Tory eggheads' gender confusion

13th August 2004 at 01:00
The Conservative research department, the Tory party's in-house think tank, once sent shivers of fear through its political opponents.

The department was the intellectual engine of the party. Grandees such as Enoch Powell, Nigel Lawson and Michael Portillo spent their early years there and the party's reinvention of itself in the run-up to Margaret Thatcher's 1979 triumph was plotted in its hothouse atmosphere.

It is precisely such a well-oiled machine that today's ailing Tory party needs. But is the modern department up to it? A CRD paper, entitled the Disruptive Pupil Dossier, arrived at The TES this week, claiming to expose the destructive effects of Labour's discipline policy.

The evidence, however, was somewhat undermined by the fact that the famously thorough CRD researchers seemed to think that Chris Keates, the distinctly feminine acting general secretary of the NASUWT, was a bloke.

Worse, they were quoting from an article the leader of the second largest teachers' union wrote for The TES just two weeks ago which had been accompanied by her photograph.

A party spokeswoman dismissed the mistake as a "mere spelling error" but Chris, who is married to a Tory councillor, seemed less than impressed: "If this is representative of the quality of their research department then it doesn't bode well for the stats they produce," she said. "I obviously made a great impression on their education spokesman Tim Collins when he spoke at the NASUWT annual conference!"

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