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Blushing Ken plights his troth

May I be the first to congratulate post-16 education's latest happy couple Ken Livingstone and David Hughes - who pledged themselves to each other this week in a ceremony presided over by Barry Sheerman - chairman of the Commons education and skills select committee.

Many of us, myself included, I'm ashamed to admit, thought there was no future for London's larger-than-life mayor and the dependable London regional director of the Learning and Skills Council.

"I'll give it six months" seemed to be the phrase on everyone's lips.

But in front of the committee on Wednesday, in what can best be described as an exchange of vows, they both promised to love, honour and obey, subject to a pre-nuptial agreement allowing Ken to create a socialist utopia.

"Nothing short of a fully-independent city state is going to satisfy me but I will work with what I have," he told the committee. He was joking, right?

Ken was resplendent in a beige suit, and attended by his team of bridesmaids from City Hall, who occasionally slipped him little pieces of paper to make sure he remembered his lines.

You had the feeling, though, that this ceremony had already been through a full dress rehearsal.

Mr Hughes was given away by Chris Banks, LSC chairman, who expressed his complete confidence in the joint arrangement between the mayor's office and the LSC - a marriage expected to spawn millions of highly-trained offspring. Of course, like all good grooms, Mr Hughes allowed his bride to steal the show at the Harold Wilson Room in Portcullis House, Westminster.

"I have never seen you in such a harmonious relationship with anyone," Mr Sheerman told the mayor.

Things got a bit tricky for Ken when it came to the moment when people were given a chance to speak up if they knew any reason why the two should not be wed. Ken was asked to account for why he had said such nasty cutting things about the LSC in the past.

He has previously said the LSC "is unaccountable to Londoners and has failed to deliver for either the unskilled or employers, despite spending around pound;1 billion a year."

And Mr Hughes had responded by saying: "It is difficult to see what the benefits are by going over to the mayor."

Ken explained he knew David a little better now and was sure they would get on.

If Ken needed evidence that learning really is a lifelong process, he needed to look no further than the painting of Sir Harold outside the room named after the former Labour prime minister. His dates of office seem to have lost at least two years, showing that a lack of knowledge about key historical dates is not confined to schools.

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