LONDON, ENGLAND — Prime Minister John Major's embattled government faced another problem yesterday after a Conservative member of Parliament was found dead under mysterious circumstances.

The death of Stephen Milligan, 45, who was well known from a career in journalism and had been regarded as a politician with a promising future since his election in 1992, filled the front pages of newspapers.

He was naked but for stockings and garters, a plastic bag over his head and an electrical cord around his neck.

He was found dead Monday afternoon in the kitchen of his London apartment, naked except for women's stockings and garter belt, according to newspaper reports, which also said that he had a plastic bag around his head and an electrical cord around his neck.

Police said they could not rule the death a suicide, a murder or an accidental death until an autopsy had been performed. A preliminary postmortem was "inconclusive," Scotland Yard said yesterday.

Whatever the finding, it is likely to embarrass the Conservatives and hurt them politically, coming as it does after a month of scandals in the private lives of ministers and other government figures.

In January, married government minister Tim Yeo resigned after it was revealed he had a mistress and an illegitimate child.

Also last month, Lord Caithness quit as the government's aviation and shipping minister the day after his wife's suicide, followed by claims that he was having an extramarital affair.

And an auditor's report in January accused a Conservative-run London council of vote-rigging.

The new campaign was intended as a battle cry for a return to family values.

The stream of lurid headlines has damaged Prime Minister Major's attempts to revive his beleaguered party with a campaign he calls "back to basics." The Conservatives' popularity is at a low ebb, and the party has a slim 18-seat majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.

Unveiled at the Conservative Party Congress in October as a philosophy that might bind the party together, it was intended as a battle cry for a return to family values, a strengthening of basic education and high standards of public service.

The opposition Labor Party seemed disinclined to attempt to turn Mr. Milligan's death into political hay overnight. But the parties are facing local elections May 5 and elections to the European Parliament June 9, and a poor showing by the Conservatives in both probably would prompt a challenge to Mr. Major's leadership, politicians say.

Mr. Milligan, an Oxford graduate and former journalist, was a member of Britain's inner circle.

He won his seat in the 1992 general election, and last November, in a move that usually portends a Cabinet post, was appointed parliamentary private secretary to Jonathan Aitken, the arms procurement minister in the Defense Ministry.

Government officials said that Mr. Milligan did not have access to classified information in the ministry and that there was "no security angle" to his death.


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