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Friday, June 4, 1999 Published at 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK


McAvoy faces challenge from left

Doug McAvoy hopes to fight off the challenge of Christine Blower

The leader of the largest teachers' union in England and Wales has called on its members to reject a left-wing challenge for his job.

Doug McAvoy, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, is being challenged for the post by Christine Blower, one of the union's London officials.

Ballot papers for the election are due to go out to the union's 200,000 members on Monday, 7 June. Ms Blower's supporters say she and Mr McAvoy are "neck and neck" in the race, but Mr McAvoy's camp has declined to speculate on the likely result.

Ms Blower has promised a more vigorous campaign against the government's plans to introduce performance-related pay for teachers. Such an approach could increase the likelihood of classroom disruption.

'This is no time to change'

But Mr McAvoy warned that the election of Ms Blower could damage the union's campaign against merit pay.

Writing for BBC News Online, he said: "The government will be watching the outcome of this election closely and assessing the strength, unity and continuity of our campaign.

"This is no time to change the union's leadership in a move to the extreme left."

However, Ms Blower insisted she was not a member of, or controlled by, any extreme organisation.

"Colleagues recognise that I am a serious candidate who can lead and represent them," she said. "If elected, I will be controlled by the membership through the democratic processes of the union."

'No backroom deals'

She pledged to pursue the campaign against performance pay "effectively, energetically and openly", adding: "There will be no backroom deals with the government."

The closing date for the return of ballot papers in the election is 28 June, with the result expected to be announced on the same day.

Much will depends on how many of the union's members actually vote. Union elections are often characterised by low turnouts.

Five years ago, Mr McAvoy narrowly avoided defeat by another left-wing opponent. He was returned as general secretary with just 1,500 more votes than Mary Hufford.

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