Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar was dogged, in absentia, by Sean Connery last week. Thus it is that the best laid schemes of political advisers, keen to raise Dewar's profile in promoting the Government's education policies, gang agley.
We were delighted to see an unexpectedly large turn-out for Dewar's press briefing on education. But alas, with the air thickened by rumour and innuendo about the alleged knighthood snub to "the greatest living Scotsman", it was the James Bond factor that guaranteed the large attendance.
Dewar stuck to his initial "no comment" and expressed the hope that journalists would carry detailed reports on the educational news. "More detailed than your last answer," one hack quipped.
The next day Dewar tried again, this time at Drumry primary in Glasgow where he was to publicise the drive on reading standards. There was real excitement here as whispers spread that our sister paper, the Sun, was to stage a stunt with a Connery look-alike. Hence the large police presence, unusual even for Drumchapel, which included the special branch subtly melting into the foreground as usual.
Thus it was that the Secretary of State found himself standing on the steps of a primary school in his constituency, going as far as he could to apologise to Connery for the fact that others had leaked information on which, of course, convention prevented him from commenting. As he was about to get into his car, he remembered the purpose of his visit and delivered some well chosen words on early reading, leaving Douglas Osler, senior chief inspector of schools (the only inspector who matters), to fill in the details.
Breaking stories intruded last Wednesday as well, with a press conference on further and higher education giving way to questions about insurance giants Commercial Union and General Accident. "What do you think this is, an educational press conference?" remonstrated a veteran hackette. It was an appropriate end to the weeks ministers' educational outings.