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Cristina Odone criticises Tristram Hunt’s ‘arrogant and ignorant’ remarks about nuns

Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt (PA)

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt’s comments about nuns on the BBC programme Question Time last night were “arrogant and ignorant”, Cristina Odone has said.

Ms Odone, a former Catholic Herald editor, clashed with Mr Hunt on the programme after he appeared to sneer at her teachers for being nuns.

She told the Catholic Herald: “Tristram Hunt’s comments on nuns last night were arrogant and ignorant. Why is it acceptable to denigrate anything Catholic but bleat tolerance about every other religion? To know he and Labour stand a chance at the next election makes me fear for the 7000 brilliant faith schools in this country.”

During the Question Time debate Ms Odone said: “The most inspiring teachers I’ve ever encountered were not out of teacher training college. You know what, they taught values, not British values, they taught real values.”

The Labour MP replied, “These were nuns. These were all nuns, weren’t they?”, adding that there is a “difference between having a state education system, qualified teachers” and nuns.

Damian McBride, the ex-Labour spin doctor who was also previously worked for Catholic charity Cafod, wrote on Twitter: “Oh Hunty. My mum spent most of her career teaching in a ‘convent school’, working alongside nuns. They gave incredible educations.”

Composer James MacMillan, a former member of the Labour Party, tweeted: “I was taught by nuns. They were brilliant and lovely, especially Sisters Clarissa and Austin. Cumnock 1960s/70s.”

But Times columnist Hugo Rifkind argued that Mr Hunt’s comments had been misinterpreted and that “properly understood, he was surely being pro-nun”. What he meant by “but they were nuns” was “that’s hardly untrained”, he said.