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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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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