Diary

24th February 1995 at 00:00
The uneasy truce which has reigned supreme in the National Union of Teachers' Hamilton House bunker has, Carborundum is delighted to report, been replaced by the more usual condition of fear and loathing.

The current animosity dates back to the election of President Steve "Squeaky Clean" Sinnott as deputy general secretary, ousting sitting tenant and left-wingers' darling Mary Hufford.

This left a three-month vacancy for a president until the annual conference, duly filled by moderate Pat "Stop the veal exports" Hawkes who, usefully, had previous form in the job. She was not elected unopposed: the hard left put up their own candidate, Christine Blower - curiously, after arguing that there was no need to appoint a president for that period.

With Pat elected, life was getting too dull for some members of the national executive. A diligent search of the rule book revealed that once she handed over the chain of office to John Bills in Blackpool at Easter, Mrs H - a Sinnott supporter - would become ex-president and therefore a union officer for a year (together with a president, two vice-presidents and one other ex-president). Time for an executive by-election, therefore, as under NUT rules you can't be an officer and on the executive. "It was nothing personal, " insists political veteran Pat cheerfully.

But at this point the plot not so much thickens as congeals. Mrs Hawkes can remain president and on the executive, because the government says so. The reason is that under some obscure clause of union legislation, she can't become ex-president, and so the NUT will have to scrape by on just one ex-president for 1995.

Curiously, this is the only point on which she sounds even vaguely miffed. "We had a perfectly sensible rulebook which has been messed up by Government laws," she gripes. Confused? Carborundum certainly is.

Unbelievably, this isn't the only surviving repercussion of the Sinnott election, a battle fought so ferociously that even the Teachers' Benevolent Fund - an organisation which could be described as the Queen Mum of the warring union - found itself embroiled.

Regular readers will recall that incident whereby pro-Sinnott letters were sent out of TBF offices in Hamilton House - not, however, on official headed paper - and three employees later fell on their swords.

Feelings are still running high, and a protest is planned at the annual conference in Blackpool, whose local TBF officers will not be running their usual tombola and raffle on the stall this year (although they may draft someone else in to do it). So there.

When John Major revealed his dreams of an England with warm beer, cricket matches and old ladies cycling to Evensong, Carborundum suspects he might also reserve a place for coves like Vivian Anthony, doyen of the Head Masters' Conference.

Recently, Mr Anthony was detained at a lengthy governors' meeting in sunny Macclesfield and, emerging, found himself in urgent need of refreshment. Driving home, he saw as if in a mirage the golden arches of McDonald's and realised it was the answer to his prayers.

Striding within, he approached the fresh-faced teenager behind the counter and ordered a toasted teacake and a cup of tea. The McServer blinked, and explained patiently: "We serve hamburgers." Mr Anthony was not tempted, and requested an audience with the manager.

The McManager appeared, and listened to his less-than-happy McCustomer. And then the noble art of McCompromise sizzled into view, when it dawned on the pair that if Mr Anthony was prepared a Big Mac or similar item sans burger, lettuce, cheese, gherkin, tomato sauce and mayonnaise but with the bun lightly toasted, as per usual, it would not be a million McMiles from the teacake requested.

Meanwhile, Carborundum suggests that anyone so apparently unaware of McDonald's menu has a bright future as a High Court judge.

A Machiavelli's work is never done. That seems the only explanation for the phone calls received by lecturers' union NATFHE from employers' boss Roger Ward while he was on holiday over its refusal to go to arbitration. Unless, of course, he simply wanted to taunt the leatherjackets by casually dropping into the conversation the fact that he was calling from a beach in St Lucia.

NATFHE currently hold the distinction of being the only TUC-affiliated union ever to refuse to go to conciliation after the employers and Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service have agreed to it. In tones of horror, the ACAS man remonstrated: "Even Arthur agreed to go to ACAS eventually."

An early spot of spring cleaning was decreed at the Office for Standards in Education recently, with several lucky types detailed to clear the basement of their new home in Alexandra House, Kingsway. Dusty but triumphant, they emerged clutching a yellowing document which has sent a shiver down the spines of the super-stitious.

Dated February 14 1939, it details the planned move of the Board of Education from Whitehall to Alexandra House in Kingsway four days later.

Gulping bravely, a mole recounts the short but eventful history of OFSTED: "We moved into Elizabeth House once the Department for Education had moved out. And now we discover that the DFE's predecessor was here before us. It's a bit unnerving. . ."

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