Barring extremist activity passes muster. But banning BNP teachers doesn't.
By Paul Goodman
If a teacher who's a BNP member breaks the law, he should be prosecuted and sentenced. And if he's in breach of the conduct that should govern teachers, he should be subject to the appropriate disciplinary penalties. The Guardian reports a story involving a BNP teacher this morning - the tale of Adam Walker, who was taken to a disciplinary panel this summer (and, as it happens, cleared).
There's clearly a case for ensuring that teachers don't engage in "extremist activity" - the phrase used by Michael Gove, who told the paper that he intends to pursue the matter. However, taking specific action against people who participate in extremist activity shouldn't be confused with a general bar on BNP members with regard to teaching. Like it or loathe it (and I fall into the latter category), the BNP remains a legally constituted political party, for all its trouble with the electoral commission and the courts.
An independent enquiry carried out under the last Government reached broadly this conclusion, declaring that a ban would be "taking a very large sledgehammer to crack a minuscule nut", and "a profoundly poltical act". It was right. Taking specific action against illegal organisations or extremist actions is one thing. Slapping a blanket teaching ban on members of a legally constituted political party is quite another.