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Tories choose sub-prime beard for maths post

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The Tory party has chosen ex-Countdown presenter and secured loan advertiser Carol Vorderman to provide a public face for the party's "Maths Taskforce".

Vorderman spent nine years shilling for FirstPlus - which offered loans to those with poor credit records. Barclays Bank - which owned FirstPlus - was looking for a buyer for the business; this proved difficult because loans were secured against property, so falling house prices left it at risk of more defaulting customers. Barclays stopped it from taking on new business in July.

She told press today she would look at the maths curriculum and at attracting more people to maths teaching.

Cameron said: "The strongest most exciting argument for maths are gadgets and new technologies... things like Facebook and MySpace couldn't happen without maths... Video games couldn't happen without maths."

Budget expert Martyn Lewis found 90,000 people to sign a petition to stop Vorderman punting the loans. Some 66 MPs also signed an early day motion on celebrity endorsement of such loans. It said debt levels were increasing "due in part to celebrity endorsement of such products, particularly from individuals who are well known for their mathematical skills which gives the impression that such products are financially safe".

The MPs also said there were concerns that rates on such loans were often higher than alternatives and that advertising could be more responsible.

Tony Blair chose Carol Vorderman to head up his maths campaign in 1999. ®

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