VOTERS across Gwent went to the polls in the General Election today to elect MPs for six local constituencies.

There was a slow but steady start to voting in the hotly contested seat of Blaenau Gwent today.

Officials at polling stations in Ebbw Vale, Brynmawr, Tredegar and Abertillery all reported a steady, if not spectacular, flow of voters coming through the door in the hours after they opened at 7am today.

And there are some unusual polling stations - in the Tredegar district an attractive front room has been transformed into a booth for voters living in Bedwellty Pits, Pochin and outlying farms of the area.

Albert and Margaret Skeates have run a polling station for local, Assembly and general elections from their home at 22 Bedwellty Pits, and Railway Cottages before that, for the last five years.

In Hilltop, Ebbw Vale, Rebecca's Hair Design became a makeshift polling station, and residents of nearby Garden City can cast their vote while they fill their car with petrol at their local garage.

In the key marginal constituency of Monmouth, polling stations reported brisk trade, with voters making an early and encouraging start.

In one Abergavenny station, more than one-fifth of the electorate had cast their vote within four hours of polls opening.

In Newport, some stations reported brisk polling. At Gaer Vale, a spokesman said that by noon today turnout was promising.

He said: "It's been busy here so far today. There have been about 109 people. They have been coming in at a steady pace.

"I've been covering elections here for three years and this is the busiest yet."

But the pace was different at Gaer Junior School, where the polling officers were having a quieter day.

One said at lunchtime: "There have only been about 16 people so far." Nationally, Prime Minister Tony Blair cast his vote this morning in an election which he hopes will return him to power for a historic third successive Labour term.

Alongside Mr Blair and his wife, Cherie, in his Sedgefield constituency were sons Euan, 21, and Nicky, 19, who were voting for the first time in a general election.

The Blairs were among a steady trickle of voters going to the polls in the village of Trimdon Colliery, Co Durham.

Conservative leader Michael Howard was due to cast his own vote in his Folkestone and Hythe constituency this afternoon, while Charles Kennedy, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was due to vote at Fort William.

The polls close at 10pm and the first results are expected around 11.30pm.