In the news: Ivan Lewis

June 7, 2002

The audience at Natfhe's conference in Torquay celebrated junior education minister Ivan Lewis's wedding anniversary on Monday with a mass walkout.

It was always going to be difficult. Mr Lewis is minister for young people and learning (basically 14 to 19 education), so further and higher education are not technically part of his brief.

There were suggestions that colleagues had set him up by not briefing him fully on the collapse of talks between the union and further education colleges that could have averted last week's two-day strike.

Mr Lewis is a rising star. At 35, he is one of the younger ministers in the Blair government. Having cut his political teeth as a councillor on Bury Metropolitan Council in the 1990s, he stood for and won Bury South in the 1997 general election. While Bury South is one of the safer Labour seats, Mr Lewis proved his mettle in the 2001 election, when, against the national trend, he increased his majority by nearly 4 per cent to 32 per cent.

Much may be due to his being a local lad. Before the boundary reorganisation in 1974, Bury was part of the County of Greater Manchester. Mr Lewis went to a Manchester grammar school and then to Bury Further Education College, avoiding higher education. He was also chief executive of the Manchester Jewish Federation. For what it is worth politically, he is a Manchester City fan.

His highlights as an education minister have so far included taking a lead on the green paper on 14-to-19 education and, most recently, his declaration of an all-out offensive on drugs in schools.

As former parliamentary private secretary to Stephen Byers when he was trade and industry secretary, Mr Lewis knows that no matter how nasty Natfhe was, things cannot be as bad as they are for his old boss.

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