1st March 2013 at 00:00

Hancock braves Arctic conditions in Eastleigh

FE minister Matthew Hancock took some time out to campaign for his Conservative colleague Maria Hutchings in the Eastleigh by-election last week.

There he bumped into the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts, in town to see how the race was going. Mr Letts, who called Mr Hancock a "familiar face" but also described him as the minister for trade, was intrigued by his bright red parka with a furry hood. "I last wore it in Antarctica," Mr Hancock said. "Brrrrrr."

With apologies to Mr Letts, the minister almost certainly said the Arctic. December's edition of Total Politics gave us new details of this now-legendary trip, including that the "cricket game" that took place - a frostbitten lob of a ball towards some ski poles - was an attempt to gain sponsorship from Brit Insurance.

But how come Mr Hancock was expecting such an icy reception in Eastleigh? Perhaps having a candidate who says it would be "impossible" for her son to fulfil his dream of becoming a surgeon if he attends a state school is a little uncomfortable for a Tory education minister.

Watch and learn

The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, run by the University of Sheffield with Boeing, scored a PR coup when Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson launched the construction of its new training centre.

The veteran manager was in an expansive mood as he spoke to apprentices about his own experience as an apprentice toolmaker in the Clyde shipyards before his football career. "Education is fantastic," Sir Alex said, "but the education from going to university is different from the education of an engineer - absolutely different. It's a fantastic opportunity to be an engineer."

Employers always emphasise that one of the differences with apprentices is how quickly they pick up the values demanded by the workplace. So FErret can't help but wonder what Sir Alex's apprenticeship contributed to his legendary managerial career. And since employers often put punctuality at the top of their list of values, could this explain why he is always looking at his watch?

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