Saturday, 14 January 2017

Tristram "My Struggle" Hunt is the new director of the V&A - why didn't he step aside for a disabled black working-class Muslim lesbian?

When Tristram Julian William Hunt FRHistS, the son of  Julian, Baron Hunt of Chesterton, was Labour Education spokesman under Ed Miliband, he was the member of a shadow cabinet that attacked  Tory ruling-class elitism and relentlessly espoused fairness, equality and the desirability of giving racial, religious and sexual minorities better educational opportunities and a fair crack at top jobs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this meant deliberately disfavouring white, privately-educated, heterosexual British men.

Hunt is about white as you can get without being classified as an albino. He attended University College School in Hampstead, which is not only a fee-paying establishment, but also one of the members of the hyper-elite Eton Group of twelve top private schools (it includes KCS Wimbledon, St. Paul's, Westminster and, obviously, Eton). That's about as elite as it gets.

After school, he attended the incredibly underprivileged Trinity College, Cambridge before becoming an Associate Fellow of King's College. He then made programmes for the BBC, became a regular on Radio 4, and had a number of books on historical subjects published by the likes of Penguin and Weidenfeld & Nicholson. After twice failing to be picked as a Labour parliamentary candidate, his struggle against hardship and prejudice continued when he was parachuted into the Stoke-on-Trent Central seat just before the 2010 election (possibly the first person named Tristram to have set foot in the town), having been selected from a short-list which contained nobody local to the area (the chairman of the Constituency Labour Party stood as independent in protest).

Hunt is married - to a woman (we have to make that clear these days), and they have three children. This would suggest he is a heterosexual.

I haven't met him in the flesh, but I doubt if he is significantly disabled.

I have no idea whether he holds any religious beliefs, but he has given no indication of the being a Sikh, Muslin, Hindu or Wiccan.

Now, I'm really, really cool with all this. As his first name would seem to imply, Tristram was born to a life of privilege, and by being clever, ambitious and hard-working, he has made the very best of his advantages. He turned out not to be a particularly effective politician (his TV appearances while Labour Education spokesman were dire) - and his sort are anathema to Corbynistas -   so he has sensibly jumped ship to land one of the juiciest jobs suitable for an academic in the public sector. Although I don't share Hunt's New Labour political views, and I never heard him talk anything other than utter drivel when he was an MP,  I suppose there's a slim chance that he won't make the V&A any trendier and sillier than it already is. So I don't object to his appointment because I think he'll necessarily do a bad job.

And I don't in the least begrudge him his massively privileged background, his bland good looks, his luck, or his many successes. Well done! What I do object to is his hypocrisy. How dare he lecture the rest of us on the evils of an unequal, class-based system while grabbing every prize that inequality and class have placed within his grasp.  And how can anyone who served in Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet seriously think that modern, groovy, dynamic, hip, vibrant, inclusive, rainbow-hued, multicultural Britain - this "nation of immigrants" - not put his much-vaunted beliefs into practice by refusing the offer of the V&A job while insisting that control of one of the nation's major cultural institutions to be handed to someone far less advantaged than himself?

Or is it only the rest of us who are expected to sacrifice advantage in the name of fairness, equality and social justice?


  1. Never mind, Scott. Sir Roy Strong would probably say that, with his acceptance of that post, Hunt has taken the poisoned chalice.

    1. I'm sure the V&A must have an exceptionally rigorous selection process, involving searching interviews and the scouring of the entire nation for suitable candidates.

      No doubt, in time, we will be told how Mr Hunt triumphed over the opposition.

    2. In much the same way, one imagines, as the former Labour cabinet minister James Purnell triumphed over the opposition when he was appointment to the £295,000 a year post of BBC Director of Strategy in 2013 - without the corporation feeling the need to make the poor lamb undergo the rigours of a formal interview process: that sort of grubby, demeaning treatment's only for plebs, apparently.