Tory chick-lit author finally bags a marginal seat

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* Chick-lit author Louise Bagshawe takes a step closer to the green benches of the House of Commons.

Late on Tuesday, Bagshawe, on the so-called "A-list" of candidates primed for marginal constituencies - was selected to stand in Corby, Northants. The seat looks a good bet for the blues: Labour have a slender 1,500-vote lead.

Her transformation from writing saucy books about bed-hopping young women to complaining to council officials about constituents' broken central heating would be fascinating.

Bagshawe "idolised" Margaret Thatcher as a child - she was reported to have told guests at a ball recently that what "gay people really need is a return to Thatcherism" - but converted to New Labour and voted Blair in 1997.

After graduating from Oxford, she became a leather jacket-wearing publicity roadie with rock bands. Her hero is Sharon Osbourne. (Stop choking on your tea, Mr Tebbit.)

Such credentials saw her rejected by the old guard in Battersea, although she did make the shortlist in Mid Norfolk (as did Coronation Street actor Adam Rickitt).

In Corby, Conservatives believe any candidate would be a shoo-in if they could only quieten the Tory-baiters from UKIP, who polled 1,300 votes.

"Not a chance," says UKIP leader Nigel Farage. "She is not our sort of person, she won't be getting any help from us. We will be very active in that area."

Candy-coloured paperbacks at the ready!

* Since tossing in a job at his father's Sheffield welding firm in the late Seventies, Sean Bean has established himself as one our toughest film stars.

Intriguing then that during his years of on-screen villainy, he has also developed a keen eye for art collecting.

On Tuesday night, Bean pitched up at London's SW1 gallery to view the new collection by India's Suhas Roy, whose work he came to admire when filming Sharpe in the subcontinent last year.

He left the gallery with one of Roy's mystical canvases, procured by parting with a substantial wedge of notes.

"I've always loved art, I actually wanted to be an artist before I started acting," Bean told me.

"I pick stuff up all over the world when I'm filming. I bought quite a lot in New Zealand a few years ago. I'm very passionate about it."

Not as passionate as he is about Sheffield United FC, naturally.

* Sarah Waters lost, rather surprisingly, in Tuesday's big Man Booker Prize fight, but she's not sitting about moping.

"I don't mind losing," she tells me. (They always say that.)

The Tipping the Velvet writer is drafting her fifth novel, which, like her fourth, The Night Watch (optioned by the BBC), will be set in the 1940s.

"It won't be in London. Probably in the Midlands, in a country house, and looking at the impact of the war on the British class system a few years later.

"It was a very sexed-up time: some people seemed to be having sex with almost anyone around."

She admits - to the likely consternation of fans of her lesbian bodice-rippers - that this novel may not have sapphic undertones. Shame!

* A "Turn the Tables" lunch is to be held at The Savoy, in London, on Monday, in aid of Cancer Research UK. The former Tory leader Michael Howard will interrogate BBC political editor Nick Robinson, and a Pandora reader gets to plant a "killer question".

Susan Lee writes: "How did being chairman of the Young Conservatives prepare you for your current job?"

A "Herr Schnapps" e-mails in to demand of Robinson: "Do you follow your predecessor Andrew Marr's rule of not washing your hair?" Cruel. But he wins with his second salvo: "Just how easy would you find it without Huw Edwards guiding you through the day's events with his pertinent questions and incisive analysis?"

If you care to write in again with your real name, Mr Schnapps, I shall mail you the bottle of fizz that sits under my desk.

* Pandora's invite to the lavish Hindi wedding of Renuka Hinduja, daughter of Prakash (one of the brothers involved in the 2001 "cash for passports" scandal), got lost in the airmail between Mumbai and Canary Wharf.

I hear, however, that the 4,000 guests failed to polish off their luxury vegetarian banquet. And rather than feed the Indian capital's teeming beggar population, the Grand Hyatt hotel threw the uneaten food away.

"I have checked with the chefs what they have done with the food and, yes, yes, it was discarded," confirms the caterer. Apparently a rival Mumbai hotel got into hot water recently for inadvertently food poisoning the homeless.

If only there had been more positive RSVPs from British parliamentarians (Peter Mandelson? Keith Vaz?), there wouldn't have been any leftovers...