The plot thickens for our frustrated heroine: Sandra Barwick witnesses the bitterness of one Tory's defeat

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OUR HEROINE'S pearls flashed and her eyes glittered. Edwina Currie, rejected candidate for Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes and mistress of the bonkbuster, took in the latest twist yesterday in her own extraordinary saga.

She had gambled and lost - or, as someone unkindly remarked, put all her eggs in one basket. Mrs Currie has endangered her Westminster seat in her failed attempt to swap Derbyshire South for Strasbourg. She now has to convince her voters in Derbyshire, where her majority was only 10,311, that she loved them best all along.

Mrs Currie's anger was plain as she faced the fact of her 33,209 defeat by Labour's Eryl McNally. On the podium she stared straight ahead, aware of the massed press cameras imprisoned on the balcony above. And gave it to them straight.

'In some parts of this constituency getting our supporters out to vote was like drawing teeth,' she said. 'It does not help to have a big tax increase almost the day you start . . .'

So whom was Edwina blaming? The press, eager to find out, left the room with her while a Labour supporter wailed: 'The winning candidate is over there, chaps] Not there]'

'By the time we'd finished telling them about tax returns there wasn't time to tell them about Europe,' said Mrs Currie, her small fists clenched beneath the sleeves of her uncharacteristically crumpled pale pink suit.

The BBC, desperate to catch the lunchtime news, put a mike in her ear. The swing, Edwina heard through it, seemed to be in line with others - 11.09 per cent. The BBC slot was missed.

Another interviewer butted in: 'Is it your fault, or John Major's?' she asked. 'My team,' said Mrs Currie, firmly avoiding the point, 'was absolutely brilliant - we had turnouts of over 50 per cent in some wards . . .'

'You'll be on in two minutes]' chipped in the BBC.

Edwina was listening to her ear- mike, apparently in some irritation. 'They're talking to Glenys]' she said. The mike failed, the BBC slot was missed again. 'OK,' said Edwina, 'that's it]' ripping the mike from her ear and stalking back out.

Outside the ITN man pounced. 'It can be a little difficult somewhere like Milton Keynes . . . to talk about a multi-track Europe,' said Edwina. 'I don't believe you enter a contest . . . as if you're going to lose it.'

So, said the ITN man, was this the time for John Major, the proponent of multi-track Europe, to go?

'I'm a passionate believer in my country,' said Edwina mysteriously. He asked her again. 'I believe passionately that my country should be in the forefront of Europe - I think I'm going to get that drink.'

The seat should have been targeted, she thought. She should have had more help. Standing in elections was not a game.

So, said the next television interviewer, is it time for John Major to go? 'Oh, I think there's always a next PM, but I think speculation like that distracts us from the main task ahead.' The interviewer repeated his question. 'Do you want me to say the same thing five times?' replied Edwina.

Her daughter, Debbie, 19, came up and kissed her. Together the united Curries, husband, wife and daughter, walked towards the retreating ranks of the press.

They drove in a Citroen XM with shirts hanging up in the back into who knows what future, what new twist in the chapters to come. If all else fails and Derbyshire South proves angry at the next election, there is always one last resort.

'My publisher,' said Edwina soon before she left, 'is pressing me for a sequel to my novel.'