MAIN CLAIM: Barbie to Ken, champagne socialist, and make-over queen to the Labour party. Now MP for Stevenage, Barbara Follett, who virtually single-handedly revamped Labour's creaking image problems - terrible hair, worthy suits, Robin Cook etc. - has been answering to the rumours that the Folletts, close Kinnock friends, do not exactly enjoy starring roles in New Labour's inner circle. "I have never known Tony very well," Barbara explains diplomatically to the Daily Mail. "He is right for the time; very focused, knows what he's doing. I have nothing but admiration - though he has looked exhausted."

APPEARANCE: Cryogenically-preserved teenager, Nicola Horlick playing creepily ageless Snow White.

COLOUR THEM BEAUTIFUL: Barbara, 55 (gasps all round), and her husband, multi-millionaire airport novelist Ken Follett, were undisputed glittering king and queen of the Labour Luvvies who flourished under Kinnock, sowing the seeds of the shudderingly slick New Labour of today. She put "handsome" Robin Cook into oyster-coloured shirts and so improved the images of Jack Cunningham, Harriet Harman, and Cook himself that the term "Folletting" was coined. The rumour goes that the Folletts were banished from the court when the Blairs rolled up for supper at Ken and Barbie's pounds 2 million, eighteenth- century Cheyne Walk mansion (dinner parties with liveried servants are a Follett speciality) only to find eager photographers ready and waiting outside. "Tony was very irritated about it," says Barbara, "but so was I and so was Ken." It was all a rather horrid mistake, you see, readers.

GOOD WIVES: A graduate in economic history, and the daughter of a hard- drinking insurance salesman, the young Barbara married philosopher Richard Turner, who was murdered by the South African security services. Two further marriages followed before she wed husband number four, the famed Ken, in 1985. The Folletts' merrily schizophrenic approach to socialism and wealth has been much noted: the liveried servants and the Chelsea mansion, Riviera home, and island villa off Antigua feature heavily as props in the nation's erstwhile favourite socialist luvvie soap.

HARD CASH: An impressively effective feminist, Barbara recently pulled off a pounds 2.8 million fund-raising coup for a new women's library. As fund- raisers, the Folletts can match the most well-connected, bouffed New York dowager for hauling in loot while remaining glittery.

FAME PROSPECTS: More New Labour than New Labour, Barbara and Ken can out-Tony and Cherie, Tony and Cherie, and therein may lie the problem. Follett should shrug off New Labour, husband and image-making past, campaign for women politicians, and do a bit of colour counselling on the side.

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