In training for the treasury

30th March 2007 at 01:00

There's no doubt Gordon Brown has the common touch when it comes to younger people and it appears he enjoyed his visit to Lewisham College last week, apparently proving a real hit with students.

The question, of course, is whether the man by his side during the visit - Education Secretary Alan Johnson - will be his deputy prime minister if he ever gets to Number 10.

All that was far from the minds of the students, of course. They were busy training to work for the Treasury. After all, we all work for the Treasury these days and you've got to hand it to Gordon for letting us keep some of the money to spend on ourselves.

Of course, all Chancellors will be accused of bleeding us dry. At least Gordon has the human touch. The best thing about him is that he knows that politics - and politicians - are essentially pretty dull as far as the youth of Britain are concerned.

And, despite his reputation for being a bit, well, boring, he positively shines when he is among teenagers and, perhaps understandably, appears to have much more time for them than journalists.

I remember him attending a conference promoting apprenticeships at a posh department store in the west end of London a few years ago, when a group of teenagers were stationed in the front row so he could make eye contact with them in front of the cameras.

This is known as a "photo opportunity" - where a politician and a group of bewildered members of the public, high on the novelty of meeting someone they've seen on telly, even if they can't quite put a name to the face, smile vacantly for the cameras.

"Sorry you've had to listen to all these boring speeches," he told one of the young apprentices as he posed with them, "but at least you'll be able to go shopping when this is over."

Of course, Alan Johnson is pretty handy with the one-liners too, having once said there'll be no "pouch of fairy dust" for FE. Thanks to the Budget, however, I suspect there'll be plenty of fairy dust in future, especially from those of us who courageously drive around Suffolk in our gas-guzzlers raising money for the Treasury.

I hope Mr Johnson will sprinkle some of it on colleges - and that at least a drop or two lands in the pay packets of lecturers.

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