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Teacher seeks voters' respect

He teaches lessons every day about the importance of citizenship and is standing in the election for a controversial anti-war party.

But Mark Krantz admits that even he has found it impossible to get his students interested in the election.

The teacher, who is standing for the left-wing Respect party, said his pupils at Lostock college in Manchester had voted against holding their own mock election because they thought it would be dull.

"I wasn't disappointed," he said. "They do not know what a general election is. They do not remember the last one.

"After my election leaflets first went out one of my Year 7 students came in holding one looking really worried.

"She didn't know what it was, but when she saw my name and picture she assumed it was extra homework I'd put through her letter box."

Mr Krantz is the first candidate to stand for Respect in the constituency of Stretford and Urmston, where Home Office minister Hazel Blears has a 11,000 majority.

He hopes to capitalise on resentment in Manchester against the war in Iraq, and has been trying to gain the support of the Muslim community by paying weekly visits to Trafford's mosques.

He said that the war has upset members of all the ethnic groups in his constituency, where 94 per cent of residents are white.

Mr Krantz is also campaigning on local issues, particularly for an end to Trafford's grammar-school system.

Lostock college is a secondary modern in all but name, he said, and his pupils often feel demoralised because they have failed their 11-plus.

"I believed David Blunkett when he said there would be no more selection," he said. "But it's still like the 1950s."

Although he is a passionate opponent of many Labour policies, Mr Krantz believes his lessons on politics are balanced.

"My job is to make sure they can see both sides of the argument, whether we are talking about the war or abortion," he said. "It's not a difficult thing for a trained teacher to do.

"I tell them that they have got to make their own minds up.

"When we discussed the war in Iraq, about 60 per cent of the pupils were against and 40 per cent were in favour."

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