Chalk talk: Stephen Twigg may still get one last chance to make a mark


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The Independent Online

All the talk has been of cabinet reshuffles in the run-up to the party conference season – but now it looks like they may be delayed until after it is over.

The move will make it an interesting week for Stephen Twigg at the Labour party conference. He has been widely tipped as ripe for reshuffle, so if any shake-up is, indeed, delayed, the conference would seem to be the last chance for him to make his mark.

He tried to make a ground-breaking policy speech a couple of weeks ago but that had to be postponed because of the Syrian crisis. Next week could be the ideal time to revive that.

Still, one cannot help but feel sorry for anyone shadowing Michael Gove. There are just so many initiatives and changes sallying forth from the Education Secretary that all his opposite number seems to do is be reactive.

That having been said, if the rumours about Alan Johnson possibly stepping into the breach are true, then he would add a touch of gravitas (and possibly fun) to the proceedings.

I remember him once recalling how he as minister for higher education and Charles Clarke as Education Secretary launched a "charm offensive" to get legislation on top-up fees for students through the Commons. "I was charming and Charles was offensive," he said.

Sorry to disappoint all Marxists and enemies of promise who read this column. There will be no reshuffle for Mr Gove.

Speaking of Mr Gove, he is very exercised about the state of literacy and numeracy among today's schoolchildren – that is why he is insisting that they should continue studying maths and English if they fail to get C grades at GCSE.

He may be right to worry – but someone needs to take a look at the problem among some who have already left school if a letter from Companies House saying it is "persuing" the directors of an education company that has failed to file its annual accounts is anything to go by.