Think inside the ballot box

24th November 2006 at 00:00
Genevieve Fay is an English teacher at a Leicestershire comprehensive.

The House of Commons has just one independent MP, Dr Richard Taylor, who in 2001 famously ousted a government minister in protest against the threatened closure of his local hospital. Such single-issue successes are rare, and usually involve a famous face in a white suit or someone trying to save the NHS.

But why should the docs be the only professionals exploiting their frustration? We could use it to massive advantage and create a Parliament of independent former teachers. If you think this might be blue-skies thinking gone a hallucinogenic haze of purple, think again.

Is education a viable single-issue platform? Absolutely. Some 93 per cent of the population have a relative in full-time education. That's a lot of votes. Besides, you're not really single-issue when it comes down to it: you've covered enough physics and geography lessons to get you into the local pub quiz team, so you're actually immensely well-rounded.

What if, as a newly minted MP, I'm invited on Question Time? If you're a teacher who thinks Guantanamo Bay might be a lovely place for your honeymoon, don't panic. You can keep 11Z quiet in sixth period on a Friday afternoon, so you've clearly got the charm to soften the toughest audience.

What about the pay? You'll get a minimum of pound;59,000, double the average teaching salary. That kind of dosh buys a lot of corduroy jackets. What have I got to lose? Five hundred pounds - that's the price of the deposit, but if you get more than 5 per cent of the vote it's refunded. Easy as ABC. To raise your pound;500, hold a couple of let-them-eat-cake stalls and get the kids to pay 50p each to dress as wolves in sheep's clothing.

And when I get elected? Smile, kiss the nearest baby, and then get busy.

You'll decrease class sizes and increase IT facilities, decrease unauthorised absences and increase extra-curricular activities. Before the next reshuffle, every parent, teacher and pupil will really believe that every child matters.

Does standing on a single-issue platform really work? It did for Martin Bell, the BBC man in the white suit, in 1997, and for Dr Taylor, who retained his Wyre Forest seat at the last election. As the doc said: "As soon as voters realise that a vote for the independent candidate is not a wasted vote, they will flock to the cause - if only to register their frustration with the current political scene." You'll be their local indie candidate, with whom they'll affectionately recall discussing the antics of 9B. Oh, such jolly japes. You're worth a cross in their black box anytime.

Do I need to butter up the local press? Yes, but put the butter on expenses. Grab the local headlines by focusing on an education issue particularly relevant to your constituency. If you're in Leicestershire, as I am, focus on payment per pupil because you're at the bottom of the funding pile out of 150 local education authorities.

The leadership team has been advocating the "single conversation". Can I use this if I get elected? Well spotted - you clearly know the benefit of PR and spin. Before you leave school, make sure you copy the mobile numbers and email addresses of parents and students on to your memory stick. You can then set up a community voting system and your empowered constituents will be able to contact you at any hour of the day (or night) with their opinions. Oh, sweet democracy.

And after five years? You'll realise that you can achieve far more as a teacher than an MP. But at least you'll have a few anecdotes to tell 11Z in sixth period on Friday afternoons.

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