This is the story: a Tory MP, Bob Stewart, has reported that his son had to cope with his teacher telling his classmates, during the last election campaign, that they should not speak to him because his father was a Conservative.
Obviously, one must be careful about assuming the story is true. I don’t mean the MP is lying. That, despite the general assumption these days that all MPs lie, is highly unlikely to be the case. But his information came from his thirteen-year-old son, and it would not be the first time that a boy of that age had misunderstood or exaggerated what his teacher had said. It could well be, for instance, that the teacher had only said something like: “lots of decent people will never talk to Conservatives, but that doesn’t mean you should necessarily not talk to Stewart Minor; you may think he is not to blame for his father’s fascist views and, just possibly, you may be able to persuade him that his father is an evil enemy of Jeremy Corbyn’s revolution.”
A few years ago, before I had come across Face Book and read about Twitter, I would have given no credence at all to this story. But now I know that the social media are full of people who dismiss anyone on the right in politics as being “scum”. They tend never to put forward rational argument but resort instead to foul abuse. And lots of them appear to have responsible jobs. Many, I fear, are teachers. It is awful to have to say this, but I was not surprised to read that a teacher had told his class not to speak to a boy because his father was a Tory MP.
I do know, of course, that there are also appalling right-wingers who say nasty things about Socialists on social media without actually advancing any argument. And I also know that most Labour supporters understand that democratic nations should allow citizens to express their opinions even if they are not Socialist opinions. But it does seem to me that, in professions like teaching, dreadful intolerance is restricted to the left.
Before my charming left-wing friends all denounce me as Tory scum, I should say that I think I understand why fanatical left-wing teachers are so intolerant. They are convinced that our salvation depends on a return to red-blooded Socialism. Permitting other opinions to be expressed can only delay that glorious day. It would be foolish in the extreme to allow sentimental concerns about children’s happiness to stand in the way of the revolution.
But, funnily enough, I am just as keen on liberty and the rule of law as the left are keen on revolution and regulation. I feel strongly that both (liberty and the rule of law) are vitally important. But I would never think it right to impose my views on children.
My guess is that the body charged with the regulation of teachers will think there is nothing wrong with Mr Stewart’s son being sent to Coventry on the instruction of his teacher because his father is a Tory. But I suppose we should be grateful that it would be furious with a Tory teacher doing the same to a Labour MP’s son.