Promoted by David Beale, 36 Pleasant View, Withnell, Chorley PR6 8SE on behalf of Martin Powell-Davies of TUSC.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Whoever wins the election, teachers will have to fight for education

My final speech to NUT Conference today was also the last speech in the very final policy debate, seconding an amendment to the motion on 'General Election 2015'.

I pointed out that many teachers will be hoping that 2015 will see the back of Gove and this Government. However, many teachers also recognise that, if Labour are elected, then the Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, has already made clear that there may be very little change in policy direction. He has been quoted as saying that there is little point in changing 'reforms that in certain situations build actually rather successfully on Labour Party policy'.

So, whoever wins, the Union will need to campaign hard for our policies up to - and after - the General Election. Parties that we used to rely on to offer a different approach to the Tories can, regrettably, no longer be relied upon.

This is an international phenomenon, not just in Britain. That's why I warned Conference that, if Labour is elected, but then maintains the current policy of cuts and privatisation, it risks its support collapsing, just as Hollande and the PS have seen in France.

In those circumstances, whatever the individual political allegiances of various delegates, I think we would all recognise that there would be an even greater need for parties that offer genuine hope of an alternative to voters. If not, there is a real danger that voters are otherwise enticed by parties that offer only prejudice. 

The amendment was agreed unanimously.

Former Labour MP, and TUSC Chair, Dave Nellist addresses the Socialist Party Fringe Meeting

During the debate, and perhaps showing that my challenge for NUT General Secretary is not far from the minds of other Union colleagues, I got a second 'name-check' in Conference speeches from those who are certainly not backing my stand!

Today's mention was more in jest, but yesterday's mention was a more barbed sideswipe from Fred Jarvis, former NUT General Secretary, about my 'standing' in the press. In fact, as anyone who follows this blog knows, I have a consistent record in the press and media, and I think I am known as someone who can clearly set out my views on how best to defend teachers and education. Unfortunately, Fred, as overheard when he was briefing a BBC Newsnight journalist in preparation for a feature they appear to be running tonight, seemed happy to criticise other members of his Union.

However,  attacks on socialists in the NUT - and the sensationalist reports of a "highly organised minority of hard-left members" 'tightening their grip' on the Executive' in today's Times - are attacks on the Union as a whole.  

Yes, four members of the Socialist Party have just been elected to the NUT Executive. However, we sit on an Executive alongside other teachers with a range of political affiliations - many with no political affiliation at all. But is it really such a sensation that many leading trade unionists are also socialists? There has always been a strong current of socialist ideas in the trade union movement, and rightly so.

Those who want to mount a 'red-scare' in the NUT need to remember that none of us have been 'parachuted' into office. We have been elected by classroom teachers in a postal ballot where union members had a chance to democratically decide which candidate provided the clearest leadership. Should it really be a surprise that, faced with attacks on children's education, cuts to pay and pensions and ever more impossible levels of workload, more teachers are backing candidates that propose a more determined action strategy?

Teachers have democratically voted to elect more supporters of the Local Associations National Action Campaign, the campaign body of which I am the elected convenor. However, LANAC is not a body based on any particular political views. It is united by a belief that the Union needs to mobilise around clear demands, demands which can be won through developing a clear calendar of escalating strike action. 

More to the point, perhaps there is a growing recognition - and hence perhaps the consequent 'red-scare' - that a majority of NUT members voting this June might also make the same choice and support my stand to be the next NUT General Secretary.

Another packed LANAC meeting at NUT Conference - this one on Monday

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