Chalk Talk: You don't have to be angry to join the NUT, but it helps


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The Independent Online

Unions, it is sometimes said, are a broad church, made up of members with a vastly differing array of opinions.

You would have been hard pressed to come to that conclusion down at the seaside in Torquay over the Easter weekend, where opposition to the National Union of Teachers' declared war with the Government over pay, pensions, shortening summer holidays, academies and free schools and school inspections seemed confined to just two delegates – Simon Horne from Haringey, north London and John Blake, from Newham, east London who felt duty bound to speak to almost every motion.

In Simon's case, he had a hard act to follow – his father was Malcolm "Foggy" Horne, who spoke up for the union's more moderate executive in the days when power was more equally shared between the rival factions. In Malcolm Horne's case, speak up he did. His voice was so loud that one day when they were discussing spending £1m on a new communications system, one delegate said: "Why do we need to spend all this money when we can just stick 'Foggy' on the roof instead?"

The union is a broad church out there in the real world, though, I learnt at the weekend. One member told me of how, when he was carrying a banner on the day of the mass pensions strike, a teacher came up to him and said: "Are you from the NUT?" After he had replied in the affirmative, the teacher said: "So am I. I'm from Eton." I wonder what that teacher would have made of the Easter weekend debates. You never know.