Minister's gangster wrap?

September 19, 2003

Alan Johnson, the new higher education minister, last week gave a unique insight into government decision-making.

Asked how he was going to help the poorest students facing annual tuition fees of up to £3,000, Mr Johnson told journalists at the Universities UK conference: "It's difficult, but we ought to put wet towels round our heads and really think hard."

In the absence of evidence that this is an accepted idiom, The Diary is perplexed. Perhaps the towel has a cooling effect on fried brains. Or maybe it simply deadens extraneous noise and distractions. Possibly ministers like to meet in steam rooms, in the manner of TV mobsters, to discuss business.

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