Listen to Fraser Nelson, James Forsyth and Ayesha Hazarika on Tristram Hunt’s departure:
Another month, another Labour MP resigns. Following Jamie Reed’s resignation in December, Tristram Hunt has quit as the MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central to take on a role as the director of the V&A.
In his resignation letter, Hunt says that ‘there were very few jobs’ that would have convinced him to stand down but ‘the post of Director of the V&A — the world’s greatest museum of art, design and performance — is just that’. However, given that Hunt is one of Corbyn’s most vocal critics — and branded ‘hostile’ by the leadership — few will see his decision as Hunt merely being wooed by a better job offer.
Hunt has refused to be a part of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and has been openly critical of the Labour leader’s policies and approach to the PLP. As a result, he has been a regular target for deselection threats. With another leader, Hunt would have been a favourite for a front-bench post — having formerly served as shadow education secretary under Ed Miliband. His departure is another sign that Labour MPs who are unhappy with Corbyn are having to ask themselves whether their talents are now best served elsewhere.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the party. A lot of Labour MPs who had been in total despair over the summer and in the aftermath of the leadership contest seem to have actually regained a sense of purpose in the past month or so. While they might not have ample opportunity under Corbyn, some have found they can make a difference through other activities whether it’s select committees or personal projects.
In the short term, what this means for Labour is another — difficult — by-election — on top of Copeland and Leigh. Although Hunt retained the seat in 2015 with a 5,179 majority, the area voted heavily to leave and Ukip will be looking to make significant gains. The Conservatives, too, will be hoping to win the seat — having been only beaten into third place in 2015 by 33 votes. It follows that the party are now at risk of losing three seats in the coming months.