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Cassandra's fears

THE FEVERED atmosphere of an NUT conference makes it a natural breeding ground for hyperbole.

This year, David Blunkett joined in. Apart from acting as if he was in the middle of a full-scale riot, he had a stark warning for delegates: turn down this Green Paper and let the Tories back in.

But he was comprehensively outmatched by Bristol delegate Rachel Kendall who painted an apocalyptic vision of Labour's love affair with the market.

"We'll see children competing with children; schools competing with schools; communities with communities. Ultimately the market is leading to countries competing with countries - like they are in the Balkans," this Cassandra warned.

Blimey! And you thought the Green Paper was just about pay.

Follow the leader

CHRISTINE Blower has at least one Blairite tendency - as she's happy to admit.

At the official launch of her campaign to oust Doug McAvoy as NUT general secretary, the Left's challenger admitted that, er, actually it had already been launched several weeks earlier.

But, she said, if it was OK for Blair and Blunkett to hand out the same pot of money half a dozen times, why shouldn't she launch her campaign twice?

Dining doldrums

TRAGIC proof of the need to raise the status of the profession: several NUT delegates were booked into one seafront hotel currently undergoing major renovation.

Worse, when they descended for breakfast, the waiters asked: "Are you residents or..." - spat with contempt -"teachers?" Residents, it turned out, could sit at tables like ordinary visitors. Teachers had to sit, school-dinner-style, at a long bench. They tucked into their grapefruit feeling decidedly second-class.

The art of mixing

MR PROFESSIONAL Unity himself, Hank Roberts, did the rounds of conferences as ever.

Hank, The Man with Three Union Cards, is so committed to uniting the NUT, NASUWT and ATL he surrenders his Easter hols to all three conferences, urging each to embrace the others.

Some reckon a single union could finally be on the cards - only that idiosyncratic bunch at NASUWT can wreck it. (Nigel de Gruchy, we gather, has suggested Hank rename his Unity 2000 campaign Unity 3000).

Hank's efforts have been aided by his chameleon instincts. Among the genteel moderates of the ATL, he strolled smartly in a dapper cream suit with ever-present sunglasses - worn in even the darkest conference hall.

By the time he reached the NUT in Brighton, Hank had become Rent-a-Trot - black leather jacket, black jeans and Cuban heels. For NASUWT at Eastbourne it was back to a suit.

When asked about the transformation Hank became a little sensitive: "Don't you ever feel like a change of clothes?" he asked.

Can't let JY wait

Why was Nigel de Gruchy's response to Estelle Morris's speech so polite? Not because of the NASUWT's "constructive" approach to the Green Paper, it seems, nor because Estelle is a woman - that never stopped him laying into Gillian Shephard.

No, it was because his mind was elsewhere. He was running late for a Jimmy Young show chat.

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