'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Have I mentioned that I used to write for the Daily Mail?

I am an advocate for the right of teachers to strike. I realise this is not a popular position in the party - but there we are. My first overtly political act was when aged 14, I wrote a letter to the Daily Mail (incensed by a series of pieces they wrote attacking teachers for threatening industrial action) defending teachers right to strike, which (on reflection, slightly surprisingly), they published under the headline 'Stand Up Teacher'. They also sent me a postal order for £10 (younger readers will be shaking their heads in puzzlement at this reference) and thus my professional career in journalism started and ended ( for now at least).

Over the years my position has remained resolutely unchanged, and even though I am now a Dad with kids affected by the strike ( and they are livid about the whole thing - apart from anything else, the Year 4 sleepover has been cancelled), I see no reason why a group of people with a grievance about a change to their terms and conditions of employment shouldn't be free to withdraw their labour.

I have no truck with the three arguments I hear about why teachers shouldn't be allowed to strike. These appear to be:

1. 'Teachers want to be treated as professionals, so they should act like professionals. Lawyers and Doctors don't strike'.

I've a funny feeling if they paid teachers at the same rate they pay, say, GP's, then they wouldn't be on strike. Pay them like professionals if you want them to act like professionals.

2. 'Teaching strikes hurt the children. They should think of the kids before themselves'.

Sorry, but anyone who doesn't think teachers do what they do because above all else, they love children, is an idiot. Of course they don't want to hurt the children. They don't like doing this. So imagine how strongly they must feel. Funnily enough, if you paid teachers as well as you paid lawyers, you'd have a point here - because there would be a lot of people doing it for the money. But we don't pay them like that - so the people doing it choose teaching because of the children. Don't patronise them by saying they don't care.

3. 'Teachers shouldn't be allowed to strike - they hurt children and inconvenience parents'.

Fine - legislate to withdraw teachers right to strike - but to do that you'll need to pay them differently, like police officers. If you don't want a group of people to be allowed to strike, then you need to ensure their terms and conditions reflect the loss of that right. Anyone willing to do that? No, thought not.

Pay them better. Don't change their terms and conditions. Stop patronising them. And then teachers won't need to strike.

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