The disintegration of a political career in contemporary England is the focus of this latest from a top Thatcherite minister; like four of his earlier novels, it is coauthored. The career belongs to Edward Dunsford, 43, a junior minister at the Foreign Office. Dunsford is a former banker, a solid, capable party loyalist on the fast track. Married to the glamorous, bitchy Rosemary, he has a coolly professional relationship with his top aide, Sally Archer, who is sleeping, unbeknowst to Dunsford, with his chief rival. (It is writ in neon that Sally and Dunsford will have their moment in bed.) The cause of Dunsford's downfall is the African nation of Meridia, a former British possession. When he hears of a Russo-American consortium in the works to exploit an oil find, political instinct tells him a British initiative might be best for Meridia--and his own career. While attending a conference in Meridia with Sally, he witnesses harrowing scenes at a hospital and, on British television, makes a vague, unexceptionable offer of Government help; later, he unwisely makes a more specific pledge which lands him in big trouble. When he follows this up with a veiled attack on the Prime Minister, he is fired; this leads to a furious row with Rosemary, a drunken spree, and a period of seclusion during which Sally fails in her bid to console him. He reemerges to make a Parliamentary speech that causes the Government to resign. Disowned by Rosemary and by his local party, he loses the election but revives at the thought of a hot bath, a hot breakfast and a return to banking. No Trollopian drama, but a plodding account of a dull pol's uncharacteristic blunder, with a thimbleful of sex. An empty package.