NUT veteran bows out as he came in - all guns blazing

The manner of his exit was typical of his time in charge: after 15 years at the head of Britain's largest teachers' union, Doug McAvoy went out with guns blazing.

The manner of his exit was typical of his time in charge: after 15 years at the head of Britain's largest teachers' union, Doug McAvoy went out with guns blazing.

The former PE teacher, 64, from Newcastle upon Tyne is renowned for his forthright opinions. He has feared no one; often winning more enemies than friends outside the confines of Hamilton House in London, the headquarters of the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

Yesterday, he did not disappoint, with a withering attack on New Labour, his fellow teacher trade unions and the TUC.

Mr McAvoy won his spurs leading the union during the long-running pay disputes of the 1980s, standing in for his predecessor, Fred Jarvis, who had been injured in a hit-and-run accident at the height of the industrial action.

During the 1980 pay battles, he was described by Philip Merridale, the Conservative leader of the country's local authority employers, as Arthur Scargill's "Little Sir Echo'' and ministers and teachers' union leaders have been only too happy to dismiss him as "obstructionist''.

But any attempt to portray him as a left-wing strike-happy union baron is wide of the mark. When he first stood for the NUT's general secretaryship in 1989, it was on a "modernisation'' ticket; long before Tony Blair had ever dreamt of the word. He realised the union's militant image was putting off potential recruits.

One of his first acts was to denounce the union's hard left, claiming at his first annual conference that the NUT was in danger of becoming under the control of the militant tendency. His comments mirrored the then Labour leader Neil Kinnock's attack on the same organisation, when he talked about the "grotesque'' sight of a Labour council sending out redundancy notices by taxi to public service employees. He formed a close relationship with Mr Kinnock, a one-time shadow education spokesman for his party. At that time, he got to know Charles Clarke, the now Secretary of State for Education. The two got on well: they were similar types, often characterised as no-nonsense bruisers who could stand up to anyone at any time.

Now, they hardly have a civil word to say to each other. Mr McAvoy believes Mr Clarke is "childish and immature'' for refusing to talk to the NUT after it became the only union to refuse to sign an agreement to reduce teachers' workload. Mr McAvoy's dislike of Mr Clarke's tactics have produced the spectacle during the past few days of him snuggling up to Tim Yeo, the Tory education spokesman.

Mr McAvoy leaves the NUT without influence in government circles and out of favour with the other five teachers' unions and the TUC. But he inherited a union that faced a financial crisis as the result of dwindling membership. During his reign, membership has risen from an all-time low of 183,000 to more than 250,000 today.

Mr McAvoy leaves office on 28 June.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Recruitment Genius: Qualified Nursery Practitioner - Sevenoaks

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Room Leader - Nursery

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick