Tories fail to attract teachers' support

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The Independent Online

The Conservatives are facing an uphill struggle to make inroads into teacher support for Labour, the first poll of the profession’s voting intentions in this election shows.

Labour is still in the lead in voting intentions with 25 per cent of teachers saying they will vote for them. This is only two percentage points down on 2005 voting intentions.

The Conservatives are in second place with 18 per cent – which is double the support they had last time.

The poll also reveals for the first time a significant number of teachers – one in ten - saying they will not vote under any circumstances.

In addition, when asked which party would be best for education, one in ten said “they are all as bad as each other” and more than a third said they could not say.

An analysis of the poll, carried out amongst nearly 4,000 teachers for the education charity the Sutton Trust by Ipsos MORI, revealed older teachers were more likely to vote LAbour than younger ones.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said many of them would have “long memories of leaking classrooms and no money for books”.

“They were very poorly paid – as a result many left the profession,” she added.

She said they may also be fearful that Conservative cuts in spending in future would be more brutal than Labour.

The poll is the first sign that the Conservatives may face a public sector backlash for their tough stance on spending cuts.

However, Dr Bousted said she found it “very worrying” that a significant number of teachers had said they would not vote under any circumstances.

“I do think that in their schools and in their communities they are models of citizenship,” she added, “and I do think it is a cop-out not to vote.

“I do think it is incumbent upon teachers to support democratic values.”

Today’s poll showed the Liberal Democrats lagging behind the two main parties with just 14 per cent. Traditionally, third parties have done well in polls of teachers – heading polls in the 1980’s.

The only minority parties to figure in the poll were the Greens with three per cent support and Plaid Cymru with one per cent (and 16 per cent amongst Welsh teachers). No-one said they would vote for Plaid Cymru.

In addition, 15 per cent said they were undecided about how to vote and 14 per cent refused to say.

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