Hansard 13th Sept 2012:
“John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): Dr Stuart Smallwood, the respected headmaster of Bishop Wordsworth’s school in Salisbury, wrote to me this week to express great concern that strike action has been approved by just over one in five members of the National Union of Teachers. Will my right hon. Friend urge the Education Secretary to bring forward legislation so that there is a minimum threshold before such disruptive action can take place?
Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend and the head teacher of the school in his constituency make an important point. From my conversations with leaders of trade unions over a number of years, I think that when they clearly do not have a compelling mandate for action, they should take that into consideration. I simply urge the teaching unions not to proceed with industrial action. It is not in the best interests of the children, and it is not justified by any grievance that they have brought forward.”
While sharing the concerns about the NUT’s tactics and being fully aware of the deficiencies in our education system, I am not impressed with John Glen or Dr Smallwood’s priorities. I agree that a 1 in 5 vote is not a strong mandate but lets consider the following:
- The conservative party only gained the support of 1 in 4 of the electorate in the 2010 general election.
- The coalition was formed on the basis of a national financial crisis but the ineffective Lib Dem role in the coalition means that the Conservative party is taking the opportunity to push through a radical right wing programme even though it did not win the election and does not have a mandate for its policies.
- Micheal Gove has no relevant experience or qualifications for his role of Education Secretary (unless being sponsored by Rupert Murdoch is a qualifying factor)
- Michael Gove is pushing through radical changes to our education system for which there is no mandate and there has been no rational evidence based justification or debate.
- Andrew Lansley has been responsible for a top down reorganisation of the Health Service which is already resulting in the privatisation of the provision of the service and which has given up responsibility, oversight and long term planning to management consultants and private international health care companies. All this in absolute contravention to promises made in the election. So again no mandate!
In view of these points I humbly suggest that John Glen and Dr Smallwood should apply their logic to the government, i.e.:
When the government clearly do not have a compelling mandate for action, they should take that into consideration. The government should not proceed with policies which are not well thought out and for which the evidential support is anecdotal or non existent. If the government continues to pursue policies with only a 1 in 4 mandate you should insist that they bring forward legislation so that there is a minimum threshold before such ill thought out polices can be introduced.
If the above is implemented and the NUT still insists on taking industrial action then that will be the time to put a minimum threshold on the unions ability to take disruptive action.
UPDate 15th Nov 2012: Police Crime Commissioner elections. In the Wiltshire PCC election less than 7% of those who were eligible to vote, voted for the winner, Conservative Angus Macpherson. So why aren’t the Tories and John Glen pushing for a new law that there is a threshold vote below which PCC elections are null and void. I won’t hold my breath waiting.