Diary: Blatch buries the hatchet

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The Independent Online
THE EASE with which Baroness Blatch has been deputising for the ailing Secretary of State for Education, John Patten, has led to speculation that she could soon be doing the job permanently. If and when she does receive a call from Downing Street, she will no doubt have the support of the country's parent- teacher associations, which are still bristling with indignation at their treatment by Mr Patten.

Last February, the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations led a campaign against the Government's education reforms, warning of a crisis of confidence in schools. The combative Mr Patten dismissed the organisation's views as 'neanderthal', much to the disquiet of the organisation's spokeswoman, Margaret Morrissey.

Presumably aware of this breakdown in relations, Lady Blatch was quick to act when Ms Morrissey rang her department the other day to ask why she had not been sent a copy of the Dearing report on the future of the national curriculum and assessment. She left her home number, expecting a call back from a minion, but within minutes Lady Blatch herself came through on the phone, remaining there - much to Ms Morrissey's astonishment - for a good half an hour. After reading her almost the entire report, the acting Secretary of State sent her a copy of it, dispatching a bike from London to Gravesend in Kent. To cement relations, Lady Blatch finally invited Ms Morrissey to a meeting at the department at the end of this month, or the beginning of September. Mr Patten is due back at his desk on 23 August. I hope the two don't bump into each other in the corridor.

THE DAY of Mr Patten's scheduled return is also a momentous date for citizens of the town of Cody in Wyoming. Prince Albert of Monaco will ride through the town in a 1910 stagecoach to celebrate the 80th anniversary of a hunting trip undertaken by his great grandfather Louis II of Monaco and Buffalo Bill. 'It's gonna be the biggest thing that's happened here in 80 years,' said one excited citizen. Must be a slow town.

A PAIR IN PROVENCE

With his ministerial career in shreds only months after assuming the garments of power, Michael Mates is still, surprisingly, in contact with one of the men who unwittingly caused his downfall. Two weeks ago, the former Northern Ireland minister was spotted shuffling through a supermarket in St Saturnin-d'Apt, Provence, in the company of Christopher Morgan, Asil Nadir's PR man, who lives in the village.

The two men were evidently sharing a joke, a state of affairs unimaginable a few months ago when Mr Mates came under pressure for borrowing a car from Mr Morgan's partner. He subsequently resigned over his dealings on behalf of Nadir.

Mr Morgan's entertaining of Tory politicians doesn't end there. He is also on good terms with Gerald Malone, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, who, I gather, spent a week at Morgan's house in Provence over the Easter recess.

Malone has tried to distance himself from Nadir, although this newspaper has subsequently reported how Malone spent an evening sipping champagne with Nadir.

Malone likes the high life. He is often to be seen in London's nightclubs with his good friend Andrew Neil, the editor of the Sunday Times, who gave him a job on the paper after he lost his seat in the 1987 general election. He is remembered by former Sunday Times colleagues for the way he arrived in the Wapping office one Saturday afternoon and loftily ordered a secretary to type his handwritten copy because he didn't know how to use the computer.

YOU WOULD not expect it of a man who made his fortune out of fresh fruit and whose neighbours deposit baskets of the stuff at his door each day as a mark of respect. But when a colleague arrived at the Northern Cyprus retreat of Nadir to conduct an interview and asked for a fruit juice, she was surprised to be offered nothing more wholesome than a glass of sweetened, concentrated orange squash.

MODERN ARTIST

Observed, somewhat incongruously, in City Road, London, yesterday: a man painting the railings of the Bunhill graveyard with one hand, while clutching a mobile telephone with the other.

A DAY LIKE THIS

11 August 1940 John Colville, Winston Churchill's private secretary, staying with him at Chartwell, writes in his diary: 'After tea I accompanied the PM to a rifle range nearby, where he fired with his Mannlicher rifle at targets 100, 200 and 300 yards away. He also fired with his revolver, still smoking his cigar, with commendable accuracy. Despite his age, size and lack of practice, he acquitted himself well. The whole time he talked of the best method of killing Huns. Soft-nosed bullets were the thing to use and he must get some. But, said Randolph, they are illegal in war; to which the PM replied that the Germans would make very short work of him if they caught him, and so he didn't see why he should have any mercy on them. He always seems to visualise the possibility of having to defend himself against German troops]'

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