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Battle of the BBC beauties; Midland rivals line up to become the new Natasha.

Byline: BY ANUJI VARMA

THEY are the gorgeous Midland newsreaders who are battling it out to become the next Natasha Kaplinsky.

Midlands Today presenter Suzanne Virdee has been reading the news on BBC1's primetime Breakfast Show on an occasional basis since October.

And pretty Codsall-born Louisa Preston has also become a regular guest newsreader on the programme.

Now BBC insiders say the women could be groomed as future replacements for Natasha Kaplinsky, who recently left the Breakfast Show to front the main evening news.

Suzanne, a former Sunday Mercury reporter, has previously said she is happy in the Midlands - but did not rule out a permanent move to London.

She told the Mercury: "If I did get a job offer, I would be very flattered and have to consider it seriously. It would be a massive step for me.

"But I'm very happy at Midlands Today. I love working with Nick Owen, who's become a great friend, and I love where I live.

"We moved out to a new estate in Redditch where we know all our neighbours. You can see a field with cows from the bathroom window!"

A BBC insider said both Suzanne and Louisa were very highly thought of at the Beeb. "They could both be fantastic main presenters for the show.

"If Moira Stuart were to retire, they would both be in the running for a more permanent position as newsreader.

"And if that goes well, they could eventually move on to the sofa as main presenter where Natasha proved so successful."

Louisa is currently presenting the news on BBC London but originally began her career at Birmingham and Wolverhampton radio stations.

Suzanne Virdee is still seen on Midlands Today on Monday and Tuesday.

Our lowdown on the breakfast favourites

NAME: Suzanne Virdee

AGE: 35

CAREER: First job in journalism was as trainee reporter at Solihull Times.

After passing her exams, worked for Central Television before heading back to newspapers and joining Sunday Mercury.

Joined Midlands Today in 2001 as presenter of late evening updates. A year later, took over from Sue Beardsmore as a main presenter.

NAME: Louisa Preston

AGE: 20

CAREER: News editor and

presenter for Wolf Radio in Wolverhampton from 1999 to 2000 before leaving to join Birmingham's BRMB.

Went on to become a newsreader for Channel 5 and co-presented a weeknight debate programme with Kirsty Young.

Has also previously worked as a production journalist for ITV News.

CAPTION(S):

HOT NEWS: Suzanne Virdee and Louisa Preston are favourites to join the Breakfast Show' GLAMOUR GIRL: Who will succeed Natasha?
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 8, 2006
Words:427
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