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Mayor was moved to tears

Ken Livingstone yesterday became the third high-profile politician in as many weeks to visit a college. What on earth is going on?

Tony Blair and prospective Tory leader David Cameron have been doing the rounds, as FErret readers will know, with visits to colleges in Oxfordshire and Sussex. Yesterday it was Ken's turn, as he dropped in at City Lit in London. He was guest of honour as he opened the college's new pound;21 million building in Covent Garden.

FE Focus readers already know Ken has designs on further education. His minions have been beavering away for some time now on their master plan to wrestle control from the hands of the Learning and Skills Council.

If the LSC loses control of London, some predict the rest of its empire will fall like a pack of cards.

So, is this just another case of a politician grabbing a photo opportunity as he tries to win friends?

It seems not.

Back in the 1970s, Mr Livingtone was apparently moved to tears when he saw a group of music students with learning difficulties performing on the steps of County Hall to mark the opening of the Lit's special courses to develop their talents.

The story goes that the encounter prompted him to maintain a special interest in the college ever since.

If Ken succeeds in his attempt to get his hands on further education, it seems, he won't need reminding that it's about more than skills.

And he'll be able to get plenty of advice on how to run post-16 education from an old comrade, Neil Fletcher, who used to be leader of the Inner London Education Authority, one of the organisations closed down by Margaret Thatcher along with the Greater London Council, of which Ken himself, of course, was leader.

Ken won't have any trouble looking up his old chum. Mr Fletcher is now chair of governors - at City Lit.

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