Birthday surprise

LIFE may begin at 40 for we ordinary mortals but for cabinet ministers the key age seems to be 10 years later. Certainly Estelle Morris's 50th has raised her confidence and energy levels to dizzy heights.

Not satisfied with slagging off teachers last Friday with her talk of former "not-so excellent" colleagues, on Monday she says she wouldn't touch some schools with a bargepole. In between, on Saturday she dines at Quaglino's, the posh London restaurant, with family, friends, political allies including Stephen Byers, and a mystery man to celebrate her half-century; Sunday she appears on Jonathan Dimbleby's programme.

On Wednesday morning she attends the unveiling of the memorial to Damilola Taylor in Peckham and yesterday she was due to go to a jubilee party, hosted by her department for local children, residents and staff, complete with karaoke. Phew!

Meanwhile we wonder what ex-colleagues at Sydney Stringer college in Coventry make of her remarks about teachers. Can a backlash be far away?

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