When Tristram Hunt stepped down as an MP in order to lead the V&A, critics were quick to ask what qualified him for the role. Of course he’s qualified, he argues – and no, he won’t answer political questions
The week after the general election, one imagines a range of emotions that might be coursing through the heart of Tristram Hunt, the former shadow education secretary who resigned his seat in January to become director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Regret, perhaps. Relief, quite possibly, since things in Stoke-on-Trent Central had got rather sticky for Hunt, a remainer in 70% Brexit land, a man broadly on the right of the party when the ranks of local activists had been swelled by Momentum members.
He is determined, however, not to say a word about politics, citing the civil service impartiality rules that obtain in his new job – although, since he takes a rather punctilious view of them, one feels they provide rather a convenient cloak. What he radiates is an air of not missing very much: yes, his friends, but not the “chamber even at its most dramatic”. He was in Stoke on polling day, visiting the Wedgwood Museum (whose collection now belongs to the V&A after the Art Fund rescued it from being sold off in 2014, a deal Hunt had a hand in). “I like the rituals of polling day, so you feel a little nostalgia,” he says. But as for the future of the Labour party? He is not, he declares, “in this role to be a political commentator”.