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Poor Brian Mawhinney is feeling the strain, or possibly something a little more retributive after his lamentable performance on BBC's Question Time. What can be wrong? The silver-tongued Ulsterman and Conservative party chairman was reduced to the sort of spluttering shambles that makes Lord Henley sound like Mark Antony.

A copy of the programme transcript has fallen into TES hands: Dimbleby: is it your view that corporal punishment can be a useful deterrent in schools or not?

Mawhinney: I do not believe that corporal punishment plays a role in dealing with children if the children come from parents within a framework which requires corporal punishment to be put in place by teachers in substitute for what the parents are doing. (Audience laughter.)

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