Widdecombe sues `Express'

ANN WIDDECOMBE is to sue the Sunday Express, alleging that she was sacked from her pounds 70,000-a-year column for being too biased against the Government.

Ms Widdecombe, the Shadow Home Secretary, confirmed that she had started legal action for compensation against the newspaper for failing to give her proper notice of their intention to dispense with her column.

Tory officials claimed that the paper was acting on the orders of Downing Street to shut her up after her success in keeping up political attacks on the Government over asylum-seekers, clashes in Dover, and Jack Straw, the Home Secretary's handling of the crisis.

They said Ms Widdecombe had a "blazing row" with Rosie Boycott, the editor-in-chief of the Sunday Express and its daily newspaper stable-mate, about her use of the column to attack "hypocrite Blair".

Ms Boycott, a former editor of The Independent, refused to publish an attack on Mr Blair over "scrounging" his holiday in Italy. At the weekend, after Ms Widdecombe gave her views to another newspaper, her literary agent received a call saying that her services were no longer required. She was told that her column had "changed for the worse" and she had used it as a platform to attack Labour.

Express Newspapers said last night: "Due to the increasing demands on her time it was felt inappropriate for Ann Widdecombe to continue her weekly column ... The idea that the decision was taken on political grounds is ludicrous. Ann was a member of the Tory party when we hired her. We knew her politics then - they haven't changed, but the quality of her column has."

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