Sir Malcolm Thornton, education panjandrum and Conservative MP for Crosby, seems confident he'll get the nod over Labour's Greville Janner, the employment chair and member for Leicester West. Sir Malcolm is about as influential in the Parliamentary Conservative party as he is popular with his colleagues. Which is not very. He has "gone native", they suggest. He demonstrates a dangerous degree of interest in schools, criticises Government policy and, in less temperate moments, claims to be an educationist.
There is some foundation to his confidence, none the less. In the first place, the prestidigitating Mr Janner (he enlivens debates with conjuring tricks) is an appalling show-off. More to the point, Sir Malcolm is now so far to the left of the party that only his hatred of police murderers (hang them) keeps him in the fold. Any bid to remove him from the chairmanship could well disturb the delicate equilibrium of Mr Major's majority.