So... what is party policy on slappers?

1st October 2004 at 01:00
In a series of hot hotel rooms in Brighton, ministers responded to questions and comments from delegates and lobby groups on prison education, school uniform, academies, A-levels...and slappers.

The conference's fringe programme showed that Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, was often to be found in three places at once. His hectic schedule meant he spoke, took questions and breezed off to his next meeting, occasionally rubbishing the last event he had attended.

In a debate on whether Labour needed to promise a bold, new agenda for its third term, he talked about sustainable energy and the merits or otherwise of wind stations and nuclear power.

The punters wanted to know why he would not abolish the 11-plus and why he was making five and six-year-olds learn the 3Rs when they should be playing.

At his next venue the first thing he did, after locating a glass of red wine, was to contrast the "positive contributions" of the speakers with the earlier "pointless" debate.

Meanwhile at a meeting about sex education in schools, Stephen Twigg, education junior minister, found the Government's new-found fondness for school uniforms under attack.

"These girls' uniforms, they are so provocative. What are you going to do about it?" The famous Twigg smirk was repressed and the question evaded.

Elsewhere, John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, had a more uplifting message, predicting that exam league tables would be scrapped within five years.

"They will increasingly be seen as anachronistic and wither on the vine," he said.

At 10 pm Mr Clarke was still on the circuit, enduring a Parkinson-style interview with The Independent's Steve Richards,.

But after a night on the move, he revealed that he might be happy to remain in at least one place for a long period. Mr Clarke dismissed the suggestion that he wished to become Prime Minister as foolish, saying: "I am very much happier about doing a job that is about changing he education system." So happy in fact, he suggested he would like to go on for another 10 years.

And the slappers? As Margaret Hodge, education minister, dashed on to a meeting held by the YMCA, she expressed surprise when she discovered the title: "Slappers? Teenage mums and moral panic".

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