A rash of pashes on Miliband major

26th November 2004 at 00:00
David Miliband, the schools minister, has always had a touch of the head boy about him: the clean-cut, clever lad who makes his headmistress go weak at the knees with his flawless declensions and conjugations. He certainly seems to have created a frisson among the heads at the annual get-together of the Girls' Schools Association at Alton Towers last week.

Dr Jennifer Longhurst, head of Surbiton high school, Kingston upon Thames, for one, contacted the Diary to enthuse about the minister, once described by another head as 'a Year 8 in a suit'.

Dr Longhurst, in stern schoolmistress mode, had ambushed Miliband (the product of a state comprehensive education) with a question in a series of foreign languages. "I asked in French: 'Could you answer this question for me in French?' and then I repeated it in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian," she explained.

"He answered, in practically faultless French: 'I have understood your question, but actually there wasn't a question was there?'

"His use of the indefinite article was incorrect, but it was such a small problem and the accent was so good - better than A-level standard!" said the enraptured head.

More surprising for those familiar with Milibabble's sometimes tortured relationship with the English language, she reported a complete absence of jargon. As Dr Longhurst said: "Bravo, monsieur le Ministre!"

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