Tory MP writes bonk-free book shock

Sex isn't everything - not for Ann Widdecombe at any rate.

The shadow Home Secretary has departed from the traditions of her Tory colleagues and written a book shorn of any references to trouser stirrings and pert breasts. Instead, her first novel, The Clematis Tree, is the story of a family striving to bring up a son handicapped after a car accident.

Miss Widdecombe, who has always had the capacity to surprise, was hailed last week as the Tories' commonsense revolution in "human form". Despite being no oil painting, as she would be the first to admit, she has become the acceptable face of the party.

Now, at the first attempt, she has proved herself a novelist of some quality. The critics have been kind to the book, which will be in the shops on Thursday. Piers Paul Read said: "The Clematis Tree treats important moral issues within a credible and moving story", and Bel Mooney said that Miss Widdecombe had "crafted a compelling story about the way a family copes with a catastrophe which is as odd and complex as its creator".

Miss Widdecombe's book begins deceptively with all the middle-class chattiness of a Maeve Binchy or a Mary Wesley. Early in the book, at the moment when four-year-old Jeremy Wellings is hit by a drunk driver, it becomes something altogether different - a challenging and thoughtful story about a family living with the consequences of that tragedy.

It is also different from novels by her fellow politicians-turned-novelists, who have plumped for sex, sex and more sex - oh, and the odd thriller. It is a far cry from Scandal, the aptly named maiden offering by Amanda Platell, William Hague's press secretary.

Miss Platell's book, set in the cut-throat world of tabloid journalism, is acknowledged by the author as a "beach read". It tells of the dirty war between two female editors in the same newspaper stable.

Described as "journo-porn" by some critics, the novel features plenty of straight, lesbian and gay sex. On publication, there were fears the book would upset the Tories' blue-rinse brigade. But, highly enjoyable, Miss Platell's sassy novel is exactly the sort of thing they'd probably lap up if it were wrapped in a Catherine Cookson dust jacket.

Another pretender for the Tory literary crown is former minister Edwina Currie, who, like Ms Platell, writes in the bodice-ripper genre. Ms Currie's latest addition to the bookshelf roars Chasing Men from its cover in only slightly smaller lettering than the words Edwina Currie.

Chasing Men is about just that. Inspired by Bridget Jones (but 20 years older), Ms Currie's heroine, newly divorced Hetty Clarkson, gets fruity with a banana, snorts vodka, dates men she's met through lonely hearts columns and passes out at a party.

The real trick to reading these books, perhaps, is to divorce the author from the book. Otherwise you could end up imagining you're in bed with Edwina Currie or debating the rights and wrongs of euthanasia with Ann Widdecombe.

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