She doesn't understand you? That's a Commons complaint

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BEGINNING today - a brand new novel about Parliament, written by an MP who wishes to remain anonymous . . .

All-Night Session

Chapter One

The idea had seemed a very good one at first - a marital counselling service for MPs.

So many Members of Parliament were letting their marriages slide, and so many of them were having affairs on the side, and so many of them were indulging in lonely sexual practices in order not to have affairs or let their marriages slide, that it seemed only sensible to have a counselling service. Inside Westminster. For MPs only. To put them back on the straight and narrow. If they had been there in the first place.

So an all-party committee was organised to set up a counselling service for MPs. It was very secret. It would have to be. MPs always imagine that their work must be conducted in secret. It may come as a surprise to you and me that openly elected servants of the public expect to be shrouded in total secrecy, but it is so. In fact, when Suzanne Smallwood was first approached to run the Westminster marriage counselling advisory service she didn't even know that that was what they had in mind.

'They were so secretive to start off with that I thought perhaps they were trying to recruit me into the intelligence services,' she told Sir Thomas Tankerton MP one afternoon.

'Good heavens,' chuckled Sir Thomas. 'And if they had really been trying to recruit you into intelligence work, would you have said yes?'

'The matter doesn't arise,' said Suzanne shortly. 'I already work for the intelligence people, as it happens.'

'Good heavens,' said Sir Thomas, not chuckling. 'What sort of work?'

'Never you mind,' said Suzanne. 'Now, tell me more about your wife . . .'

Sir Thomas's marriage was, frankly, not healthy. If a doctor had taken a look at Sir Thomas's marriage, he would have said it was very tired and in need of some bed rest. Suzanne didn't say much. She just listened.

''I found after a while,' said Sir Thomas, 'that my marriage was becoming less and less important, and less and less real, and that my life here in Parliament was the only reality.'

'So you found yourself confiding more and more in your researcher,' said Suzanne, pretending to take notes. She had heard this story so often before.

'Yes,' said Sir Thomas, staring into space. 'Yvonne is a lovely girl. She is bright and warm and she understands the life here in the Houses of Parliament, which my wife never did. So we saw a lot of each other. Talked a lot, went out a lot. And then the inevitable happened.'

'You went to bed with Yvonne,' anticipated Suzanne.

'Certainly not]' said Sir Thomas, shocked. 'The very idea] No, I started having an affair with the wife of a fellow MP. And Yvonne found out. She threatened to leave me. I didn't know what to do.'

This was something new, thought Suzanne. A researcher behaving like a wife. Being jealous. Withdrawing emotionally. She half expected Sir Thomas to say next, 'My researcher doesn't understand me any more.'

'I don't think Yvonne understands me any more,' said Sir Thomas dully. Suzanne had to pinch herself. She thought it was about time she took the lead here.

'You have to understand, Sir Thomas, that life in Parliament is very unlike life elsewhere.

You are all thrown so closely together, all 600 of you, yet the

imbalance of sexes is so very

unequal.'

'What do you mean?' exclaimed Sir Thomas, startled. 'Do you mean that we all start chasing the same few women MPs who happen to be elected?'

'Quite the opposite,' said Suzanne. 'You MPs are so conscious of there being so many men and so few women that you have an unspoken agreement not to chase women MPs. It's odd, but I can't think of any scandal involving a liaison between a man and woman MP.'

Sir Thomas could think of one, but it had never been discovered. He let her go on talking. It was very restful.

A reader writes: Here, hold on - if this is a parliamentary novel, where are the steaming sex scenes? Why is it all blooming talk and no action?

Because it's set in Parliament, of course.

So why did you call it 'All-Night Session' if there's no sex in it?

There will be. Just be patient.

Then when are these two going to get their clothes off?

In tomorrow's hot, sizzling, raunchy but ultimately dissatisfying episode, of course] Don't miss it]

It had better be good, that's all I can say . . . .

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