29th September 1995 at 01:00
Eric Forth's star may have risen on the Government benches, but this means nothing to the organisers of Conservative whist drives in the newly-created seat of Mid Worcester. As they have so cruelly demonstrated.

Despite his unrivalled collection of chunky gold jewellery, the sideburned Minister of State for Education was this week rejected as their candidate for the next election in preference to a fresh-faced advocate of family values, Conservative MP Peter Luff.

This is what Labour MPs have charmingly termed the "chicken run", a private race in which Tory members ditch their own constituencies and their threatened majorities in favour of safer territory.

Even should a Labour victory come to pass, Mid Worcester will stay true blue with its estimated majority of 14,500.

Of the two men Mr Forth had the better claim to the new seat. It covers about one third of his current constituency, (Mid Worcestershire, which is being carved up as a result of boundary changes) but only a tenth of Mr Luff's Worcester stamping ground.

In the last Cabinet reshuffle in July, Mr Forth was (some say) disappointed not to be moved to a more glamorous post, but had to make do with remaining in the new DFEE super-department, sharing the joint number two position with the incoming Lord Henley.

He manages to maintain a dry, not to say right-wing profile (he is a supporter of Michael Portillo) while keeping the respect of the various education lobbies.

But ministerial duties can be a handicap and earning the admiration of special needs groups is not the same thing as pleasing local Conservative big wigs, as Mr Luff has so clearly illustrated.

He is said to have been working hard on the constituency, which includes Hanbury, the model for Ambridge of The Archers fame. Mr Luff is also a local boy, which helps, and was the parliamentary secretary to former Worcester MP and Cabinet minister Peter Walker.

Despite his generally liberal views, he has been a vigorouspromoter of Conservative family values.

In a speech to a local Conservative women's conference recently he said that "if an MP cannot keep the most important promise he or she makes to wife or husband, how can voters trust them?" Mr Forth has quietly divorced and last year remarried.

When quizzed about his decision to leave two-thirds of his constituents behind in the new marginal seat of Redditch while he trawls for a better deal, his answer was disarmingly frank: "It happens to be politically advantageous - and since politics is my career and pays my wages and my mortgage, I see nothing mysterious in it."

Roy Hattersley has become Labour's self-appointed "education conscience", stoutly defending the traditionalists' support for council-controlled comprehensives, and arch-critic of the Labour leader's choice of a grant-maintained school for his eldest son. It is therefore interesting to be reminded that he once claimed Tony Blair as a protege of his.

A new biography by political journalist John Rentoul, published this week, tells the tale of a conversation between Michael Foot, then the party's left-wing leader, and Mr Hattersley, during the Beaconsfield by-election in 1982, where Blair was the candidate.

Foot, apparently, remarked to Hattersley: "What a good candidate we've got down here." Hattersley promptly claimed Blair was a supporter of his. To which Foot replied: "Oh? He seemed all right to me."

Next week Hattersley, still very much disgruntled with Labour's GM rapprochement, is set to embarrass Blair and his education spokesman David Blunkett further when he talks to the Socialist Education Alliance at Labour's Brighton conference. But the size of the audience for this fascinating talk is now in question because Hattersley is timetabled to appear - on a different platform - at the same time as Blunkett gives his official question and answer session. Both the SEA and the Labour party claim that this is nothing more than cock-up.

Just how slowly does Bryan Davies write? For the second Labour party conference in a row the spokesman on further and higher education shows no sign of producing the long promised post-16 policy paper.

This, as everyone knows by now, is because of the wholly unacceptable pre-election truth that any such document is bound to reveal; which is to say that middle-class folk should cough up substantial sums of money so as to spread the benefits of a college education more equitably.

Jeff Rooker effectively said as much in the long and carefully researched green paper on the matter: the first attempt at a policy document that was so embarrassingly pulled from publication by the Labour hierarchy just days before its scheduled release two years ago. Nothing has been seen of it since.

Mr Davies already has his work cut out finding a new parliamentary seat given the imminent demise of his estate in Oldham central. The party managers will not be adding to his troubles with demands for unnecessary policy papers.

Overheard on the London Underground, two American businessmen talking about their schooldays.

One says: "I've finally been to my first parents' evening and it proved to me what I suspected when I was a kid - they're a complete waste of time."

The other replies: "I remember my father returning from one years ago. He said to me: 'Oliver, your teacher says you intimidate all the other children and you never shut up. Keep it up my boy, you're doing well."

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