"Well, take them out of your mouth and shake my hand," replied the consummate politician.
Bob Allan, Clackmannan's chief executive, revealed another of the Secretary of State's political skills. A former housing official in Glasgow, Allan said that Dewar had the knack of arriving at an annual tenants' association function for senior citizens in his Drumchapel constituency just after the guests of honour had been obliged to do a party piece. He came clutching a bottle of House of Commons whisky but avoided the ritual humiliation which the rest of the high heid-yins had to endure.
"Timing is everything," remarked Allan. "Bribery works, too," replied Dewar.
Anne Pearson, headteacher of Park primary, Alloa, which played host to the early intervention event, struck the right note when she said that "good ethos by itself is not enough to make a difference. Some schools are aw ethos - nae achievement."