A Tory by-election candidate refused to comment today on claims that links to an erotic fiction website contributed to her humiliating defeat at the polls.

Public relations consultant Lisa Ventura failed to hold a previously safe Tory seat on Worcester City Council last night - costing her party overall control of the authority - after a 17.6% swing to Labour.

Worcester's Labour MP Mike Foster said he believed the "sex scandal" - described by the Tories as a "private matter" - had not helped Ms Ventura's bid for public office.

But he pinpointed a campaign to protect weekly refuse collections as the overriding factor in his party's win.

"It was a stunningly good result, a seismic shift," Mr Foster said. "Any politician that's on the favourable end of a swing like that knows they don't come along very often."

Referring to reports that Ms Ventura of Beaver Close, Lower Wick, Worcester had discussed the merits of various sex toys on her website, eroticfiction.org, Mr Foster added: "People did read them and there would have been some impact from that."

Ms Ventura, defeated by Labour's Jenny Barnes in St Clement ward, is reported to have used an alias while revealing details of her sex life on her website.

The 33-year-old businesswoman, whose public relations website reveals that she has more than 10 years' experience in delivering "relevant messages" to local, regional and national media, was unwilling to give her views today.

Contacted on her mobile phone, she hung up without commenting, except to confirm her name.

Speaking earlier this week, a Conservative Party spokesman said its candidate's website was "a private matter for the individual concerned".