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Why an MP makes the perfect friend (almost)

"SHE JUST adores him," a close associate of Peter Ackroyd was quoted as saying this week of Edwina Currie. The eminent biographer and the slightly less eminent author of potboilers such as She's Leaving Home, had, it was said, struck up rather an unlikely friendship. (And a purely platonic one, it has to be added. As Mrs Currie herself is quick to point out, "He's as gay as a coot.")

At first sight, this appeared to be the most unlikely set of chums since Jonathan Aitken and Diane Abbott. As is well known, the disgraced former minister is godfather to the left-wing Labour MP's son, James, and they have been good friends since they were paired together in the Commons some years ago.

But the friendship between Ackroyd and Currie seems to be of a different order. For a start, it has only barely begun. A fortnight ago Currie was rung up by the National Theatre and asked to chair a talk by Ackroyd on the subject of Sir Thomas More, the subject of his latest biography and one of Currie's heroes. She happily agreed. Afterwards she was invited to a dinner at which Ackroyd was present.

The two got on like a house on fire. "He's uproarious," says Currie. "Peter can down an enormous quantity of good wine. He's a lovely man and a wonderful human being. Other authors like Martin Amis could learn a lot from him."

Their conversation was broad-ranging, from the suggestion that Ackroyd might stand as Mayor of London to the possibility of Melvyn Bragg becoming a Lord. (Ackroyd apparently claimed to have heard Melvyn discussing it on the phone with his mother.

Mrs Currie has long been an admirer of Ackroyd's work. Indeed she goes so far as to describe herself as "a worshipper". Ackroyd, on the other hand, is not known to be a great admirer of Mrs Currie's literary endeavours.

Perhaps here we have the nature of this relationship. Mrs Currie is a fan. But unlike most fans, she has enough status to consider him her chum.

This is reminiscent of the case of Tony Banks and the American singer- songwriter Aimee Mann. A new but dedicated fan, when he discovered that she was in town, he faxed her record company inviting her for tea at the Commons. And so another somewhat unlikely friendship began. .

However, Mr Banks admits that, "If I'd been someone who wasn't a Member of Parliament, my invitation would have been binned." And were Mrs Currie not a former MP, one suspects that she might not have been dining with Peter Ackroyd. Membership clearly has its privileges.