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Howard: I bunked off to play snooker

Michael Howard, the Conservative leader has admitted playing truant to hang out in Jack's snooker hall in Llanelli.

In an interview with The TES, Mr Howard said he had no regrets about his antics in the 1950s, even though the Tories have repeatedly criticised the Labour government for failing to take tough enough action on truancy.

"I don't think it's done me any lasting damage," Mr Howard said. "Nor has it made me a snooker world champion."

He confessed that he used to leave the grounds of Llanelli grammar school at lunchtime with friends for the "nefarious purpose" of playing snooker.

Asked whether he had ever bunked off lessons to play the game, he said:

"There might have been some occasions when we left early of an afternoon."

In a speech to grammar school heads this year, Mr Howard said it was "tragic" that children had played truant a million times last year. So, was he concerned that his might send the message to children that they could skip classes and still become political party leaders and successful lawyers?

"I'm just being honest," he said. "I think truancy is a very bad thing and that firm action should be taken to deal with it."

Emyr Phillips, a friend of Mr Howard's at Llanelli grammar, recalled in an interview earlier this year that there had been "something of the truant" about him. He claimed that Mr Howard had begun to hone his legal techniques on occasions when the pair had been called before the head about their lunchtime absences.

Interview, News 4

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