I don’t have a problem with Tristram Hunt leaving politics and the Labour Party. Two reasons: firstly, the directorship of the Victoria and Albert Museum seems like a very attractive job for a historian, and whilst paying at least double his MP’s salary [and more, I suspect] I don’t believe it compares/competes with the more lucrative and probably sinecure’s positions most Tories and the like would and do take when they have finished with political life; secondly, I don’t feel he was a particularly effective member of the Labour Party – and I don’t mean his criticism of Jeremy Corbyn which he is entitled to make even if I disagreed – but especially as the Shadow Education Secretary pre-Corbyn’s leadership.
I have written about this before but as he departs his political life I will remind readers of his pretty fruitless and silly time ostensibly formulating Labour policy on Education:
First and foremost, I don’t recall him making any attempt whatsoever to prevent Michael Gove from destroying much of GCSE, but especially English Literature.
Second, there was his teacher’s Hippocratic Oath idea – swearing allegiance to the job – which was patronising, insulting and stupid.
Third was his Master Teacher idea which was a teacher-as-prefect notion that was patronising, insulting and stupid.
And last, just so as not to waste any more time, an exemplification of how his brand of ‘Labour’ politics and articulation of this hardly appealed to the widest possible audience, revealed in this infamous [in my recall] response to a question:
What is a left-wing approach to education? ‘I see it as a heated dialectic between Gramscian rigour and Ellen Wilkinson’s evangelism for innovation, creativity and freedom. In Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks there is this remarkable paean for the traditional rigour of the classics as being crucial for Italian working-class consciousness. On the other hand, Wilkinson, Clement Attlee’s first education secretary, argued: “Schools must have freedom to experiment, and we need variety for the sake of freshness. We want laughter in the classroom, self-confidence growing every day, eager interest instead of bored uniformity.” A modern, left-wing response to the 21st-century digital economy needs a dose of both. But where these two philosophies meet is equally important – that education is precious beyond instrumental labour market outcomes. That is something we must fight for when the right attempts to commodify it.’
There is a positive kernel of liberal sense in this, but my goodness, the verbal manure that needs to be cleared to locate is too many shovelfuls.