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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker - OTE £20,000

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An office based Appointment Mak...

Recruitment Genius: Healthcare Assistant

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of care services is looking for...

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Administrator

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Purpose of Role: To co-ordinate maintena...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - Commercial Training

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The business development manage...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent