There's life in the cockney campaigner yet

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The Independent Online

The former general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Fred Jarvis, celebrated his 90th birthday at the weekend.The invitation to the party was eye-catching: "Gove's gone, but I'm still here!" it said.

Jarvis was general secretary of the NUT between 1975 and 1989 – quite a turbulent time in the union's history, with major disputes over pay in the 1980s leading to industrial action.

He has been barely less active during his retirement, though. He attends most of the major education conferences and is usually first in the queue with an incisive question when the speaker takes contributions from the floor.

Outside of education, his two loves are photography – he had an exhibition of his work shown at the TUC headquarters in Central London in 2010 – and West Ham United football club. (If they had been playing a home game on Saturday, it's quite possible he would have turned up late for his own party.)

Latterly, he has been busy writing a recent biography, You Never Know Your Luck – Reflections of a Cockney Campaigner for Education. In it, he didn't stint on his objections to former Education Secretary Michael Gove's reforms, declaring: "I do not want to get off the education bus, even if it is in danger of being driven over the cliff by an obsessed ideologue."

A few weeks after its publication, the man he was referring to was driven over the cliff himself, metaphorically speaking – although the two events are thought to be unconnected.

Jarvis also did not hold back on advice for his union, claiming that hard-left factions were attempting to carry out a Militant Tendency-style operation to push it into an escalation of strike action. He has been considerably cheered in recent weeks on hearing that the union's centre-left is fielding a candidate to challenge for the position of the union's deputy general secretary this year.