The real power behind the throne

11th August 2000 at 01:00
POWER is an elusive concept at the best of times, but we can thank Gillian Shephard for revealing just how elusive it can be.

The impish former Education Secretary casts her eye over her years in Government in a new book, Shephard's Watch - illusions of power in British politics.

Major's era was of course notable for his failure to wield much power at all. (Gill tells how he made education his top priority then sat back and let her fight the Treasury - unsuccessfully - for the cash.)

There's saly little on her time at the DFEE, but even so, this series of vignettes has one towering absence.

Where, in a book about power, is the most powerful man in education? The man who, according to Major's successor, Willy "14-pints" Hague, has done more than anyone to improve our failing education system? Where, in short, is Chris Woodhead?

Can Gillian have liked him as little as David Blunkett does? The ability to make teachers and ministers alike wake up in a cold sweat - now that's power.

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