Today’s Morning Star gives Tristram Hunt both barrels for his decision to cross a UCU picket line at Queen Mary University of London (albeit in order to deliver a lecture on “Marx, Engels and the making of Marxism”) and now, in a rare red-on-red attack (by historic standards, Labour remains remarkably united), Tom Watson has joined the assault. At the end of a post on Ed Miliband’s Hugo Young lecture, he wrote of Hunt:
After his leader delivers a speech on devolving power to the people and re-enforces his concern about the effects of crony capitalism, I’d rather the shadow Secretary of State for Education, resign his post as a lecturer than cross a picket line of striking lecturers, in order to deliver a history module on ‘Marx, Engels and the making of Marxism‘ Those lecturers, working in the shadow of the high rise banking headquarters of the City, have had an effective pay cut in recent years. The preposterous irony of Tristram’s action will amuse many, but Labour is too near a general election to write a new episode of Thick of It.
He also tweeted:
Irony is dead. “The frontbencher..snubbed the strike to deliver his “Marx,Engels and the making of Marxism” module. https://t.co/xCRZ0IDeB8
— tom_watson (@tom_watson) February 10, 2014
According to Queen Mary politics lecturer Dr Lee Jones, Hunt, who has taught history at the university since 2001, replied “I’m not a UCU member” when challenged as he crossed the line. He said: “I shouted over to say surely the shadow secretary of state for eduction from the Labour Party is not going to cross the picket line. He stopped and looked shamefaced, I suppose. He said: ‘I’m not a UCU member’, turned away and carried on walking. I shouted after him: ‘Maybe you should be.’ He sort of just hurried away. People couldn’t quite believe it. It was galling.”
But given that Hunt (the author of a fine biography of Engels) was lecturing students on Marxism perhaps a better defence would have been “the end justifies the means”.