Bell could still ring

Perhaps David Bell will not have to take a vow of silence after all.

Admirers of the former chief inspector had been worried that his PR skills might be stifled after his translation to the top post at the Department for Education and Skills. But change seems to be afoot. On Monday, listeners to Radio 4's Today programme must nearly have drowned in their baths when they heard that a permanent secretary was about to be interviewed - and in a prime slot too. Sir Humphreys just don't do that kind of thing. ("Quite a rare pleasure," said presenter Jim Naughtie.) But Leigh Lewis, the new top dog at the Department for Work and Pensions, did well. Calm, firm, pleasant, to the point, he knocked on the head union claims that the department is planning to transfer thousands of jobs overseas and said he was glad to be able to do so.

What a charmer. Shall we now hear the soothing Scottish tones of the former chief inspector calming backbench fears about the proposed education reforms?

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