Election '97: Best beer or bitter dregs?

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The Independent Online
Away with the eccentric Peter Snow and his silly swingometer. That bibulous old aristocrat of Westminster, the Marquis of Granby, has introduced the infinitely preferable beerometer.

The Marquis, a public house off Smith Square and within 300 yards of all the party headquarters, is enticing people to vote with their thirst.

Tony Bowler, the licensee, has placed three pumps on the bar emblazoned with the faces of the three main party leaders. Customers are invited to choose one of them.

The beer they draw is all gentlemen's luncheon bitter of a moderate 4- per-cent strength and is identical. The choice is made purely on political grounds.

The sales of each beer are charted on the beerometer on the pub wall, installed on Monday night.

Yesterday Tony Blair was comfortably in the lead with 100 pints, John Major second with an abstemious 20 pints and Paddy Ashdown third with 15.

Mr Bowler, interrogated on the poor showing of the Prime Minister, believes that officials at Conservative Central Office, the nearest party HQ, about 50 yards away, have been banned from his pub.

"I think it's because senior Conservatives thought they might give the selection strategy away after a few drinks."

Mr Bowler took the precaution of putting the beerometer beyond the reach of the tallest customers in order to ensure that they did not nudge up the indicator and artificially boost the showing of their favoured candidate.

There could be another explanation for the pre-eminent showing of Mr Blair - New Labour might have found a role for those ghastly beer-swilling union leaders.