Just 12% of teachers would vote Conservative

A new YouGov poll for the National Union of Teachers also shows that 79% believe the coalition's impact on the education system has been negative.

If it often seems as though it's hard to find a teacher with a good word to say about the Tories, it's because so few exist. A new YouGov poll for the NUT (based on a representative sample of 826 teachers) shows that just 12% would vote Conservative in a general election, compared to 43% for Labour and 6% for the Lib Dems. 

Evidence of why is supplied elsewhere in the poll, which found that 79% believe that the government's impact on the education system has been negative, and that 82% of teachers and 87% of school leaders are opposed to the coalition's expansion of academies and free schools. In addition, 74% say that their morale has declined since the election and 70% of head teachers do not feel trusted by ministers to get on with their jobs. Finally, 91% of teachers do not believe publicly-funded schools should be run for profit (a policy Michael Gove has said he would consider introducing under a Conservative majority government) and 93% believe academies and free schools should only employ teachers with Qualified Teacher Status (as Labour has argued).

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: "If David Cameron and Nick Clegg are under any illusions that their education policies are going in the right direction, they need to think again. This survey makes it abundantly clear that both teachers and head teachers do not see their policies as being in the best interests of children or the profession. 

"At a time when teacher morale is continuing to fall, it is extraordinary that the Secretary of State for Education refuses to enter into meaningful negotiations with teaching unions.

"The NUT cannot recall a time over its 144 year history when Government policy has been so roundly condemned by the teaching profession. With a general election round the corner, David Cameron and Nick Clegg need to completely change tack if they are to attract the support of teachers and start improving the life chances of our children and young people."

The Tories' lack of support among teachers is a symptom of their wider unpopularity among public sector workers. The most recent Ipsos MORI poll showed that just 16% of public sector workers support the party, compared to 55% for Labour. If the Tories are to win the next election, they will need to improve their standing among their group. As Renewal, the Conservative group aimed at broadening the party's appeal among working class, northern and ethnic minority voters, has noted, the majority of Tory target seats have a higher than average share of public sector workers, including 60% of Labour-held targets and half of the top 20 Lib Dem-held targets. But while some Tories, such as Robert Halfon and Guy Opperman, are aware of this, their party is still desperately short of policies to appeal to them. 

George Osborne and Michael Gove at the Conservative conference in Manchester last year. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Building peace in a dangerous world needs resources, not just goodwill

Conflict resolution is only the first step.

Thursday 21 September is the UN-designated International Day of Peace. At noon on this day, which has been celebrated for the last 25 years, the UN general secretary will ring the Peace Bell on the UN headquarters in New York and people of good will around the world will take part in events to mark the occasion. At the same time, spending on every conceivable type of weaponry will continue at record levels.

The first couple of decades after the end of the Cold War saw a steady reduction in conflict, but lately that trend seems to have been reversed. There are currently around 40 active armed conflicts around the world with violence and suffering at record levels. According to the 2017 Global Peace Index worldwide military spending last year amounted to a staggering $1.7 trillion and a further trillion dollars worth of economic growth was lost as a result. This compares with around 10 billion dollars spent on long term peace building.

To mark World Peace Day, International Alert, a London-based non-government agency which specialises in peace building, is this week publishing Redressing the Balance, a report contrasting the trivial amounts spent on reconciliation and the avoidance of war with the enormous and ever growing global military expenditure.  Using data from the Institute for Economics and Peace, the report’s author, Phil Vernon, argues that money spent on avoiding and mitigating the consequences of conflict is not only morally right, but cost-effective – "every dollar invested in peace building reduces the cost of conflict".

According to Vernon, "the international community has a tendency to focus on peacemaking and peacekeeping at the expense of long term peace building."  There are currently 100,000 soldiers, police and other observers serving 16 UN operations on four continents. He says what’s needed instead of just peace keeping is a much greater sustained investment, involving individuals and agencies at all levels, to address the causes of violence and to give all parties a stake in the future. Above all, although funding and expertise can come from outside, constructing a durable peace will only work if there is local ownership of the process.

The picture is not wholly depressing. Even in the direst conflicts there are examples where the international community has help to fund and train local agencies with the result that local disputes can often be settled without escalating into full blown conflicts. In countries as diverse as East Timor, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Nepal long term commitment by the international community working with local people has helped build durable institutions in the wake of vicious civil wars. Nearer to home, there has long been recognition that peace in Ireland can only be sustained by addressing long-standing grievances, building resilient institutions and ensuring that all communities have a stake in the outcome.

At a micro level, too, there is evidence that funding and training local agencies can contribute to longer term stability. In the eastern Congo, for example, various non-government organisations have worked with local leaders, men and women from different ethnic groups to settle disputes over land ownership which have helped fuel 40 years of mayhem. In the Central African Republic training and support to local Muslim and Christian leaders has helped reduce tensions. In north east Nigeria several agencies are helping to reintegrate the hundreds of traumatised girls and young women who have escaped the clutches of Boko Haram only to find themselves rejected by their communities.

Peace building, says Vernon, is the poor cousin of other approaches to conflict resolution. In future, he concludes, it must become a core component of future international interventions. "This means a major re-think by donor governments and multilateral organisations of how they measure success… with a greater focus placed on anticipation, prevention and the long term." Or, to quote the young Pakistani winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousufzai: "If you want to avoid war, then instead of sending guns, send books. Instead of tanks, send pens. Instead of soldiers, send teachers."

Redressing the Balance by Phil Vernon is published on September 21.   Chris Mullin is the chairman of International Alert.