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13 January 2017

Tristram Hunt to resign as Labour MP – triggering by-election for Stoke-on-Trent

The former shadow education secretary will take up a job at the Victoria and Albert museum. 

By Julia Rampen

Tristram Hunt is to resign as a Labour MP in order to take up a job as a director at the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central is understood to have emailed local members telling them the news.

He said in a statement published by the V&A: “I am delighted and honoured to have been appointed Director of the V&A. I have loved the V&A since I was a boy, and today it is a global leader in its unrivalled collections, special exhibitions, academic research and visitor experience.”

Hunt, an outspoken critic of Jeremy Corbyn, faced a tight race in the next election after the boundary review changed the make-up of his constituency. Hunt himself called the boundary review “gerrymandering”. 

He also was a strong supporter of the Remain campaign in the EU referendum, but represented an area dubbed “the Brexit capital” for its high proportion of Leave votes.

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn issued a short statement in response to the news, saying: “”I would like to thank Tristram Hunt for his service to the people of Stoke-on-Trent Central and to the Labour party. I wish him well in his future role at the V&A.”

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When he takes up the job later this year, it will trigger a by-election which Labour may find hard to win. In 2015, turnout in Hunt’s constituency was so low that it was the sole seat in Britain where the majority of the electorate didn’t vote

His resignation comes shortly after that of Jamie Reed, another Corbyn critic in a Leave constituency, who took up a job at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site in December.

While Hunt himself is yet to elaborate on his reasons for resigning , his letter to local members has been shared online.

In it, he says he has “no desire to rock the boat now” and his decision to stand down was driven by the offer of a job that combined his “lifetime passions”. 

However, he also registered his “frustration” over “how the Labour Party should respond to the social, cultural and economic forces which have rocked mainstream social democratic and socialist parties from India to Greece to America”. 

Despite Hunt’s attempt to play down the significance of his departure, political commentators have drawn conclusions of their own. 

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor, tweeted: “Big loss. So many MPs fear Labour going nowhere under Jeremy Corbyn.”

Ben Bradshaw, Hunt’s fellow Labour MP and a Corbyn critic, said he was “gutted” by the news.

Nigel Farage, the former leader of Ukip, said Labour “is doomed”.

Rival opposition parties struck a more sympathetic note. Liberal Democrat President Sal Brinton said: “What is worrying is when first Jamie Reed and now Tristram Hunt decide they can achieve more positive change outside, rather than inside Parliament. 

“These decent, civic minded people got into politics to make a difference and we are poorer now for Tristram leaving Westminster.”

George Osborne, the former Tory Chancellor and now a backbencher, tweeted that the V&A had made a “brilliant, bold choice”. 

Labour MP Paul Flynn had perhaps the most colourful farewell, though: