Why Ipswich MP Tom Hunt's denial of historical evidence would make Wolsey turn in his grave...
I'm an Ipswich boy. I love my town. I love my club. I love our history. I love that we exported the wool of East Anglia to the world (we were basically the medieval Chicago). I love that our butcher’s boy, Wolsey, was chief minister and organised one of the greatest diplomatic triumphs of all time at the Field of Cloth and Gold. I love that we were home to some of the industrial greats, I love random things like that Crane built the first railway in China. I love that flying boats were developed in the Orwell. I love that the BT research centre invented fibre optics and did most of the heavy lifting for Voice Over Internet Protocol (No Martlesham, no Zoom...). I bizarrely love that we have the highest concentration of insurance companies outside of London. I love that Saxon Kings buried their dead in our hills.
I love this.
I love that we won the FA Cup in 78 and UEFA in 81. I love that my first job was selling matchday programmes on Portman Road in exchange for a tenner and free entry to see Burley's men take on the finest the Premier League could throw at us. And more often than not, we beat them.
For a little town we've done a lot. We have invented, innovated, pushed the world forward. And nobody would ever suspect that we had. We have a lot to be proud of.
So, now that that has been made clear – let’s see where we stand currently…
It was with great trepidation that I saw, back in 2019 that a young man from Cambridge, with zero connection to the town and who's only work experience had been writing letters to the newspapers in defence of the Countryside Alliance (remember those? The fox hunting guys) had become our MP.
The MP is important. He or she (always a He so far I believe...) represents the town. They are the guys the national press call first for comment, they are supposed to champion us. To fight for us. To engineer changes that improve our lives and standing in the world.
I put the MP as second only to the football team as to how we portray ourselves on the national stage. The MP embodies us.
Unfortunately, what we currently have in Tom Hunt is a man that does not represent us. He is an anti-science, anti-truth populist. The type that can only come into power when a political party has run out of ideas and has switched to playing on people's fears. It is no coincidence that back in 2010 when the Tories had a bit about them, they gave us Ben Gummer, an Ipswich boy and Cambridge Historian who had worked for a climate change advisory firm and pushed hard for Ipswich to be given funding for three new bridges over the Orwell...
By comparison, what do we have in Tom Hunt? A fox hunter. A man who had never set foot in the town until he was gifted the job by Tory HQ as a thank you to his dad.
A man who likes to say racist things before then back tracking and adopting a "Who? Me? Never" approach - knowing full well he has riled up hatred in the town but that that's OK- he wants an angry and disunited town. It is how he wins votes. By conjuring up enemies in our midst. By turning us against each other. A man who has had three years to get some bloody plastic wrap off the side of the biggest building in the town - and failed. A man who looks as dishevelled and unkempt as his hero, Boris Johnson, when doing TV appearances.
Yet, what riles me most is Tom Hunt’s membership of the so-called “Common Sense” group of Tories. This group of elderly Tory peers (and Tom) like to think that History is under attack by the ‘woke brigade’. What irked them most has been a decision by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (an excellent museum by the way) to shuffle its Battle of Trafalgar exhibit around a bit to make way for a sign that basically said “Oh, and there were some black sailors too”. This so rattled Tom Hunt that him and his chums went on national TV to declare it an outrage! How insecure do you have to be in your own history to think that by including these histories of black and brown Britons you somehow threaten 21st Century Great Britain itself? How weak minded do you have to be to see this as a danger?
In fact, the reverse is true – not acknowledging them would be our greatest folly.
With news that Britain is no longer a majority Christian country it is more obvious than ever that we must embrace and incorporate minority narratives into our own if we are to survive. Denying these narratives exist, and violently opposing the existence of evidence that say they do, will fracture and ultimately break the UK.
It is a double whammy for Britain. Not only does Hunt want to deny minorities their rightful place in the British story, but he wants to do so by denying the very existence of clear-cut evidence. We don't have to look very far to see the reality that Hunt wants to deny - black soldiers and sailors feature in paintings of Nelson's battles- a black sailor is etched in bronze onto the very base of Trafalgar's Column! Is Tom Hunt accusing the Duke of Wellington, who chose the design in 1839, of being too "woke"? Or is he just desperate to do the very thing he is accusing others of doing - denying reality to support his own political agenda?
One of the first things political radicals do when they come to power is to seek to rewrite history. The Nazis removed all war medals from Jewish soldiers in WW1 - Jewish German heroes? No such thing! Stalin liquidated academics and historians across Russia. Life before Communism? How dare you! The Taliban blew up huge Buddhist temples - religion before Islam? No way!
Of course... degrees of action are important. But so is intent. And you cannot deny the intent is the same - to rewrite history to serve your own needs.
Arguably some of Ipswich's finest exports of late have been footballer Kieran Dyer and actor Richard Ayoade. Are we to pretend that Dyer didn’t learn to play football in Christchurch Park? Do we deny that Ayoade grew up in Martlesham and was inspired by movie magazines bought in The Square? Minority narratives are British narratives, they always have been and always will be. If we turn our backs on that truth we cannot possibly ever hope to be a united kingdom.
If a "woke" telling of History was good enough for the Duke of Wellington in 1839 then it's good enough for us now.
Tom Hunt and his consistent denial of evidence makes a mockery of common sense thinkers across the land.
Thomas Wolsey would be turning in his grave.
Paul Grange is a teacher, Ipswich fan, and former Royal Navy Reservist who contributes resources regularly to Wolsey Academy. Follow him on Twitter at @pbgrange