Magazine article The Spectator

A Blairite for Ed

Magazine article The Spectator

A Blairite for Ed

Article excerpt

Tristram Hunt represents the slice of Labour that Miliband mosts needs to hold on to.

Tristram Hunt has the easy charm, quick wits and good looks that you would expect of a TV historian. His blond hair has the hint of a curl to it and the only surprise about his appearance is that there isn't a college scarf wrapped round his neck.

His Commons office, where we meet, resembles a don's study, with books piled high on the coffee table, old maps on the wall and a selection of tea-sets on display.

Three years ago, Hunt made the transition from academia to politics. Despite having voted for David Miliband in the leadership contest, he has emerged as an intellectual outrider for Ed Miliband and is, according to the Westminster grapevine, in line for a big promotion in the coming reshuffle. He is the most cerebral member of one of the most important groups in the Labour party, what one might call Blairites for Ed. If the Labour leader is going to win his fights both inside the party and out, he is going to need this group's support.

Some vestiges of Hunt's Blairite past are still visible.

Contrary to Miliband's position, he concedes, 'I have personal reservations about taking 50p in the pound off people's income.'

He's also clear that it is an 'uncomfortable reality' that public services now have to be concentrated on the worse off. Talking about Sure Start children centres he says, 'Can we afford places for middle class families to take their kids to when nothing else is on at that point? No, we can't. At the moment, it's got to be targeted.'

When I ask Hunt if he'd still call himself a 'Blairite', there's a long pause. This normally fluent man then trips up on his words, before replying, 'I've always been happy with progressive Labour and parts of that are absolutely Blairite, yes, and I was delighted to work back in '96/97 with Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson. That was brilliant. But there is no doubt the world has moved on.'

One other thing that makes life difficult for Hunt in today's Labour party is his background: he went to a private school.

Miliband has made much of the fact that he attended a comprehensive, implying that it has given him greater empathy for other's struggles. When I push Hunt on whether he thinks he'd be a better politician if he'd gone to a state school, he says, 'I was very lucky, I went to a very good north London private school where Harold Wilson sent his kids and where Joseph Chamberlain went in the 1840s. …

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