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(Photograph) - Teachers who wanted to contact the Education Secretary in the past might have written to the Department for Education and Skills or asked a question if he appeared at their union's conference.

In the age of the interweb, there is a more direct way of getting messages through to Alan Johnson (right). You can become his "friend" on the popular website Facebook.

The former postman and a favourite to become deputy prime minister has nearly 400 people listed as friends on the social networking site, giving them access to photographs and regular news on his whereabouts and how he is feeling.

They can learn such fascinating facts as his favourite bands (Arctic Monkeys and Super Furry Animals rank alongside The Beatles and Dire Straits) and his favourite saying: Clement Attlee's line about "the triumph of reasonableness and practicality over doctrinaire impossiblism".

He is also a member of such online clubs as "Gordon Brown for Britain" and "I call conservatives Tories!"

Mr Johnson's friends, who include the schools minister Jim Knight, have decided against berating him on education policy, but have instead offered sympathetic comments - and occasional moments of downright sycophancy ("We love you Alan!").

His rival Peter Hain is also listed among his friends, although this may only be so that they can poke each other electronically.

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