Catholic school 'shocked'
Wednesday April 28, 2004
A Roman Catholic diocese was in urgent talks today after one of its teachers was revealed to be standing as a candidate for the British National party.
The schools commission for the Archdiocese of Birmingham was deciding how to proceed after discovering that maths teacher Simon Smith at St Peter's School, Solihull, a Roman Catholic secondary school, is standing for the BNP in the European elections. A spokesman for the archdiocese said the school knew nothing of his plans to stand as a BNP candidate until yesterday lunchtime. "It came as a complete shock to the school," he said.
It is understood that Mr Smith, who is a full-time teacher on a temporary one-year contract, is a non-Catholic. The news has been condemned by the teachers' union, the NASUWT, of which Mr Smith is believed to be a member.
The leader of Solihull Council Labour group called for an investigation into the legality of a teacher representing a far-right party.
A statement on behalf of the Archdiocese of Birmingham said voters should ask themselves a number of questions about candidates for the European and local elections. These included whether they were confident that the person they were voting for was able to represent and make judgments on behalf of all the local community, regardless of their race, colour or faith. They should ask themselves whether the candidate's policies promoted "harmony, justice and cohesion" within the community, so that no individual or group was marginalised or treated unjustly. They should also ask if the candidate's policies serve to promote good race relations, respecting the culture, language and faith of all. Voters should be confident of each candidate's support for these values before deciding how to vote, the statement said. "Christians believe that every person is created in the image and likeness of God," it said.
The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, said in a statement: "I would not expect anyone who did not support these values to be given a permanent position in a Catholic school. "This is because a teacher in a Catholic school must support the values and ethos of that school."
The NASUWT said it "abhorred and condemned" the policies of the far-right party and would take disciplinary measures against any member bringing the union's name into disrepute by association with the BNP.
Mr Smith has been chosen as the BNP's second candidate for the West Midlands European constituency in the June 10 elections. Simon Darby, regional organiser for the party and a fellow candidate of Mr Smith, condemned the union's stance as hypocritical. He said: "The union accuse us of intolerance and fascism - can they not see the super irony in the way they are behaving, by threatening to throw people out whose views they don't agree with? Simon is a maths teacher, a professional. He's been working for 10 years in schools and there's never been a problem."
In a written statement, the deputy general secretary of the union, Chris Keates, said: "NASUWT will write to any member who is identified as being a member of the BNP, pointing out that this is in breach of the objects of the association and is, therefore, incompatible with membership. "Where the name of NASUWT is published or associated with a BNP candidate in the elections, NASUWT will invoke its internal disciplinary procedures for bringing the association into disrepute, that can lead to a range of sanctions including a ban from membership. We have a clear policy on this issue endorsed at our national conference last month. NASUWT abhors and condemns the policies and activities of the BNP and the sooner legislation is enacted to enable us to expel from membership anyone found to be involved in BNP activities, without them being able to claim compensation, the better."
The leader of Solihull council's Labour group, Hugh Hendry, said he hoped the authority would investigate the legality of a teacher representing a far-right party. "Somebody who is in an influential position of being a teacher that could - and I am not saying they have - have an influence on young people is worrying," Mr Hendry told the BBC. "I would hope that Solihull council will look into it and the legalities of whether somebody should be standing with those sorts of views and being a teacher."
Solihull council said there was
no need to investigate the claims because, providing a teacher did not bring his
or her views into the classroom, they could stand as a candidate for any legal