30 years ago

16th December 2005 at 00:00
Iain Thorburn reported on "the year of the affable conjuror" (TESS, December 19, 1975): Last Sunday saw the end of a significant week in what has been a remarkable year for teacher politics in Scotland. The decision of the Educational Institute of Scotland special general meeting to depart from the single scale and common maximum pay policies adopted in June may have been "the culmination of a significant debate", to use the words of Mr John Pollock, the union's general secretary.

It was also a resounding defeat for the union's militants, whose policy on conditions of service had a few days previously been defeated in the contract referendum.

A year ago, the militants were making all the running in the EIS . . . Now the work-to-rule is over and the pay issue no longer threatens to split the union. Leading militants have been assimilated into the power structure they attacked so bitterly.

The process is bound to be associated with Mr Pollock's first year in office. But how, if at all, as he contributed to the process?

His public style is that of a leader engaged in a delicate balancing act like Mr Harold Wilson (then Prime Minister). He has his trouble with his left wing, and in the June pay policies he had his Clause Four. But he has perhaps proved even better than Mr Wilson at acrobatic tightrope walking - and as good as Mr James Callaghan (his Foreign Secretary) at being nice.

He is also something of a conjuror. Mr Docherty (of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association) runs his union like a puppet-master and has a cutting, logical style. Mr Pollock, by comparison, seems to lack - or not to want - any grasp of detail: to be inconsistent, illogical and even blind to the tactical import of what he says. But in some mysterious way he has triumphed and there is surely much more than luck behind him.

The EIS were divided when he took them over and, six months later, looked as if they might split. Now the EIS have more members than ever and seem set to consolidate their strength.

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