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St Pat's rules, OK

Helen Liddell was already reflecting on the longest election campaign this century when she addressed Catholic secondary heidies last week. Labour's education spokeswoman, campaigning in her home-town Coatbridge constituency, told how she had bumped into an acquaintance.

"Are you Hugh Reilly's sister?" asked the old man.

"I know it's been an awful long campaign," replied Liddell, "but, no, I'm his daughter."

Liddell is a proud former pupil of St Pat's, Coatbridge, and was therefore speaking as a member of the Catholic family. Only Eton, she believed, had contributed more MPs to the past Parliament. (If you must know, John Reid and Michael Connarty are the two other distinguished St Pat's former pupils).

Labour was not complacent about standards, Liddell told heads. She has in the past referred to the Third International Maths and Science Study, which put Scots down the list, as evidence of how much remains to be done. Of course, she was too diplomatic to remind Catholic heidies, even in the absence of all Scottish bishops on duty in Rome, about the "TIMMS" study. That would have been too much for Airdrie folks.

Politicians, Liddell admitted, had an extremely low public standing, only outstripped by journalists. "I don't know what that says about me. I have been both a journalist and politician."

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