12th April 2013 at 01:00

Hold on as Hancock makes a sharp U-turn

FErret had believed that as a former staffer for George Osborne, FE minister Matthew Hancock was close to the Treasury. But perhaps these days they are both so busy with their respective roles that they don't have much time to talk.

Labour opponents had already begun making hay about an autobiographical snippet in a speech Mr Hancock gave to the Resolution Foundation thinktank, arguing passionately that the Conservatives must be on the side of the low paid and for a strong minimum wage. "I came to politics having worked in business and as an economist, essentially because of a harrowing experience in my youth," he said. "In the early 1990s, as interest rates hit 15 per cent, my family's computer software business nearly went bust."

Hardly able to contain their glee, Labourites pointed out that the government of the early 1990s was, of course, a Tory one, and that moreover the special adviser to the Black Wednesday chancellor was David Cameron.

Still, if you want to remake your party's image, you might have to face down some jeers from the street while you execute your three-point turn. But surely his colleagues will back him up? Er, no: within a week, hacks were being briefed by Downing Street that the government was considering a cut to the minimum wage.

What a sweet start for the Maple Group

A warm welcome to the Maple Group, the latest part of the FE college lobbying strategy: divide-yourself-and-be-conquered.

The Maple Group is like a 157 Group for 10 top sixth-form colleges - or, as they might prefer to see themselves, a Russell Group for the 16-18 set.

Leaving aside how much clout they will have with a small membership, FErret wonders about the name. The Russell Group got its title from meetings at the Hotel Russell; the Maple Group met at Maple House in Birmingham. FErret tends to think that the power of the Russell brand lies in its ability to conjure the philosophical scion of the family, Bertrand. Maple, meanwhile, is just syrup.

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