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Inherited idealism still intact

Estelle Morris's idealism does not appear to have been seriously bruised by spending the past year in the whips' office, the operational heart of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

She retains an almost evangelical belief that Labour in power will be able to transform an education system brought to its present pass by Tory administrations.

This faith may be a product of being born into the Labour party. Her father was Charles Morris, the Manchester MP who was Harold Wilson's Parliamentary Private Secretary. Her uncle is Alf Morris, the MP for Wythenshawe.

Until she was elected as MP for Birmingham Yardley in 1992, her working life had been spent in a large Coventry comprehensive, the Sydney Stringer.

That experience probably helped her lecture Conservative MPs on the state of the system during the passage of the last Education Bill. However, she has also done her stint in local government. She was elected to Warwick district council in 1969 and developed an interest in housing.

The past 12 months in the whips' office has seen a maturing of her style. She has had to act as broker between Labour MPs and the education team during a period of awkward decisions about policy on grant-maintained schools. David Blunkett gave her a wider role than is usual for whips, involving her in policy discussions. Policy on schools is now her particular brief.

Like many of those being labelled rising young stars, she is over 40: at 43, a year older than the other rising star on the education team, Stephen Byers, MP for Wallsend.

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