Teaching leader defended over protest comments

A STAUNCH defence was last night mounted in support of a Suffolk union leader attacked for saying public service cuts would hurt people more than damage to property.

The comments made by Graham White, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers and teacher at Great Cornard Upper School, related to the Trades Union Congress march in London on London.

Mr White said sporadic outbursts of vandalism against shops, banks and hotels in the city’s West End on Saturday would cause less “personal suffering” than the Government’s spending cuts - which include reductions in incapacity, housing benefit and tax credits, up to 500,000 public sector job losses by 2014-15, a 60% fall in new social housing spending and a 7.1% cut in local government grants this year.

Mr White said: “I do not condone the violence but it was damage to property and not to people’s livelihoods or personal cicumstances.

“It will not cause intense personal suffering unlike the Con-Dem cuts.”

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His comments were attacked by some of Suffolk’s leading politicians including Central Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter and Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey.

However, Mr White has also been praised for his integrity by Suffolk unionists who said he had drawn attention to suffering in the country.

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Roger MacKay, president of the Ipswich and District Trades Union Council said it fully supported Mr White’s sentiments about the London march.

He said: “His comments in no way condoned the violence that took place away from this march, but did draw attention to the suffering of individuals and families up and down the land as a result of the draconian cuts in public services enforced by a coalition of two parties, who gave little indication of these intentions in their pre-election campaigns

“This, after all, was why the march and rally took place.

“For the media to allow itself, yet again, to be hijacked by the violence of such a small section of protesters (0.01% of the estimated total) is a disservice to the public.

“For the main political parties to then use this disservice to justify their own political agendas, by launching an attack on one protester who made a comment that quite clearly did not support the violence that took place, is bizarre and opportunist to the extreme.

“We applaud Graham White for his integrity and his well recognized work in Suffolk, as an elected lay official of the National Union of Teachers.”

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