Cards reveal the naked truth about MPs

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Indy Politics
Sir James Goldsmith has been shocked into silence. Mary Whitehouse has already been on the blower to New Scotland Yard. If nothing else, the publication of the 1997 election playing cards next week will leave Britain's political figures looking more than usually exposed.

The card pack, called The Naked Truth, features the first ever topless portrait of Mrs Whitehouse along with a series of slightly risque likenesses of other household names.

While the shadow Chancellor, Gordon Brown, has apparently escaped lightly with only two of his cheeks in view, the current incumbent of the Treasury, Kenneth Clarke, is shown complete with four.

The Home Secretary, Michael Howard, creeps into the action as the Jack of Spades with a cheek-count of three, but bridge and poker players everywhere will be relieved to know that they are to be spared the sight of his nipples.

The cartoonist, 26-year-old Jake, (aka Jason Pratt) who has worked for the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, has taken few hostages. Sir James, the billionaire founder of the Referendum Party, is given full- frontal treatment, along with Labour's deputy leader, John Prescott, who appears in full head-to-toe glory as the King of Hearts.

Still, not everyone will be upset. Michael Heseltine, the deputy Prime Minister, might even be quite flattered by the dimensions of his portrayal as the King of Spades.

But with a nipple count this high - Harriet Harman, Margaret Beckett, Glenda Jackson and Virginia Bottomley all join Mrs Whitehouse in the not- so-exclusive club of the topless - there are bound to be ructions.

Sir James' personal assistant said he had seen the pack and had nothing to say, but Mrs Whitehouse was true to form.

Barely had The Independent replaced its telephone on the hook after calling her than a Sergeant Bill Taylor called back from the central command at New Scotland Yard.

"We don't think we can do anything," he explained. "This is where we take the emergency calls."

Mr Taylor might not regard the topless exposure of Mrs Whitehouse as an emergency, but the founder of the Viewers' and Listeners' Association does. Last night, she was taking legal advice on whether she could seek an injunction to prevent the pack from being published.

"I will have to have a look at this, but I would most certainly object." she said. "Nobody has approached me, and I would not have agreed to this."

The publisher, Yasha Beresiner of InterCol London, was not unduly concerned. His first such venture, during the 1983 election, was in partnership with the V&A. Sales went through the roof after the museum was forced to withdraw its copies from the shelves for fear of allegations that it had shown political bias.

"I wouldn't say any of these were offensive. They are just a bit of fun," he said. "But if Mary Whitehouse wants to object, then that will be great."

For those readers with strong stomachs, the cards will be on display along with earlier versions at the InterCol Gallery in Islington High Street, London, from next Wednesday.