Should we let our MPs resign to take better jobs?

Tristram Hunt's resignation makes me feel instinctively uneasy.

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So, Tristram Hunt has announced that he will resign as the MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central. This is because, as he tells us in his resignation letter, being an MP has been “both deeply rewarding and intensely frustrating”, due to Hunt’s inability to “implement [Labour’s] policy programme following our defeat in 2015”.

Oh, and also because he’s been offered a job running the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I can’t pretend to know much about politics. It’s not my area – and my approach to political topics is usually from the perspective of a constituent and voter, not a commentator or activist. So perhaps I just don’t understand the issue at hand. But I instinctively feel that the decision to leave a job as MP for a shinier, better-paid, more prestigious job is shameful.

Director of the V&A is, of course, a great job, Hunt notes there are “very few” offers that could have persuaded him to stand down. It’s also a really important job, one that has considerable value to the public, and I wish Hunt all the best in it. Indeed, Hunt himself sees this as more of a transition than an abandonment of his post. “As I enter a new role as a public servant,” he writes, “I will be leaving partisan politics behind me and will work impartially as a museum director”.

But it still seems to me to be a dishonourable move. Hunt made a commitment to the people of Stoke-on-Trent. He made promises to his constituents, who elected him under the assumption that he would serve his full term, regardless of what other opportunities came along. They placed their trust in his passion for their community. I’m sure they will be disappointed to see him leave his responsibilities behind, as will his party, who have a tricky fight to hold the seat.

Tristram Hunt has abandoned the responsibility of representing his constituents for a better job. That’s his choice. But should we really congratulate MPs that resign because a more exciting opportunity arrived? 

There are, of course, many legitimate reasons to stand down as a Member of Parliament, and it’s an incredibly tough decision for many MPs to make. I’m not suggesting we shame any politician who feels they have to resign for personal or political reasons.

But you hope that people don’t go in to politics for power or pride, or glitz and glamour, or because the job they really wanted wasn’t available. You hope that politicians want to be in politics whether their party is in government or not. You hope they care about their local concern as much as the issues of national concern. You hope it’s not simply a stepping stone to bigger and brighter things.

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

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