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Byers a cake;Diary

QUESTION: what does New Labour have in common with Marie Antoinette? Answer: School Standards Minister Stephen Byers.

Confused? The explanation is as follows: before Easter, Mr B, the Minister To Watch, visited Cockburn High School in Leeds to examine its pioneering pupil behaviour database (no doubt every school will soon be required to have one).

Being the last day of term, and not long after the once-reviled school had received a glowing report from the Office for Standards in Education, there was a certain amount of levity in the staffroom. In fact, Mr B's visit had only just eclipsed the day's other attraction: the staff Grand National sweepstake.

Mr B put his pound;1 on Earth Summit - which had once been injured so badly that vets had said it would never race again. The odds were running at something like 10-1. With politician's luck, this particular nag loves mud and the course was a quagmire. It romped home, one of only six horses to finish.

Which should have left Mr B something like pound;40 to the good. But upon hearing of the staffroom habit of buying cream cakes for special occasions, the minister insisted any winnings go into the kitty. In fact he put it more succinctly, intoning (with a big grin): "Let them eat cake."

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