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The short straw;Diary

PITY poor Malcolm Wicks, saddled with the pensions brief as one of the new boys and girls at the Department for Education and Employment.

Charlie Clarke was in charge of all the superannuation and the rest of the incomprehensible guff before he was promoted to the Home Office. Jacqui Smith, another DFEE newcomer enjoying her first ministerial post, has taken over most of his portfolio, so why not pensions?

Jacqui, it seems, has the perfect excuse: conflict of interest. As an ex-teacher of 11 years' service, she's still covered by the teachers' superannuation scheme. So is her boss, Estelle Morris, and of course David Blunkett is far too busy. So Malcolm, a blameless professional anti-poverty campaigner in his former life, is left to deal with it.

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