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The Shadow weds

IT HAS not been the best of weeks for New Labour, what with all the allegations about cash-for-contacts. Still, there is nothing like a nice wedding to raise the spirits, and tomorrow sees the joining of The Man Who Makes Education Policy for Labour to his intended.

Although Conor Ryan - special adviser to the Education Secretary - is well-known among the cognoscenti, he remains something of a shadowy figure outside the incestuous circles of the Labour party, Sanctuary Buildings and education journalists. Indeed, bets have been laid as to whether he will pose for wedding photographs, since searches have failed to unearth a single image of him, smiling or otherwise.

But make no mistake, Mr Ryan is a vitally important figure, having a major responsibility for not only formulating policy but also helping it into the wider consciousness - overlaid with the best possible gloss.

Perhaps tellingly, the congratulatory card from journalists contains the message: "Look, the policy on this is perfectly clear, as we have said in the manifesto and on a number of occasions - congratulations and very best wishes."

Still, the Government will have to make do without his media-friendly talents for the next fortnight. Mr R - who cut his educational teeth working for the Inner London Education Authority - is jetting off on honeymoon to Los Angeles with his bride Sarah Angell, a West Country solicitor.

Not only are they going for a whole fortnight, but the groom has told astonished civil servants that he is packing neither phone nor pager and does not plan to read a single newspaper while on the other side of the Atlantic.

Little is known about the relationship, save that the couple are believed to have met through their constituency Labour party ("Where else?" enquired one insider). Guests at the do (registry office, followed by posh West Country hotel) are being asked to wear clothes suitable for an evening party, but robust enough for the dancing of jigs and reels. Mr Ryan himself has apparently bought a new pair of spectacles for the occasion.

Fascinatingly, the pair are doing away with one tradition. Guests are being asked not to buy a present. Instead, they are being asked to make a donation to Amnesty International - or the Salvation Army.

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