“They said that I should lose my ideals and begin to believe in the methods of practical politicians. Now, I have not lost my ideals in the least; my faith in fundamentals is exactly what it always was. What I have lost is my old childlike faith in practical politics… I believe in Liberalism. But there was a rosy time of innocence when I believed in Liberals.”
G.K. Chesteron, Orthodoxy
Last year, Andrew Old announced he was stepping down as editor of Labour Teachers. He asked if any of the regular contributors wanted to take over: I assume I was the only one who replied in the affirmative. This must have been the case, because my reply was not especially enthusiastic: “if you can’t find anyone else, come back to me.” Come back to me he did, and this is the relaunch.
I was apprehensive about taking over the website, because I feel about Labour the way Chesterton felt about Liberalism. My commitment is to the core political ideals of the party’s foundation: the common good over private interests; fairness; social mobility. I believe in these ideals completely, and my career in teaching has daily demonstrated their veracity to me. I am much less intrigued by the party itself, and although I have been a member for over a decade now, I have only sporadically been ‘active’.
This lack of interest is compounded by my belief that much of the debate, in blogs and on twitter, that surrounds the Labour Party is not useful. It often refers to issues peripheral to the core aims of the party, or topics that are actively harmful to the successful implementation of them. The pro/anti Corbyn civil war is a distraction that does neither side any credit, and only serves to bolster the ambitions of rival parties. I did not, and do not, want to be a participant in this. To defer to Chesterton again:
“The net result of all our political suggestions, Collectivism, Tolstoyanism, Neo-Feudalism, Communism, Anarchy, Scientific Bureaucracy–the plain fruit of all of them is that the Monarchy and the House of Lords will remain. The net result of all the new religions will be that the Church of England will not (for heaven knows how long) be disestablished. It was Karl Marx, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Cunninghame Grahame, Bernard Shaw and Auberon Herbert, who between them, with bowed gigantic backs, bore up the throne of the Archbishop of Canterbury… As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of earth will be exactly the same. No ideal will remain long enough to be realised, or even partly realised.”
So, why am I taking on the responsibilities as editor of Labour Teachers? Because, although I am weary of tiresome factionalism, I remain inspired by our core values. Whilst I am disinterested in party politics, I am passionate about education. And I believe that I am not alone. This website can play a crucial democratic role. It can link the lived experience of the thousands of Labour supporting educators with policy-makers and politicians within our party.
We are on the front line; we are at ‘the chalk-face’. We see clearly what the problems are and we feel the effects of education policy. We live with its consequences every day. And we should make our voices heard.
If you are a Labour supporting teacher, join us. Subscribe to the website. Write for us. Share the content. If you feel the party has been to quiet, too inexact, or just plain wrong in its education policy: get involved. It is in the finest democratic tradition of the Labour movement that you do so.
Robert Pepper @rbnpepper