6th June 1997 at 01:00
Since the electoral cataclysm a month ago, surviving Tory MPs are largely to be found reeling, writhing and fainting in coils around the House of Commons. But one man with a more purposeful spring in his step is Eric Forth, shadow Schools Minister with a penchant for nuclear ties and chunky jewellery. Mr Forth - one of the Right's most engaging Rottweilers - has found consolation in running the leadership campaign for Peter Lilley, shadow Secretary of State for Social Security.

On the face of it, this scenario appears somewhat implausible, Mr Lilley being a little - er - bloodless to appeal to a populist like Mr Forth. But indeed it is so, and there are good reasons.

Explained a close political confidant, Michael Portillo would have been Mr Forth as natural choice, but the electors of Enfield Southgate did not deign to re-elect him. Thus Mr Forth looked around for another whose views were not dissimilar and chanced upon Mr Lilley, who like Messrs. Forth and Portillo is a member of the No Turning Back Group - in itself a guarantee of robust opinion.

Perhaps an even more surprising member of the Lilley camp is Mr ForthOs old boss, Gillian Shephard, the former Education and Employment Secretary. Although her support for caning put her firmly in favour with the partyOs Right last year, there is the little matter of her being considered far more Europhile than Mr L. I must say I'm a little surprised, confides Carborundum's source, but we're delighted she's with us.

Perhaps Mrs Shephard has a clear eye for the main chance. With 17 or 18 MPs already having publicly declared for Lilley, his team consider he is "well placed" to win on the third round of the leadership contest. It might go something like this: Kenneth Clarke comes top in the first round, followed by William Hague and then Peter Lilley. Then John Redwood and Michael Howard drop out and most of their votes go to Lilley, pushing him into second place. In the final round, William Hague's votes go to Lilley and he beats Ken Clarke. Simple, really. Life as an Opposition Tory MP cannot be dull with such complicated sums being done in the bar.

The iron grip of Labour news management is something which seems to be much exercising the newspapers, but there is a definite upside to it: somebody checks through the new acronyms before making them official. So while the poor old Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has been through two name changes (being briefly QUAC and then, ignominously, QUANCA), Labour's SMART (Special Measures Action Recovery Teams) was obviously named with an eye to the acronym.

However cringingly clever-Dick a name SMART is, it is undoubtedly better than the title Mr Blunkett says he originally had in mind, Priority Intervention Support Teams. Can we believe anyone in New Labour could possibly think such a thing?

Instant recognition is a state all politicians crave, but it usually takes a degree of notoriety (see David Mellor) for it to be quickly achieved. However, it is something that new Education Secretary David Blunkett appears to have acquired within weeks - among the under-16s, at least. Little children keep on coming up to me and saying Are you going to make me do more homework, Mr Blunkett? The answer, apparently, is usually in the affirmative.

In Carborundum's day teachers muttered dreadful imprecations about pop music, grudgingly admitting that it might just be possible to listen to The Beatles without rotting the brain. These days, it seems, primary heads are even prepared to communicate by music.

Startled delegates at the National Association of Head TeachersO conference in Scarborough last week watched in amazement as one Dave Pannett, head of Elsecar Primary in Barnsley, expounded his theme of how the head's role should be supported with additional funding. He simply flicked a switch, and three songs blared out: Under Pressure, Another One Bites The Dust and then I Want To Break Free. All by Queen, but reassuringly Mr Pannett made no attempt to emulate the late Freddie Mercury.

It's going to take quite a while for the Commons to work through its new backlog of maiden speeches given the sheer numbers of new bums on seats. One which was awaited with particular interest came during the Education Bill this week from Barbara Follett, the New Labourite credited with smartening up the party in the early 1990s.

It was she who sent off tubby, balding MPs for colour-co-ordination sessions, insisting on the trimming of unsightly whiskery bits, and who banished forever the spectre of Michael Foot's donkey jacket.

So what was she going to wear for this significant occasion? As it turned out, a neatly-tailored suit in what appeared to be the precise shade of green of the leather adorning the Commons benches. Mysteriously, the effect was to render her almost invisible, producing something of a Cheshire Cat effect. Could this be the start of a New Labour ploy to make the majority look less overwhelming?

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