LIB Dem candidate Evan Harris was set to come face-to-face with an animal rights activist standing against him in next week’s general election.

But Oxford West & Abingdon polling day rival Keith Mann failed to show at a hustings meeting.

Townsfolk in Abingdon were given the chance to quiz their parliamentary hopefuls at the meeting last night.

Mr Mann, who spent seven years behind bars for arson attacks on slaughterhouse lorries in the early 1990s, had labelled Mr Harris ‘Dr Death’ because of his support for animal testing.

The Animal Protection Party candidate was given a special allowance to speak at the hustings organised by the Church In Abingdon at the Guildhall.

But Mr Mann did not show up and so questions for the candidates took a more traditional line.

Conservative candidate Nicola Blackwood, Green hopeful Chris Goodall, Dr Harris, Labour’s Richard Stevens and UKIP candidate Paul Williams fielded seven questions from a packed Guildhall.

Candidates were asked about the National Health Service, reducing carbon emissions, and how better to interact with communities.

They were also asked about the role of faith groups in the community, what cuts in public spending they would make, and which issues they would refuse to ‘toe the party line’ on if pushed.

Mr Stevens said he would be against faith schools, UKIP’s Paul Williams said he would “go against any party” he disagreed with, including his own, and Green Mr Goodall said although it was not his party’s policy, he believed in nuclear energy.

Ms Blackwood said she had strong feelings on international development and would never have given her support to the Iraq war, and Mr Harris said he would speak out against Trident, the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

Dr Peter Harbour, of Radley, said he was pleased with the answers to his questions on interaction with the community. He said: “It was a great turnout, and I was very impressed with everyone.”

But Bobbie Nicholls, from North Abingdon, was disappointed there was no time for her quesiton to be answered.

She said: “It was slightly disappointing there were no questions from women, and not one purely dedicated to science and the funding of science.

“But I thought it was organised very well indeed.”

The Oxford Mail tried unsuccessfully to contact Mr Mann today.