Labour is 20 points clear of the Lib Dems with the Conservatives struggling in third place in a national poll of gay voters.

Labour stood at 48 per cent, ahead of the Lib Dems on 28 and the Tories at 19, according to the on-line survey by David Gold, fighting Pavilion for the Conservatives, said the poll reflected a minority of gay opinion, which wanted policies directed at the gay community.

He said: "Whatever they show I think it will be a different picture in Brighton Pavilion because I think people know that with a gay candidate they have somebody who is more committed than other candidates."

The openly gay candidate said other parties "patronised specific groups" while the Tories treated everybody fairly and his views on gay rights were well known.

He said: "I am committed to fighting for same sex unions, inheritance rights, and I am in favour of abolishing Section 28."

The Tory manifesto pledges to retain Section 28, a litmus issue in the gay and lesbian community.

David Lepper, defending Pavilion for Labour, said repealing Section 28 would be a Labour priority in the new Parliament, needed to stop homphobic bullying in schools.

He said: "It has been the kind of tacit endorsement of homophobic bullying which has been the really dangerous effect of Section 28."

The Lib Dems, who have published a gay and lesbian manifesto, support the repeal of Section 28, same sex marriages and adoption rights, policies to tackle homophobic crime and new equality legislation.

A total of 1,737 men took part in the poll between May 12 and 14.

May 23 2001