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12 October 2017

Wes Streeting Q&A: “Timmy Mallet came to my school. It was the best day“

The Labour MP talks Optimus Prime, The Only Way is Essex, and the fourth Industrial Revolution.

By New Statesman

Wes Streeting is the Labour MP for Ilford North and a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism. He was formerly president of the NUS and head of education at Stonewall.

What’s your earliest memory?

Going to see Transformers the movie at the pictures when I was three years old and crying when Optimus Prime died at the end. It was traumatic.

Who was your childhood hero? And who is your adult hero?

My childhood hero was Timmy Mallett. He came to my primary school and it was the best day. One of the privileges of my adult life has been meeting  pioneers of LGBT equality, particularly Waheed Alli, Michael Cashman and Ian McKellen.

What was the last book that changed your thinking?

Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson. We’re at the beginning of the fourth Industrial Revolution and it is driving change on a pace and scale we’ve never seen. It offers humanity remarkable potential, but also real risk.

What political figure, past or present, do you look up to?

Tony Crosland, one of the greatest revisionist thinkers in Labour’s history, who challenged lazy orthodoxy in the Labour Party with a positive alternative.

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What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. My childhood favourite and with a short enough production run to make it easy to revise. You’ve got to keep it simple and focused to win.

Which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live in?

A few centuries ahead. I’m optimistic, even now, that the future of humanity is bright and I’d like to see it.

Who would paint your portrait?

Art isn’t my thing, I’ll be honest. Does that make me sound like a philistine?

What’s your theme tune?

Probably “Move on Up” by Curtis Mayfield, although as TOWIE (The Only Way is Essex) is partly filmed in my Essex-border constituency, maybe Yazz’s “The Only Way is Up” would be more appropriate?

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Have you followed it?

The late great Lisa Jardine was chair of governors at my secondary school and pushed me, a Stepney boy from a council estate, to apply to read history at Cambridge. The time she invested in helping me to apply changed my life.

What’s currently bugging you?

The state of our government. Never has our country needed strong leadership more and simultaneously found it so lacking.

What single thing would make your life better?

An extra day in the week.

When were you happiest?

Every single moment of my childhood spent with my grandad. He provided a great deal of stability at times when my upbringing was pretty turbulent.

Are we all doomed?

It feels like it at the moment. But nothing is inevitable – the future is what we make it. Martin Luther King famously said the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. It’s up to us do make sure that his statement remains true.

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This article appears in the 11 Oct 2017 issue of the New Statesman, How May crumbled