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Bit of a bum steer

How are relations between FE minister John Hayes and loveable moptop London mayor Boris Johnson? FErret only asks because Mr Hayes' latest speech seemed to contain a hidden dig at the mayor's latest flagship project.

He told a conference at the Institute of Directors: "For those of us who have reached, let us say, a very early middle age, the pace of change, like one of the new Boris bikes in London, can seem giddying, especially when we realise that it's something we can't stop or even slow down."

Sounds unsafe! But it's not true. Those who have used the leaden boneshakers will know that in fact they are easy to stop: simply point them at the nearest hill and even the most energetic pedaller will grind to a halt.

But one thing not stopping is Mr Hayes' relentless barrage of literary quotes and historical references. Undaunted by us catching him misquoting Shelley as Shakespeare in a previous speech, he ploughed on, causing FErret's patented pretentiometer to overheat and pour smoke.

The speech last week took in Dickens, Euripides, Pericles, Buckingham Palace architect John Nash and Keats, before crashing into a reference to the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act (1802). Someone should tell him that we FE types would be just as happy with a bit of woodwork or something.

Mr Hayes, chairman of the ultra-traditional Cornerstone Group (motto: "Flag, family, faith") in the Tory party, recalled the act to suggest that apprentices today might benefit from an hour a week of religious instruction and compulsory attendance at church.

Well, if they must. But while we're harking back to the good old days of the early 1800s, let's remember that ministers and MPs were unpaid. Fair's fair.

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