Worm, Inch - Futures Delivery Taskforce
BOUNCING BALLSY: Nobody's seen the education secretary under so much pressure. Ever since the chairman of the education select committee called him a bully he's been rampaging through the Department, punching things and shouting. He wants the press office to restore his public image as an affable, blokey idealist who looks a bit like Ewan McGregor's heavier brother. A trembling woman called Karen from Media Outreach has come to beg for our help: "He said if we didn't get some good press by the end of the week he'd give me a Chinese burn ... ". We're happy to help. Our think tank has dwindled to three people and we're supposed to be struggling with workload. But all top-level activity is now focused on "legacy" matters - thinking up expensive educational reforms, then scheduling them to start at the end of May next year. We need to look busy. Rehabilitating Ballsy might keep us in a job.
FIGHTING TALK: Ballsy's a) quite butch and b) quite unscrupulous. He would probably beat The Gove in a car park fight. Maybe entice them both into a televised debate about education on one of those shouty, vulgar channels? Plant some awkward questions about Ballsy's own education at a private boys' school and his membership of the Conservative Association at university? Encourage him to do that irritating theatrical scowl and wait for the inevitable escalation into Ugly Incident? Karen's not sure physical violence would go down very well with parents, or help to quell the bullying rumours.
HOMEWORK: Maybe we could play up his "family man" persona. As the ever-dependable Sandra points out, he loves home. She's sure she read something about how he and his missus have at least two. "Maybe we could have one At Home With Ed feature in Hello! and get OK! to do a second one in the other place." On reflection, we agree that's best left alone. They'll only want to be poking about in his "Den". God knows what they'd find.
ONE OF US: A direct appeal to voters? He could go to football matches etc but it would mean smiling a lot. Karen says he can only do a minute or so at a time. Maybe he could publicly pledge to redouble Labour's original 1997 commitment to schools by repeating the word "education" FIVE times. This would factor in "platitude inflation" but may make him look ridiculous.
ED MASTER: We think his best bet is to build a fan base within the profession. With a general election round the corner, teachers ought to realise how much worse things could be. Karen's sold: she's off to organise a T-shirt for Ballsy with I AM NOT LORD MANDELSON on it.