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Road to nowhere

Paddy's cuddling up to Tony but Don Foster, the Lib-Dems' education spokesman, has been building bridges of his own - with David Willetts of the Tories.

Unfortunately his political manoeuvres left them both lost in the wilderness. Or North Yorkshire any road.

The pair were booked to address the Association of Colleges in Harrogate last month and in a generous gesture (read: attempt to save petrol money), Don offered his colleague a lift from London - provided the man with two brains navigated.

Needless to say, it all went horribly wrong and the two got seriously lost. Mr Willetts, being a Tory and therefore never to blame for anything, naturally blamed Don's 10-year-old road map when they turned up late.

Funnily enough the Ordnance Survey got to hear about the incident and a brand new copy of its 1999 motoring atlas landed on Don's desk last week. The Diary expects it shortly to be entered in the register of MPs' interests.

Hard times

Don't worry - they haven't forgotten you. The reason you haven't received a Christmas card yet from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is that they're suffering from extreme pecuniary embarrassment.

Money at the QCA is so tight, the Diary gathers, that the customary corporate cards have been axed and staff told to dip into their own pockets if they want to keep up the tradition.

The reason, one gathers, is the great test results cock-up earlier this year when the QCA's chosen contractor in Glasgow failed to process the data as promised. The emergency clear-up operation cost a sum not unadjacent to Pounds 2 million.

Nor have ministers helped, demanding the quango publish several lorryloads of additional "exemplary" material, for which there was no budget. The QCA of course shies away from displays of extravagance anyway. This, you'll recall, is the outfit that pretends its plush Piccadilly offices are in a dingy side road called Bolton Street, to the great confusion of visitors.

Face to face

Still at the QCA and we look forward to a forthcoming edition of Parliamentary Brief, the magazine for hardened political junkies, where the quango's chair, that tight-lipped fixer Bill Stubbs, is due to be interviewed by one Professor Alan Smithers.

Stubbs is not known for his garrulous dealings with the press. Smithers is. Smithers is also among the noisiest critics of the QCA's "vocational" qualifications regime.

Diary wonders who's going to be doing the most talking.

Cruel Herts

Commiserations to Swindon reader Faysal Mikdadi who e-mails The TES to tell of his pain at being rejected for not one, but three top jobs with Hertfordshire Council.

Dr Mikdadi was rejected for three separate senior advisors jobs - in teaching and learning, in-service training and the mysterious-sounding "projects and initiatives".

"It does not do one's self-esteem any good," he weeps. "Especially as I had not applied for any of the three posts at any point."

Faysal fears recent OFSTED inspections may have left him writing applications in his sleep. Most worrying, though, in the Diary's opinion, is that all three rejection slips claim he was turned down "after careful consideration".

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