Barry Sheerman MP was looking perky this week. The chairman of the Commons select committee on education has not only played a pivotal role in the horse-trading with the Prime Minister over his education reforms; he has also lost a leetle weight, thanks to a post-Christmas detox diet. And he has succeeded in his mission to rescue the former home of poet John Clare and have it turned into a rural education centre.
On Monday, chairing a committee hearing on reading, he remarked to primary education guru Jim Rose that the atmosphere in the committee room was much more relaxed this week than last. "Phonics has that effect," replied the disarming Rose. "Yeah, soporific," agreed Mr Sheerman.