Didn't Winston Churchill once say: 'In defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity'? Perhaps you should think about taking his advice before you lead the National Union of Teachers' troops back into the fray.

Last year's teachers' boycott of national curriculum testing must have been the most successful piece of industrial action in years. You had parents on your side and you had headteachers on your side. You even had support from right-wing Tories who said the tests and the curriculum had become too unwieldy.

The result was a humiliating climbdown by ministers, the appointment of Sir Ron Dearing to slim down the curriculum and rewrite the tests, and hearty, magnanimous applause from all the teachers' organisations - except yours.

This week your annual conference voted unanimously to continue its boycott, despite the decisions of the two other main teachers' unions to withdraw from their action.

Now, I know you're in a difficult position, what with your re-election as general secretary coming up, and with a rather large and vocal minority of left-wingers in the union to whom you need to display your political credentials.

But couldn't you have stepped back for a minute to think about how the rest of the world sees things?

Most people haven't got a clue what all this is about. As far as they are concerned you were upset about the tests, you took action and you won. So why didn't your conference spend Easter weekend celebrating? A teaching profession which was united in its opposition to these tests now seems to be letting minor differences tear it apart.

Parents who supported your cause last year will not do so again if they think you are just trying to score political points or to secure your own future.

I know you will tell me the tests are still educationally flawed. I know you will also say that they are going to be used to draw up divisive and misleading league tables and that they could lead to the reintroduction of selective education.

But if you stopped accusing other unions of 'cuddling up' to ministers and did a little bit more of that yourself, maybe the force of your arguments would get through to them. There would always be the option of more industrial action, with public backing, if you failed.

Let's get this straight: you aren't going to win any more concessions from the Government. You are going to give ministers an excuse to indulge in boot-boy tactics to make sure the tests go ahead. And you will give the Tory party another chance to say that the NUT is a dinosaur organisation which is out of touch with the real world.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments