The interesting case of Tristram Hunt
Labour MP Tristram Hunt has resigned to become Director of the V&A in London. The decision to appoint him has been criticised in some surprising quarters, notably The Guardian (14th Jan) whose report queried whether someone with no experience of working in or running a museum was the ideal person for the job.
Hunt has styled himself broadly as an historian on the left- writing a biography of Engels- but was much criticised for crossing a UCU picket line at QMC to lecture on Marx and Engels.
An interesting clue, perhaps, as to where Hunt sees himself is the programme he did on Asa Briggs broadcast on Radio 4 last Saturday.
Hunt’s take on Briggs was that he was the last of the great Victorians dedicated to civic and public service. Briggs who was one of the founders of the Society for the Study of Labour History in 1960 ended up as a crossbench Peer. He was well known for writing the official history of the BBC and being the moving spirit behind the foundation of Sussex University.
An interesting detail of Hunt’s programme was the criticism he reserved for E.P. Thompson who he implied was not in the Briggs frame of promoting public interest as he had queried the model of Harold Wilson’s Open University. Hunt somehow overlooked the fact that Thompson had founded the school of social history at Warwick University (see Warwick University Ltd).
We shall see what he makes of the V&A, notably there has already been a U-Turn on a 2011 Hunt statement that London museums should charge a fiver for entrance.