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The New Skatesmen

Occasionally a pupil comes along who has just a bit more spark than average. Jason Whiley, an 18-year-old in Hull who finished his politics A-level this year, is such a student. The Diary has been chuckling over his website www.statesmanorskatesman.co.uk for the past week.

Last February, Jason had an argument with his dad, who had found a picture of the controversial Enoch Powell astride a pogo stick. His dad claimed that politicians weren't as interesting now but James bet he could prove they were. He soon despatched 150 letters to senior politicians quizzing them on whether they had "ever been in any of the following (a) a skateboard (b) roller-skates (c) a Space Hopper (d) a go-cart (e) a death slide (f) a scooter (g) a BMX (h) any other child's locomotive toy?"

The replies flooded in although, disappointingly, the current occupant of Number 10 said he didn't have time to answer Jason's questions.

Former PM Margaret Thatcher claimed to have tried roller-skating and a scooter, while her predecessor James Callaghan was a whizz on a skateboard.

Among the current crop, junior education minister Stephen Twigg, proudly submitted a picture of himself on "The Big One" roller-coaster in Blackpool to prove his "fun" credentials. Tory stalwart Lord St John-Stevas of Fawsley was unamused, calling for all such childish forms of locomotion to be banned because they were a "menace", while deputy PM John Prescott claimed to have "roller-skated, ridden a BMX bike and used a Space Hopper!" Prescott on a Space Hopper! An image too far.

Sadly, there was a painful postscript to Jason's superhuman efforts:

"Unfortunately, I've spent so much time trying to win this bet I've failed my politics A-level. My dad is not happy at the moment."

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