Blatch denies promotion rumour

(First Edition)

BARONESS BLATCH yesterday dismissed rumours that she was being groomed to take over from John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, writes Fran Abrams.

Lady Blatch, who is standing in for Mr Patten while he recovers from viral gastro-enteritis, said gossip in the press about her future was the product of the newspaper 'silly season.'

Speaking at the launch of a teacher training scheme at South Bank University, London, she departed from the text of her speech to reply to a comment from the vice-chancellor, Professor Gerry Bernbaum, that her star seemed to be rising.

'It is clear that you have been influenced by the press as it relates to my reputation and my so-called rise.

'I think there is a silly season, and it is rather a long one where I am concerned,' she said.

Since taking over from Mr Patten on a temporary basis last month, Lady Blatch, who as Minister of State for Education is Mr Patten's deputy, has already cancelled league tables for seven and 14-year-olds and ordered a review of the publication of results for 11 and 16-year-olds.

Reports in the past few weeks - denied by his friends - have suggested that Mr Patten's illness could have been stress-induced, and that he might not be fit to return.

Lady Blatch, who has been widely tipped for a Cabinet post, is a long-standing friend of John Major.

(Photograph omitted)