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Twigg will join ex-mentor

Karen Thornton, Warwick Mansell, Jon Slater and Cherry Canovan report on the fall-out from Stephen Byers' resignation

Stephen Twigg's moment of fame came when he ousted Michael Portillo from the then safe Tory seat of Enfield Southgate.

With a famous smirk and a swing to Labour of 17.4 per cent, his 1997 victory over the Conservative defence secretary symbolised New Labour's return to the political mainstream.

Last year, he retained his seat, increasing his majority, and was rewarded with the post of deputy Commons leader. He arrives in education as a replacement for John Healey, under secretary of state for adult skills - although the newcomer's exact remit was still being agreed as The TES went to press. Mr Healey is off to the Treasury.

Mr Twigg, 35, was born on Christmas Day and attended Southgate comprehensive school in his Enfield constituency. He is a governor at the school.

The current headteacher, Anthony Wilde, welcomed the appointment, describing his local MP as a "bright bloke".

"I have the highest opinion of him. His ministerial duties have meant he's not attended all the governors' meetings, but he's always offered very active support to the school. He has a real interest in education."

Mr Twigg graduated from Bailliol College, Oxford, in politics, philosophy, and economics, and was the first "out" gay president of the National Union of Students in 1990.

From 1992 to 1997, he was a councillor in Islington, New Labour's spiritual home. A friend of Mr Twigg joked that his career took off in 1996 when he failed to win the leadership of the council by a single vote.

A few years later, Islington became one of the first failing education authorities to be taken over by a private company.

Mr Twigg is a protege of lifelong learning minister Margaret Hodge. He took over her Islington council seat when she became an MP and worked for her in opposition. Like her, he is identified strongly with New Labour. After his own election as an MP, he also sat on the select committee on education and employment.

However, his political life has not been without its ups and downs. Two months after being first promoted from the backbenches, it emerged that he had failed to declare his directorship of a property company which was hoping to develop student accommodation with the help of the Government's private finance initiative.

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