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Mr Norris changes planes

Politicians' encounters with real members of the public have provided some of the more bruising and entertaining moments of the election campaign so far.

One hitherto unpublicised example of the genre occurred last week between Steven Norris, vice-chairman of the Conservative party, and a TES journalist (who shall remain nameless for reasons that will later become apparent) on a flight from Manchester to London.

Sadly we cannot share the finer points of our informant's recollection of a wide-ranging conversation, because Mr Norris hotly disputes it in the most unparliamentary of terms - "That f* b*, what a little s***," etc. etc. However, Mr Norris does not dispute that he said:

* Margaret Thatcher was "stark, raving mad" and that "power corrupts and absolute power corruptedMargaret absolutely";

* That it was difficult to criticise Labour transport policy because the Tories did not invest enough in public transport (Mr Norris is a former transport minister);

* That William Hague had been "badly advised" on his baseball cap excursion;

* That Mr Norris didn't want to pay for a private education for his children but state education was in such a poor state he had to;

* That OFSTED criticism of his son's Montessori school because it failed to teach a broad spectrum of faiths in RE was "amusing" since his boy was only two-and-a-half and still playing with crayons.

A volcanic Norris did have two questions to ask us when we rang to check his recollection of the conversation with our man: "What is his name and where does he live?"

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