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Calling a spade a spade

Betsan Powys | 09:56 UK time, Tuesday, 17 June 2008

"It's like putting a teetotaller in charge of a brewery".

Was the disgruntled voter talking about appointing a Merseyside-born non-Welsh speaker to the cabinet to protect and develop the Welsh language some years ago?

No. He was complaining bitterly about appointing a vegetarian to the job of Agrictulture Minister. Remember Christine Gwyther? Farmers and opposition parties wondered how eloquently she would argue the case for eating good, red Welsh meat if she didn't let the stuff cross her lips herself.

She didn't last very long and had a tough time of it, though farmers and opposition parties will both argue that had less to do with the way she did her job than what she ate.

So does it matter one iota that Andrew R.T. Davies, who's been appointed Shadow Education Minister in the wake of Alun Cairns' resignation, chooses to educate his two eldest children privately?

Is it relevant that the man who will be responsible for "dialoguing" - his word, not mine - with teachers and headteachers, parents who support the principle of choice in educating their children but find it's Hobson's choice more often than not - sends two children to be educated privately?

Let's be clear: he's entirely happy to take on anyone who thinks it is.

But let's be equally clear that it's fair enough to ask the question: why does he send two children to private schools?

The answer is that one child was involved in a bullying incident and the other benefits from a special learning programme at an independent school. His youngest children go to the local state primary, where he's a governor.

But the word that really got Andrew Davies going in the briefing with journalists was 'rich'. 'Rich?' he boomed. 'I see people every day who sweat and slave to pay school fees. They're not rich!'. So does he feel equally able to represent those people who sweat and slave all day but have no chance of scraping together enough to pay school fees? A ready and passionate answer: yes, by fighting for opportunities for everyone, by opening not closing doors, by supporting best practice as he does in every field.

And to anyone who might be tempted to question his faith in the state sector?

"Rubbish!"

A timely reminder from the new Education spokesman that he's a farmer whose hands prove he's picked up more spades in his lifetime to do a proper day's work than anyone else in the chamber.

Another reminder from his leader, Nick Bourne, that Labour might care to run through the list that starts Tony Blair, Ruth Kelly ... before pointing any fingers. Or will they simply decide that as far as the Tory toff line goes, it's once bitten, twice shy?

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