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The Independent Online
Clare Short, 50, MP for Ladywood, Birmingham, and the Shadow Minister for Overseas Development, has recently been reunited with her son, Toby.

Brownie points? I was a Sixer in the Brownies. In the Guides, my friend Liz and I collected hundreds of badges. For Golden Hand, you knitted socks with four needles, and tied knots, which I can still do. For Pathfinder, you had to read a map and cycle round the streets. For Thrift, you made a blanket out of bits and pieces, and saved a certain amount of money.

Top of the form? At junior school we used to sit in rows, from the so- called cleverest to the so-called least clever. I sat at the top of the top row, next to my friend Rita; I was a bit better at English and she was a bit better at Maths.

Secondary class? Out of 44 girls in the class, I was the only one that passed the 11-plus, which is why I'm against that exam. I went to St Paul's, the girls' Catholic grammar school in Birmingham.

O-levels? We all laughed when John Major said he couldn't remember how many O-levels he had - but how many did I get? I think it was seven. I got a prize - a bound copy of Shakespeare - for my 80 per cent marks in Scripture.

Erratum slip? I failed O-level Latin, which I only took because the teacher tried to persuade me not to, while at the same time encouraging people who had lower marks than me in the mocks.

A-levels? I left school and went to the local college of commerce. I took English and History, with I think a B and a C, in one year. I was going to take another two subjects in the following year, but Keele offered me a place, so I went up at 17.

An even Keele? Before you started your degree there was a stupendous first year of Liberal Studies. But then I transferred to Leeds.

Why? For various personal reasons that you will have heard about ...

To what degree? A 2.1 in Political Science. At the end of my first-year exams, I asked, "How did I do?" and they said I had won the Wheeler Memorial Prize (I didn't know there was one).

Higher? I started an M Phil at Leeds, with the aim of moving on to a PhD. I did a lot of work for a year or so but then thought I had better get a job.

Not more examinations? I then took the exams to go into the Civil Service; I did quite well: not the sort of marks that got you into the Treasury, but into the Home Office, where I wanted to be.

Any more glittering prizes? A few years after becoming an MP, I won the Spectator "Campaigner of the Year" award - a rose bowl and four bottles of whisky.