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Finishing touches

Although it has yet to be announced, it seems certain that Ed Vaizey will become Minister for the Arts in the Cameron-Clegg government. Before Ed gets too excited, he should know that it is a lowly job from which no minister in my memory has emerged with much credit.

A middle-ranking civil servant at the Culture Department was telling me the other day about how he was asked to write a paper for a former Minister for the Arts, whose blushes I will spare by withholding his identity. All I need to disclose is that he was a schoolteacher before he went into politics. The official did what was required and was surprised, the following day, to be summoned for a carpeting by the Permanent Secretary of the Department.

‘I have received your paper back from the minister,’ said the PS.

‘Ye-es?’ quavered my guy.

‘It has come back with corrections. In red ink. There appear to be errors of syntax and spelling.’

‘Terribly sorry, Permanent Secretary…’

‘Oh, don’t worry about it, dear boy. The poor minister has nothing better to do. Nothing at all.’

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