Me and my girl: The political and personal

Ian Paisley's daughter Rhonda, an artist and politician, is taking legal action against him after she lost out on a post in his Democratic Unionist Party. But she adores him - as he does her. So what of the special relationship between MP dad and daughter? By Terry Kirby reports
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The Journalist: Sarah Smith, daughter of the late John Smith

The daughter of a former leader of the Labour Party who has carved out a successful career in the media, Sarah Smith, 36, is now the main news presenter on Channel 4's "adult" digital service, More4, and an increasingly familiar newsreading face to television viewers.

First coming to widespread public notice as the oldest of three daughters pictured mourning their father at his funeral in 1994, she was then at BBC Scotland as a trainee journalist, which she joined after graduating from Glasgow University.

In 1996 she joined Five news as a reporter and then became Scotland correspondent for Channel Four News, covering devolution and the creation of the Scottish Parliament. She has also become a regular presenter on the programme, alongside Jon Snow. She also reported on the US presidential elections, the Madrid train bombings and Tony Blair's trips abroad. In what must have been a difficult moment, she also reported live on Channel 4 on the death of Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, who dropped dead from a heart attack in an almost identical fashion to her father.

According to one report, she was dubbed "pushy" by Jeremy Paxman when, as a student, she pressed him on ways of getting into the media. She later told an interviewer: "I came to realise then that it can be very much about who you know when you are trying to get a foot in the door. You need to be tenacious and show a cleverness and enthusiasm beyond just having a qualification." Single after recently splitting up with her long-term partner, Stephen Webb, a television producer, she now lives in London, but retains links with her native Edinburgh and is a director of the Assembly Theatre in the city. Her younger sisters are Jane, 34, a lawyer, and Catherine, 31, who works at Napier University in Edinburgh.

The Actress: Rachel Willis, actor and model, daughter of Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough

Often considered to be one of the most irritating, patronising and annoying advertisements of all time, the commercials for AOL that appeared everywhere for five years from the late 1990s starred Ms Willis as "Connie", the perky cyber woman.

Connie would emerge from computer screens to guide families around the AOL world at a time when the internet was still deemed a bit scary for non-geeks. She was given the anti-award "Turkey of the Year" by Campaign magazine but dropped out of sight in 2003 when the company thought the British public was mature enough to move on.

Born and brought up in Yorkshire, where her father was a teacher, Ms Willis studied ballet before becoming an actress and model. She also had a bit part in the 1997 film, The Fifth Element.

But she has turned her back on acting and modelling and is now working in relative obscurity for a Mayfair estate agents, Carter Jonas.

Her father admits to having been somewhat overshadowed by his daughter during the height of her fame. "Wherever we went, there was constant recognition; whether in London or back in the constituency, no one recognised me, she was the one receiving all the recognition. They recognised Rachel."

But he added: "For five years I was incredibly proud of her and how she continued to be my daughter. Whether living in our flat in London or on my arm at events I attended, she continued to be herself."

He said he always knew his daughter would be a success, "whatever she did, whether it was the piano, or violin, or guitar. If it was ballet, she won a scholarship for her ballet, but whatever she turned her hand to she was able to succeed".

The Politician: Baroness Jay of Paddington. Margaret Jay, Daughter of James Callaghan

Margaret Jay was a daughter who created both embarrassment and pride in equal measures for her father, the late James Callaghan, Prime Minister, between 1976 and 1979, who died earlier this year.

A journalist by trade, she met and married Peter Jay, (also the offspring of a Labour politician, Douglas Jay) who worked for The Times, as economics editor. In 1997, Callaghan was accused of nepotism when he appointed Jay as British Ambassador to the United States.

The appointment had dramatic personal repercussions for the Jays. In 1979, she had an affair with the journalist Carl Bernstein, famous for the Watergate investigation, while her husband fathered a child by the family's nanny. Bernstein's wife, the award-winning screenwriter Nora Ephron, then turned the scandal into a book, Heartburn.

The Jays divorced in 1986, by which time Margaret Jay had returned to journalism with the BBC's Panorama.

In 1992, she was created a peer, becoming Baroness Jay of Paddington and joining her father, then Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, in the House of Lords.

She enjoyed a late blossoming as a Labour politician, serving as Minister for Women after the 1997 election and becoming leader of the House of Lords between 1998 and 2001. Callaghan later confessed he believed his daughter to be "a natural". "I hadn't realised that she was," he said. "Some people have finger-tips and other people don't.

"She has finger-tips, and she knows how to handle an assembly like the Lords and how to behave in order to get its acquiescence, if not its support and agreement." But he admitted that she rarely asked his opinion.

Now retired from active politics, Baroness Jay is a member of the board of Independent News and Media, publishers of The Independent.

The Socialite: Victoria Aitken, daughter of disgraced Conservative politician Jonathan Aitken

Contriving to have your teenage daughter lie on your behalf in court is not something many such relationships survive, but apparently Jonathan Aitken and Victoria, one of his twin daughters, are now closer than ever.

In 1999, Aitken, former Conservative Defence Minister and millionaire, was famously convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice after the collapse of his libel action against The Guardian and Granada TV. Victoria, then 17, had testified that it was their mother who had signed a Ritz hotel bill, not a Saudi businessman, although her father had drafted her witness statement. He went to prison for 18 months while she was arrested on suspicion of perjury, but never charged. Aitken was declared bankrupt and his wife, Lolicia left him; he has since remarried and discovered religion, and penal reform.

Victoria studied at university in the US and has appeared on TV reality shows, like Young Posh and Loaded. Now 25, she is studying drama at New York's renowned Lee Strasberg Institute.

She recently told an interviewer: "It's as if my father has given all his children this gift of having to look at everything from a new perspective. If none of it had happened, instead of being an artist, I'd probably be a boring Sloaney pony, dating Mr Hedge Fund. What's happened is a blessing. Money and position mean nothing to me now."

Her sister, Alexandra, has followed their aunt, Maria Aitken, and cousin, Jack Davenport, into acting - recently appearing in the film Enduring Love.

The Cook: Nigella Lawson, daughter of Lord Lawson of Blaby, formerly Nigel Lawson, Conservative politician and former Chancellor of the Exchequer

Almost certainly, the most widely known of all MPs' daughters, Nigella Lawson is also probably the best connected, her life having been closely linked to journalism, politics and the arts.

One of three children of Nigel Lawson, then a journalist on the Financial Times, and his wife Vanessa Salmon, heiress to the Lyons Corner House fortune. Her brother is Dominic Lawson, who, like his father, edited The Spectator magazine; until earlier this year, he edited the Sunday Telegraph.

But her life has been dogged by tragedy. Her parents split while she was young and her mother died of liver cancer in 1985. Her sister, Thomasina, died from breast disease in 1993 and her husband, John Diamond, from throat cancer in 2001, an illness which he chronicled publicly in a magazine column.

Ms Lawson had followed her father and brother into conventional journalism and met Diamond, a feature writer, when they were both working for The Sunday Times, where she was deputy literary editor. Her interest in food and cooking took over and she began to write regularly on the subject. Her career took off - as Diamond's illness worsened - with the books How to Eat and How to be a Domestic Goddess.

These were followed by two television series, which achieved fame for what some saw as her deliberately sensual cooking style.

She later admitted her husband's illness had spurred her to further her career to provide for their children. Her often portly father wrote his own cookbook, prompted by dieting.

In 2003, Lawson married the millionaire former Tory advertising guru turned art collector, Charles Saatchi.

The Artist: Rhonda Paisley, daughter of Ian Paisley, leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party

Being the daughter of the one of the most controversial politicians in the United Kingdom, hated and loved in equal measure and for years a prime target for the IRA cannot have been an easy childhood.

Now Rhonda Paisley has lifted the lid on the tensions within the Paisley family by accusing her father, as well as her brother, Ian jnr, of sexual discrimination over her failure to secure a job as policy officer with her father's party last year. They are named in the action along with other members of the hierarchy.

Rhonda Paisley, aged 45, is one of three daughters and two twin sons of the Protestant politician and churchman, who also runs the Free Presbyterian Church.

Regarded as a wild card, she was a member of Belfast City Council, but also a journalist, teacher, author and respected artist. As a councillor she was once Mayoress of the City and used to sound a trumpet every time Sinn Fein councillors tried to speak. She worked for her father when he was an MEP, but also left his church in 1989, labelling it too restrictive.

In 1998, Ms Paisley won an earlier action, and £24,000 compensation for discriminated against for her political and religious beliefs when she failed to get a job with the Arts Council in Belfast; a Catholic got the job.

She has written a biography of her father and told a local newspaper earlier this year that she still lives with her parents, "because the three of us are a good team." She did add: "Having said that, all the children have had their moments with dad."

Ms Paisley also told the interviewer: "It wasn't just politics at the breakfast table, it was lunch, tea, dinner. It's very difficult when your father's a public figure, because for pure devilment, you want to do the opposite."

She also worked briefly for the BBC and RTE as a television interviewer, but has been largely out of the spotlight since leaving local government in the early 1990s.

The family have refused to talk about the claim and a party spokesman said: "It's in the hands of our lawyers."