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The Socialist Education Association has a new member. Alan Howarth, MP for Stratford, has decided to join councillor Graham Lane and friends in the great struggle. Is this a sign of the (alleged) barminess picked out by Kenneth Clarke last year to explain Mr Howarth's defection from Conservative to Labour? Perhaps his new club is a ploy to convince Labour selection committees that his spots have truly changed?

At any rate, this makes him the SEA's only former minister and the first since Anthony Crosland.

A plaintive Demitri Coryton, chair of the Conservative Education Association, explains that he too had been wooing Mr Howarth before he crossed the floor. "I now understand why he didn't reply to any of my letters," sighs Mr Coryton, who must be aware that he is too left-wing even for the reconstructed Mr Howarth.

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