Nina Bawden was injured in the Potter's Bar train crash in 2002. Her husband, Austen Kark, was killed
You appeared as a character in David Hare's The Permanent Way. Now you've written Dear Austen, which is a damning indictment of the railways. Do you feel that the arts have become more important as a source of political opposition? It's certainly a very useful way of expressing myself. I wrote a book because it's what I do, and David Hare wrote a play because it's what he does. In 1945 I stood on soap boxes and shouted for Labour, but nowadays there's no one to join. People march up and down, and the government pays not the slightest bit of notice. Does the problem of the railways highlight a wider issue with this government? Corporate management. The people who have the power work in big corporations - they don't accept responsibility and they don't resign. After the accident, do you still feel capable of writing books for children? At the time of the crash I was working on a children's book, which I didn't feel capable of finishing. I was very badly injured, you see. Dear Austen was the book I had to write at that time, and I feel quite bereft without it because I can't talk to my husband any more. There's still so much I want to tell him about the bloody government! I've started another adult novel now, a black comedy about old age and dereliction. Perhaps one day I'll write for children again. One does move on from these things eventually. I noticed that you were in the same year as Margaret Thatcher at Oxford. Did you know her personally? I did. One summer during the war we firewatched together - that meant staying in the Bodleian to guard priceless things in case of a firebomb. It was quite brave of us really. I told her I thought it was disgraceful to be a Conservative, particularly as she was a grammar-school girl like me. She defended herself by saying that all the Conservatives were so dull she would have more chance of getting into parliament. How much do you hold her responsible for what has subsequently happened to the country? She did a lot of terrible things, destroyed the trade unions. But every government since the war has neglected the railways.
Marina Pepper, a former page-three girl and practising white witch, is the Lib Dem candidate for Brighton Kemptown
You have said you had a "hippie" childhood. Were your parents surprised you went into politics? My parents have raised their eyebrows at everything I've done! If anything, when I went into party politics they lowered them a bit. They never doubted my commitment to the community. Even at school I always cooked cakes for the school fair. I was famous for my rock buns . . . among other buns. And you followed your mother into witchcraft? It was witchcraft that took me into conventional politics more than anything else. We hold the earth most dear, so dumping rubbish, or climate change, is offensive to me. But you have to provide people with positive choices. Do people in politics take you less seriously because you are a witch? They were a bit taken aback when all the local witches turned up to my mayor-making, but generally it doesn't come up. As someone said to me recently, if you lost the broom you'd be a Christian. How about having worked as a page-three girl? Is that more damaging? I don't think so. I think it's put me on a more equal footing with people - well, you couldn't get much more populist, could you? It's helped to bring a whole new strata of people into politics in my constituency. I love the reaction on the doorstep - some of the dads go very red and look at their feet. Have you come across any other witches in politics? I know there's one in the Tory party, but I won't say who. It's not for me to out people. I've been told they're there, but it's not like we have networking evenings or anything. Though I have been threatening to organise a pagan meet at the Lib Dem conference.
Stand-up comedian Shazia Mirza has toured the UK, US and Europe with her sell-out show
Is the election a boring topic? I'm very excited about it. It's not the taking part, it's the winning that counts! We all know who is going to win (like there's a choice!), but it's nice to see everyone trying. I love the government, they are the biggest comedians in the world. How will you be voting? For Tony, because election time reminds me of when I was growing up. The teachers were on strike, the miners had lost their jobs and Thatcher was running our country. I never want it to be like that again. Is the PM too populist? Since he appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine I think people might even start fancying him again. He could still become the first sex-symbol prime minister.