Myth of union's 'Left takeover'

19th April 1996 at 01:00
It is with some bemusement that I have read features in most national newspapers this week concerning the alleged Left takeover of the National Union of Teachers annual conference.

Members of conference, the NUT's sovereign body, did vote overwhelmingly against executives proposals for altering the democratic structure of the Union. The proposal was to wrest control from the elected representative assembly, replacing decisions made after balanced debate with ballots of the members.

Our experience of such ideas in practice during the past few months has been limited to receiving closed bland questions whilst the accompanying ballot material has presented only one view - that of the general secretary. Ballot returns decreased during the period to around 19 per cent of the "electorate" whilst over 90 per cent of members were represented in votes at annual conference. It was the overwhelming view of delegates that such methods do not increase democracy, but in fact, place power in the hands of those controlling the ballot and other election material - the general secretary and Broad Left executive members.

The increasing support of views opposed to those of the ruling clique in the NUT has been as a direct result of the burgeoning impotence of our union in fighting worsening conditions for both students and staff over the past 10 years.

Equally it would be noted that while the Left's preferred salary motion was defeated there was unanimous support for such issues as opposition to the Office for Standards in Education and nursery vouchers. This surely indicates that delegates listen to debates and vote accordingly.

It is ironic that Left teachers are being cited as undemocratic only now that there is a weight of feeling against the Broad Left's policies.

When the executive controlled conference there appears to have been no need to "increase" democracy in the way Doug McAvoy is proposing.

Sadly, as increasing numbers of democratically elected conference delegates have shown disagreement with the ruling clique, so we have been publicly harangued.

CHRIS JENKIN Deputy general secretary Waltham Forest NUT Education Centre Queens Road, London E17

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