Simon Carr: Big Twigg adds weight to Labour's education team

Sketch: Last week the shadow Education Secretary liked free schools. Now he says he is against the policy

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The Independent Online

Nice to see Stephen Twigg filling his suit up like that, an extra stone or two add weight to education spokesmen. Though on yesterday's evidence, it still seems possible to stop him and set him off in the opposite direction without great difficulty. Maybe they have even bigger suits filled with even higher-density advisers back at HQ.

When he was appointed last week we all got the impression that Twigg had a bit of a Blairy thing going on and actually liked the idea of free schools. This was an interesting change of direction for the Opposition. Over the weekend he was reoriented by HQ – now he's for free schools but against the free schools policy. He loves the sinners but hates the sin.

It's a bit of a fine distinction to make at the dispatch box so he stayed well away from it, asking instead a question so lame it was put out of its misery by Nick Gibb. That is a whole new definition of lame.

Gove stood up to accept congratulations for his heroic intervention in the Cardinal Vaughan debacle. He did so in the modest way that British heroes have. His voice was deeper and it suited him. Added weight, it's much under-rated.

He was able to twit Twigg on his flexible position and Twigg showed us he can laugh at himself (there's really no need, considering the volunteers). A Labour MP declared that vocational qualifications were being "frozen out" by the Government. "A curious sort of freezing out," Gove replied considering the 800 per cent increase in said qualifications. He then offered a number of sharp observations on Labour's "unhappy prejudice" against poor children and the "reactionary elements in the Labour Party" that limit the education of working-class children.

He was put down twice. "He is not at the Oxford Union now," the Speaker said, recklessly perhaps. John Bercow has been working on suppressing his loathing of public schools and Tories. His feelings about Oxbridge are next.

Mind you, I have prejudices of my own. Eton setting up a free school for the working class will be a disaster for the middle class. Imagine Etonian plumbers: they'd charge double, take over the house and make us do the plumbing ourselves, under their direction.