Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Tristram Hunt caught on the ropes by Michael Gove

It was like watching a promising new Great White Hope take on  a weathered fighter

He has been touted as a future Labour leader and “the new Blair”. So you can imagine a future chronicler of the Tristram Hunt premiership devoting a page or two to his first big debate as shadow Education Secretary. If the author is as professional a historian as Hunt himself is, he’s unlikely to describe it as an unalloyed triumph.

To borrow from boxing, it was like watching a promising new Great White Hope having his first try-out against a weathered prize-fighter. A shameless Michael Gove showed off to the crowd, used lots of fancy footwork and hit his opponent more than once below the belt. He secured a clear win on points.

Attacking the use of unqualified teachers in free schools and academies, Hunt dealt with interventions largely by not answering them. “Today we are focusing on the future,” he said a little primly to ribald laughter from the benches opposite when the Tory Andrew Percy, a teacher, asked about an increase in unqualified teachers under Labour. Clearly having done his homework, Mel Stride, another Tory, challenged him on whether Terry Morris, Hunt’s old history teacher at the private University College School was “a qualified teacher, or simply an inspiration”. “The great thing about qualified teachers is that they can be both qualified and an inspiration,” said Hunt. It was a feint, but didn’t avoid the punch.

There was also a jargon issue. No more “going up the value chain rather than deskilling”, Shadow Secretary! Nor is it advisable to say so soon in your new post: “As Secretary of state for Education I am not going to… [allow failures like that at the Al-Madinah academy].”

Gove mercilessly mocked Hunt’s over-erudite references to “TH Green and LT Hobhouse” (and Keynes) in his attack on the Liberal Democrats. He then took apart Hunt’s pronouncements on free schools, saying that as a civil war historian Hunt knew all “about a body politic being racked by internal division. What a pity that it is his body politic that is being so racked”.

Hunt will learn. But he needs to work on his technique in the gym. With a punchball.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Assistant - Travel

£15500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Mechanic

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Auto centre is based in We...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Technician

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established dealer gr...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate