"THE question is whether people are logistically and practically able to vote." That was Prime Minister Tony Blair's view in declaring, yesterday, that there's no reason to postpone the May 3 local elections in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

He believes they can go ahead via a postal ballot, saying people's ability to vote is the "most important issue". He's managed to make a wrong out of a right, in both senses of the word, and this is why.

His Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, has repeatedly called on politicians and campaigners to stay away from farm land while the crisis is tackled.

His call is designed to minimise the risk of the virus being spread. In the two counties, of course, that covers a huge percentage of the total landscape and most of its communities.

But there's an equally vital reason for Mr Blair to think again, and soon.

How many people grappling with foot-and-mouth have anything on their minds but its consequences?

So, even if candidates could find a way to come face-to-face with the people, how many will be listening?

Mr Blair also insists that the issue has not been raised by the leaders of the other parties, and that there are no plans to. But that's no longer true.

Today, Tory leader William Hague said a decision on postponement depends on events in the coming week.

And, like us and the people, he questioned whether Ministers would be able to concentrate on the crisis and an election at the same time.

Councillor June Longmuir, the leader of the Tory group at County Hall, goes one further.

She wonders if Mr Blair's afraid to lose seats by delaying, and that winning at all costs is his message.

He'd be foolish if that were the case, because Labour losses in the last local elections prove that the public can easily find an unforgiving mood.

The election is by the people, on behalf of the people. So it must be postponed for their sake too.