Magazine article The Spectator

Hunt Saboteurs

Magazine article The Spectator

Hunt Saboteurs

Article excerpt

I love The Spectator's Parliamentarian of the Year Awards. On the face of it, they're a great advertisement for just how broadminded and sophisticated the editors of this magazine are. We're able to rise above the political fray and generously acknowledge MPs on both sides of the House, regardless of which party they belong to. But at the same time, it's also a way of drawing attention to the fact that we Tories aren't as parti pris as our lefty opponents. Unlike us, they're far too bogged down in the petty bickering of daily politics to pay tribute to their enemies. And in this way we're able to score a few cheap political points.

Having said that, I was slightly taken aback when Tristram Hunt won 'Newcomer of the Year'. Surely this was taking the spirit of bipartisanship too far? Hunt is Michael Gove's shadow. His job is to oppose the education reforms that nearly all of us at this magazine passionately support. Wasn't it a bit like the American Police Officers Association giving a 'Good Citizenship' award to Al Capone?

My view of Hunt is that he's essentially Tim Nice-But-Dim from Harry Enfield's Television Programme. Yes, yes, he has a PhD in history, but he comes across as a bit out of his depth whenever he's on Newsnight or the Today programme, a beat behind everyone else. When challenged, he's quick to go on the defensive, as if he lacks intellectual confidence.

To my mind, these shortcomings have been obvious from his first few weeks in the job. He began by praising free schools, claiming he was going to put 'rocket boosters' under the policy, then 48 hours later described them as 'a dangerous ideological experiment'. On Question Time, he blurted out the fact that he supported performance-related pay, only to backtrack furiously when he discovered the teaching unions opposed it.

Earlier this week, he was humiliated in the House of Commons when he mistakenly contrasted the GCSEs the Edu-cation Secretary had done at Robert Gordon's College with those taken by contemporary schoolchildren. Gove gently pointed out that, as a schoolboy in Scotland, he'd never studied for GCS E s, and suggested that Hunt might want to spend less time on history and more on geography. …

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