Monday, 10 February 2014

The name's Hunt. Total Hunt.

People have got many LOLs from Jeremy Hunt's name, particularly when it was (accidentally) transformed on live radio into an insulting and crude term for the female genitalia. It's not a term I use, and anyway, being likened to Jeremy is the most wounding weapon in my arsenal.

But what is it about politicians called Hunt? Jeremy is the Minister for Health who a) wants to sell the whole thing off to his friends in business and b) things homeopathy is a thing. The other prominent Hunt is Tristram, MP for part of Stoke-on-Trent thanks to being Peter Mandelson's friend back in the days when that wasn't code for 'corrupt Machievellian war-monger': parachuted in against the wishes of the constituency members. Tristram is of course the very exemplar of meritocracy: anyone who claims his political rise is in any way connected to the fact that his father is a Labour member of the House of Lords is just a cynical purveyor of the politics of envy. Tristram. No, like all Labour's leaders, Tristram spent a formative period underground as a miner, before embarking on the long hard slog through community activism before the acclaim of his fellow proletarians led him to set out on the long march to London to change the world.

Only joking. Tristram went to the very expensive and elitist University College School, then Cambridge. After a brief period as an academic and TV historian (very much not the same thing as being a non-TV historian), he went – surprise surprise – to a New Labour think tank and then into Parliament.

Unsurprisingly then, our Tristram is indistinguishable from the Old Right. Despite being an academic expert on Marx, Tristram shares Michael Gove's passion for private-school stylings and neo-Victorianist attitudes. He has never said anything that could remotely be described as socialist or left-wing, and is seemingly entirely uninterested in anything other than pragmatic triangulation. This of course is a shame as Michael Gove and David Willetts have turned school and higher education into a quagmire of privatisation, free-market principle, corruption, bullying and prejudice. You'd have thought that anyone with more brain cells than a nematode could manage to carve out a political space allowing him to critique this neoliberal project, but apparently not.

Tristram Hunt's descent into shame was complete today. As I and thousands of other academics and support staff picketed in response to our fifth consecutive real-terms pay cut, Tristram crossed a picket line to deliver a class on – of all things – Marxism. Which at least indicates a vicious sense of humour.

That's right. A Labour Minister for Education ignored his former colleagues and his party's history to become a scab.

Update: thinking about it like a politician, I realised I initially missed the point. Tristram is a former academic and a Shadow Minister for Education. There is no way that he did not know that a) his former colleagues were taking industrial action and that b) there would be a picket line. Knowing that, he then chose to cross that line. He could have stayed at home or done one of the many things he has to do (perhaps take a trip to Stoke-on-Trent, which he supposedly represents). He could even have arrived early and sneaked into the building before the pickets started, like some of my scab colleagues. He didn't do any of these things: he deliberately crossed a picket line to make some kind of point, presumably to curry favour with the Daily Mail. And for that reason, I'm going to write to him and Ed Miliband.

I'm a Labour Party member. That means that I've endured the endless erosion of principle and passion in the party for as long as I've been alive. I've watched my party leadership running scared from the Daily Mail in every industrial dispute going. I've seen them hand over essential public services to their scaly new friends in the City. I've seen them torture and bomb and kidnap, bug and burgle and hack and I've stayed in, hoping that one day a shred of principle might re-emerge in the only non-Tory party that has a chance at government.

My reward? To watch Tristram Hunt stab us in the back without a twinge of guilt. We're so far beneath his concerns that he won't bother explaining himself and the Party will support him. What is the point of him? What is the point of voting Labour if it's led by people entirely bereft of principle? What will Tristram Hunt do that Michael Gove won't? From here, it's pretty hard to tell.

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