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Anti-hunt MPs pursued by campaign group

The tall frame of David Davies, the Conservative candidate for Monmouth and Abergavenny, is getting even more support from members of Monmouthshire hunt.

For Tory posters have sprouted along major roads - in the absence of Labour or Liberal Democrat publicity - in yet more evidence of a new alliance between pro-hunting campaigners and candidates who may unseat an anti-hunting Labour MP.

Mr Davies, 34, a local man, could be two weeks away from unseating Huw Edwards, the Labour MP for Monmouth, whose majority in 2001 was only 384. If Mr Davies pulls it off, it will be down to his likeable personality, his record as an attentive Welsh Assembly member and his attacks on the leading issues causing trouble for Labour in Wales.

Yet, if Mr Davies wins, the poster-erecting and envelope-licking skills of up to 300 hunt supporters, led by Gary Yeomans, the master of the Monmouth hunt, will have played a small but crucial part.

Monmouth is the most marginal of 130 seats where hunt supporters have offered to help candidates who favour repealing the hunting ban or replacing it with what they see as more sensible legislation.

Vote OK offers support to candidates who want the law banning hunting changed. Philippa Mayo, a Vote OK organiser, said: "All we're trying to do is co-ordinate those people who marched to go out and campaign where they could make a difference. The point is not necessarily to persuade people to change their vote but to get out the latent vote."

The group offers an average of 200 volunteers in each seat and Miss Mayo said its input can quadruple the active campaigning resources of a constituency party, which rarely has more than 50 highly active members. She said it could create a swing of up to five per cent, enough to give Mr Davies victory.