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Divide and rule;Diary

Estelle Morris may look friendly, but don't be fooled. She's still a canny politician.

Look at the way she got Hackney councillors to roll over when presented with the Government's plans to privatise half their education service.

The minister agreed to meet Hackney councillors, officials and their minders at the Local Government Association the night before OFSTED published its latest report into the borough's failings.

Just before the meeting, word came through from the DFEE that the gathering would be too big - could she meet councillors, officers and the LGA separately?

All agreed. The LGA suspects the Government's legal position is shaky and open to negotiation, and assumed Hackney would receive the findings without comment and trot off to meet their lawyers.

"We didn't think they'd be so stupid as to agree to everything," one insider said. That, unfortunately, was exactly what Hackney's councillors did - presumably in relief that the wholesale privatisation predicted in the press had not materialised.

The reaction at LGA headquarters, we gather, was unprintable.

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