Union blues

THEY were bound to come to blows and they duly did. Tuesday's debate between the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers on professional unity must have set the cause back years.

It all started so well - Doug McAvoy of the NUT invoking the spirit of solidarity against the common enemy, Nigel de Gruchy carefully pointing out historic differences of opinion. All very polite.

(Doug magnanimously wants to dissolve his union and start again with a brand new one representing all teachers - to get the militants off his back, cruel wags suggest. Nigel, who reckons he gets better press on his own, wants nothing to do with it.) Maybe the floor speakers got to them - at times it sounded like internecine warfare was breaking out in staffrooms across the land. But when it came to summing up, the gloves were off. "The NUT is a bad union," Nigel said baldly. "It's divided among itself."

Doug's response was a tart history lesson of his own. The NUT can't be that bad, he said: "Nigel tried to join the NUT not as a teacher but as an official. "

He didn't get the job though.

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