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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Leader: The unresolved Eurozone crisis

The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving.

The eurozone crisis was never resolved. It was merely conveniently forgotten. The vote for Brexit, the terrible war in Syria and Donald Trump’s election as US president all distracted from the single currency’s woes. Yet its contradictions endure, a permanent threat to continental European stability and the future cohesion of the European Union.

The resignation of the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, following defeat in a constitutional referendum on 4 December, was the moment at which some believed that Europe would be overwhelmed. Among the champions of the No campaign were the anti-euro Five Star Movement (which has led in some recent opinion polls) and the separatist Lega Nord. Opponents of the EU, such as Nigel Farage, hailed the result as a rejection of the single currency.

An Italian exit, if not unthinkable, is far from inevitable, however. The No campaign comprised not only Eurosceptics but pro-Europeans such as the former prime minister Mario Monti and members of Mr Renzi’s liberal-centrist Democratic Party. Few voters treated the referendum as a judgement on the monetary union.

To achieve withdrawal from the euro, the populist Five Star Movement would need first to form a government (no easy task under Italy’s complex multiparty system), then amend the constitution to allow a public vote on Italy’s membership of the currency. Opinion polls continue to show a majority opposed to the return of the lira.

But Europe faces far more immediate dangers. Italy’s fragile banking system has been imperilled by the referendum result and the accompanying fall in investor confidence. In the absence of state aid, the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank, could soon face ruin. Italy’s national debt stands at 132 per cent of GDP, severely limiting its firepower, and its financial sector has amassed $360bn of bad loans. The risk is of a new financial crisis that spreads across the eurozone.

EU leaders’ record to date does not encourage optimism. Seven years after the Greek crisis began, the German government is continuing to advocate the failed path of austerity. On 4 December, Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, declared that Greece must choose between unpopular “structural reforms” (a euphemism for austerity) or withdrawal from the euro. He insisted that debt relief “would not help” the immiserated country.

Yet the argument that austerity is unsustainable is now heard far beyond the Syriza government. The International Monetary Fund is among those that have demanded “unconditional” debt relief. Under the current bailout terms, Greece’s interest payments on its debt (roughly €330bn) will continually rise, consuming 60 per cent of its budget by 2060. The IMF has rightly proposed an extended repayment period and a fixed interest rate of 1.5 per cent. Faced with German intransigence, it is refusing to provide further funding.

Ever since the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, declared in 2012 that he was prepared to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the single currency, EU member states have relied on monetary policy to contain the crisis. This complacent approach could unravel. From the euro’s inception, economists have warned of the dangers of a monetary union that is unmatched by fiscal and political union. The UK, partly for these reasons, wisely rejected membership, but other states have been condemned to stagnation. As Felix Martin writes on page 15, “Italy today is worse off than it was not just in 2007, but in 1997. National output per head has stagnated for 20 years – an astonishing . . . statistic.”

Germany’s refusal to support demand (having benefited from a fixed exchange rate) undermined the principles of European solidarity and shared prosperity. German unemployment has fallen to 4.1 per cent, the lowest level since 1981, but joblessness is at 23.4 per cent in Greece, 19 per cent in Spain and 11.6 per cent in Italy. The youngest have suffered most. Youth unemployment is 46.5 per cent in Greece, 42.6 per cent in Spain and 36.4 per cent in Italy. No social model should tolerate such waste.

“If the euro fails, then Europe fails,” the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has often asserted. Yet it does not follow that Europe will succeed if the euro survives. The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving. In these circumstances, the surprise has been not voters’ intemperance, but their patience.

This article first appeared in the 08 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit to Trump