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Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Reinstate Robin Sivapalan

Robin Sivapalan is a teaching assistant at Quintin Kynaston School (QK) in North London. QK was the site of last Thursday’s school visit by Tony Blair, ostensibly to announce the first wave of Trust Schools – state schools managed by private interests – of which QK set to be a part of.

Robin Sivapalan was part of a protest that greeted – or at least would have had not the protest been pushed largely out of sight – Tony Blair’s visit. A report of the protest can be found HERE. He was subsequently suspended from his job at QK for ‘insubordination’ and ‘breaching confidentiality’ [see HERE and HERE].

The head of QK, Jo Shuter, e-mailed the Morning Star to set out her version of events. She closed the e-mail:

“I personally remain a big supporter of Tony Blair whose policies I value and who I personally feel is a man of integrity and honesty.”

However, despite this bald statement of political orientation, Shuter is not describing her own behaviour, or that of Tony Blair’s press team, when she writes:

“… the role played by these activists was cleverly orchestrated and the children were merely fodder for a political campaign.”

No, here she was describing the ‘rabble rousing’ of people such as Robin Sivapalan. If the charge of insubordination results from engaging in political activity, then a far more serious charge should be levelled against Shuter. Sivapalan, we should remember, was protesting outside a school that had been already been appropriated – site, staff and children – as political capital to serve the interests of its head.

The second charge, of ‘breaching confidentiality’, is also suspect. Presumably Blair’s visit was not top secret – this is not an issue of national security – else the staff would not have been made aware, the children drafted in to present the obedient face of QK would not have known to attend and the media would not have been present en masse. Blair’s visit might not have been public knowledge, but it was hardly a secret. The only importance of keeping prior knowledge of the visit restricted is if what is at stake is the prevention of legitimate protest. If each of Blair’s perfectly normal public visits are kept secret until after the event, then it becomes impossible, excepting cases where someone is brave enough to ‘breach confidentiality’, to protest. If ‘breaching confidentiality’ is an issue in this case then the issue is of the right to engage in democratic speech and action.

As a first step in the defence of Robin Sivapalan sign the electronic petition at “robin [at]”.

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