Tories and Thanet South was previously held by former Conservative minister Jonathan Aitken, who was jailed for perjury in 1999.

Mr Ladyman won it in Labour's 1997 landslide and held on in 2001 with a smaller majority of 1,792, or 4.5%.

Shadow Trade Secretary Mr Arbuthnot began Conservative campaigning for Thanet South in Broadstairs, where he went to school.

Key issues

He said: "I remember the transport issues, particularly, being very difficult - the breakdown of railways, the difficulty of getting to Broadstairs by road.

"In this seat as in all other seats, I think the key issues are the ones of controlled immigration, school discipline, cleaner hospitals, lower taxes and more police."

The Labour Party's 'Prescott Express' coach
Labour supporters met the Prescott Express coach in Thanet South
Labour deployed the Prescott Express to Thanet South with the Deputy Prime Minister on board.

While residents of the Whitehall estate in Ramsgate spoke of their concerns about vandalism, Mr Prescott questioned the Tories' stance on crime.

"We brought in 13,000 police, extra. I see Mr Howard's now talking of 40,000 police, but why when he was the Home Secretary did he reduce the police by 1,000?"

The Liberal Democrats have said their main emphasis in Kent is on Michael Howard's seat of Folkestone and Hythe.

But with Guy Voizey standing in Thanet South, the Lib Dems' Margaret Branscombe-Kent encouraged residents to use their vote.

"The important thing is that they don't vote to keep somebody out, that they actually vote positively," she said.

"If they did vote positively, we stand a very good chance."



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