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Letters extra: Election reflections of a Lib-Dem teacher

I feel discouraged by Caroline St John-Brooks' reaction to the near loss of Estelle Morris's seat in the recent election ( TES Opinion, June 15 2001 ). As a teacher and also a Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate I was very disappointed that the Liberal Democrat Candidate in Birmingham Yardley, John Hemmings, who came very close to defeating Estelle Morris did not actually succeed in doing so.

As your other columnist Mike Baker noticed, the Liberal Democrat manifesto had more column inches on education than Labour. We were promising far greater spending on education to improve teacher retention and reduce class sizes. We would abolish the extremely unpopular university tuition fees.

Most teachers seem impressed by the new deals for teachers in Scotland: that is all due to the influence of the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament.

I do wish more people in education would spend a little time finding out who could really improve things for pupils and teachers and not continue to follow the media line that the third political party is not relevant.

If readers think staying up to watch the results on TV was exhausting, but entertaining, towards the end of a teaching week - they should try actually fighting an election themselves on policies they firmly believe in!

As for Estelle Morris having teaching experience - I'd like to point out that Phil Willis our Parliamentary spokesperson on Education was a headteacher and when I listen to him talking I only hear a great deal of good sense and no party dogma or spin.

My own very deep concern about recent events, and my election result as well, is the massive increase in support for the BNP.

It is the kind of support which is alarming. Whilst very many young people are utterly apathetic about politics the BNP is full of committed and articulate twenty-somethings - fairly recent school-leavers.

My own attempts to enlighten the young man standing in Broxbourne (848 votes) resulted in a heated attack on me as a hypocrite who did not bring my children up in London and did not know what it was like.

He meant, surely, that those living in deprived areas lose all their confidence in the system we now have and it is easier for him to blame his neighbours than to see the need to tackle poverty and improve public services.

I wonder myself what festering anger inclusion is leading to in schools when some of our brightest children are just not fulfilling their potential because of the problems created in the class-room by all those pupils with behavioural difficulties - children from every race and background as we know.

The BNP members claim to belong to the party of the future - quite honestly if young people continue to be generally apathetic about mainstream politics - they could be horribly right.

The most ironic (to me) comment that I heard was from a BNP candidate fighting in Hertfordshire County Election who came up to me smiling and said very seriously, 'You really scare me.' He meant it - I had spoken about our policies on asylum and the BNP followers were so frighteningly convinced that they are right that they are almost in a situation of attack in order to defend themselves.

For all kinds of reasons - I do wish that teachers were better informed about the political situation.

Julia Davies
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Broxbourne


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