Peep's diary

November 16, 2007

Denham's not mad enough

Some say politics is just showbusiness for ugly people and, like showbiz personalities, there's nothing politicians hate more than being ignored. So spare a thought for John Denham, the Universities Secretary, who was described this week by the impressionist Rory Bremner as too dull to satirise. He told The Sun : "There are less colourful characters in this Government now. There are one or two, like Boris Johnson and Oliver Letwin who are rather gratifyingly mad, but doing John Denham or John Hutton is difficult."

Christmas compassion

It's November but the Christmas spirit is in evidence at Exeter University. Not only have managers decided to give staff a Christmas gift on top of a bonus (given if financial targets are met), but 140 staff have opted to donate their gift to charity. The options were wine, champagne, chocolate or books (a choice of The Nature of Britain by Alan Titchmarsh or Saving Planet Earth by Tony Juniper), or to donate £25 to a local homeless charity. With half the 2,800 forms back, the charity has gained £3,500. Incredibly, 50 people plumped for the Titchmarsh book.

Quality confusion

Robert Pearce, vice-chancellor of the University of Wales Lampeter, is off to India this month. He will speak about quality assurance arrangements in Britain at a conference sponsored by the British Council. The trip has raised eyebrows among those who recall that the Quality Assurance Agency gave the university a "limited confidence" rating this year. More surprisingly, Professor Pearce was nominated to give the speech by the chief executive of the QAA.

Decisively indecisive

Ian Pearson, the Science Minister, is showing a penchant for cryptic poetic wisdom along the lines of the "known knowns" and "unknown unknowns" made famous by Donald Rumsfeld, the former US Defence Secretary. Pearson's subject? Decisive indecision. Giving his first major science policy speech last week at the Sir Gareth Roberts science policy lecture, the minister explained: "It is just as much a decision not to take a decision on something as it is to actually make a positive decision."

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