28th September 2007 at 01:00
Those well-meaning, sandal-wearing bearded blokes at the Liberal Democrats conference were initially delighted to be introduced to their new schools spokesman.

Stephen Williams, 40, with his hard luck story of growing up the son of a school dinner lady and a road worker in one of South Wales's deprived pit communities, ticked all the right boxes.

Mr Williams (below) was just the sort of disadvantaged pupil for whom conference delegates proudly voted through a "pupil premium" of extra targeted funding.

This was a boy whose family, in the midst of the miners' strike of the 1980s, was on a sufficiently low income for him to receive free school meals. But despite the challenges he faced, he capitalised on a good state education.

The delegates nodded earnestly, but their delight may have dissipated somewhat as they learned precisely to what extent he had actually "capitalised".

"I want to confess to something here," he added sheepishly.

"Because my mother was a school dinner lady, I didn't actually like having to see my mother use a tray to stop boys fighting.

"I used to go home for lunch, so I used to sell my 35 pence school dinner tickets to other people. I am afraid I was a capitalist from an early age."

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