With friends like these ...

AS WE said last week, teachers were right to demonstrate against Labour’s education spokesperson, David Blunkett, at the conference of the National Union of Teachers. He has the nerve to suggest that ‘failing’ schools should be closed down and their ‘bad’ teachers sacked.

Overwhelmingly the problem is under-resourced schools and over-stressed teachers, so how is it that the NUT leadership is allowed to get away with not merely maintaining a diplomatic silence over Blunkett’s outrageous statement, but actually engineering a standing ovation at a fringe meeting for him? The union bureaucrats threatened to discipline the protesters and openly encouraged disciplinary action by local education authorities.

You would perhaps be forgiven for believing that the left would throw its weight completely behind the demonstrators who shouted their protests at Blunkett and would condemn the attacks on union members by Tories, Labour and the union leadership itself.

You would be wrong. Militant described the protest - mainly by Socialist Workers Party teachers - as “an ill-timed action ... to divert the attention of the conference and the public from the real issue - class sizes” (April 21).

This is pathetic nonsense. Jobs are “the real issue”. When teachers are sacked - or simply not replaced as a result of cuts - then class sizes rise. Workers and their children are all being attacked in this way.

Socialist Worker (April 22), while fully backing the demonstrators, ‘forgets’ to mention that the SWP was involved at all. This is a shamefaced retreat in the face of bureaucratic attacks.

The truth is that the demonstrators did not go far enough in their chanted slogan, “Sack the Tories, not the teachers”. Even when Labour goes one step further than the Tories, most of the left insists on portraying the Labour Party as the lesser evil. That is why the SWP limited its protest to anti-Tory chants, and why Militant Labour thinks that any anti-Labour protest is going too far.

Alan Fox