Time, please;Diary

5th February 1999 at 00:00
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers may enjoy a moderate reputation (too moderate in the view of some members), but its election for general secretary has taken a decidedly immoderate turn.

In a surprising interview with the Sunday Telegraph, challenger Gill Sage gets down to the basics of the campaign, with allegations about the incumbent's drinking habits and the size of his expense account.

"Peter Smith likes a drink," she says, tartly. "I'm not against drinking, but not during working hours." For good measure, she adds: "Long lunches should be a disciplinary offence." Whoops - there goes her support in the education press corp; if she wins, expect the ATL's already low profile to fall even further.

Mr Smith is unimpressed when the Diary calls. He asks for a message to be passed on, offering apologies in advance: "When next I have lunch with any of your colleagues, tell them not to be surprised if the first thing I do is put my stopwatch on the table."

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