Both John Major and Tony Blair should resist the temptation to trawl for easy votes by talking tough about teachers, particularly if they are serious about winning the confidence of the middle class.
Radio 4 listeners, who perhaps epitomise the bourgeoisie better than any other group of people, apparently believe that teachers are doing a pretty good job and do not deserve the odium heaped upon them through the media. By contrast, other professions - lawyers, bankers, journalists, politicians - deserve everything they get and worse.
Radio 4's In the Dock series, which ran during the summer, put six professions on trial and called on leading representatives as witnesses for the prosecution or the defence. Teachers were the only ones who managed to win their case. They were accused of letting children down and general slacking. The chief witnesses were Ted Wragg and Chris Woodhead (no prizes for guessing which sides they were on). At the end of the programmes the studio audience delivered its verdict, and this was followed by a phoned-in verdict from the listeners.
While teachers topped the league table with 68 per cent of listeners believing that they do a good job, bankers came bottom; 92 per cent of listeners agreed with the charge that they are short-term profiteers and only 8 per cent thought they looked after customers' interests. None of the high-street banks agreed to take part in the programme, which was probably just as well.
Overall, the response from listeners was good, with up to 5,000 each week making the effort to phone in their vote. While the results should encourage teachers and depress politicians, it is perhaps worth wondering whether the former would have come top if set against traditionally "sacred" professionals like nurses, vets, airline pilots, firemen and nuns.
Charge: They areshort-term profiteers -92 per cent agreed Defence: They look after customers' interests -8 per cent agreed(5,000+ calls)
Charge: They are inefficient, overpriced and hinder the cause of justice - 74 per cent Defence: They do agood job - 26 per cent (3,000+ calls)
Charge: They fail tohold Government to account and rush through badly thought-out laws - 95 per cent Defence: They look after constituents - 5 per cent (3,500+ calls)
Charge: They will do anything to sell papers -85 per cent Defence: They have a sense of decency -15 per cent(3,000+ calls)
Charge: They are party-political placemen, accountable to no one - 91 per cent Defence: They are really nice people - 9 per cent (3,500+ calls)
Charge: They are letting down our children -32 per cent Defence: They do agood job - 68 per cent (4,000+ calls)