No more beer and sarnies

6th July 2001 at 01:00
Intriguing relationships are starting to emerge between the Mark II New Labour Government and the leaders of public-service unions.

First, there was the asparagus-tips-and-beef privatisation summit at Number 10, where union protagonists were apparently made to sign an official secrets declaration which even covered the menu. Allegedly, government control freaks were keen to stage-manage the event and prevent comparison with the beer and sandwich meetings of a previous Labour administration.

And now there's the mysterious affair of the teachers' workload meeting, convened by Education Secretary Estelle Morris with the unions, the heads' associations and the employers. NUT supremo Doug McAvoy had to leave early to attend a parents' evening at his children's school in York, and chose a speech by local government man Graham Lane to discreetly tiptoe out of the meeting room. The rest of Mr Lane's contribution was, sadly, lost on the rest of the delegates, who watched open-mouthed as Ms Morris tore after McAvoy, calling him for a five-minute meeting just out of earshot in the corridor. "She did look quite agitated," said Lane. A bottle of diary champagne to any mole who can tell us just what the conversation was about.

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