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Head Turner

In between Inverness and Edinburgh came Aberdeen, the Tories' conference choice. The education debate was chaired by one Jack Dempsey, a party vice- president. This famous fighting name was an appropriate one to preside over a pugilistic performance by the Education Minister.

In his reply to the debate, Raymond Robertson mixed it with as many opponents as he could set up to shoot down. The SNP and Liberals were "failing children and freezing parents"; "Socialist dinosaurs were prepared to fight for their discredited and outdated principles to the last child's illiteracy in their jurisdiction."

The rhetoric reached higher still as he praised his own decision to order the inquiry by "Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools" into mixed-ability teaching in the first two years of secondary school. "While we are on the subject," he added in an unscripted aside, "I'm glad we still have Her Majesty's Inspectors because some of us are so proud of Her Majesty and are still prepared to show her loyalty." So that's why we have no OFSTED in Scotland.

The minister then enlivened the proceedings by whipping out an envelope containing Pounds 1,100 to show us all the colour of nursery voucher money. "I know Anthea Turner is better looking but is this not an enticing sight?" he asked, presumably referring to the cash.

Surely this was not meant as an admission that the scheme is a bit of a lottery.

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