How many other Labour MPs will decide to quit Parliament mid-term as Tristram Hunt and Jamie Reed have done? Some had already found escape chutes in the form of Mayoral contests, as Andy Burnham has done. Others don’t have the option of staying in politics in that sort of detached role, yet are in their prime while achieving very little in Parliament. They are struggling with the hard left in their own seats – and if they are talented and visible, they will have received very attractive job offers which have made them question whether it is really worth staying in a miserable role in their prime achieving very little.
This latest resignation is not the latest in an organised ‘coup’ of MPs deserting their party to make a point. We will see more retirements than usual, and there will be other MPs who feel they cannot turn down a particularly good offer outside politics. Some of those who have turned down job offers have done so because it still runs against their instincts as MPs to leave their job in the middle of a Parliament. These sorts of resignations are rare, because it is in the spirit of an MP’s public service to commit to the full term – and most of do have a quiet pride about serving their constituency that keeps them committed through the harder times. That Hunt and Reed – two thick-skinned and politically able men – have resigned says a great deal about how desperate the situation in the Labour party is.
Listen to Fraser Nelson, James Forsyth and Ayesha Hazarika on Tristram Hunt’s departure:
Others have decided to stay for the time being because they do believe that there are still things that they can do either to save the Labour party, or at least to achieve things for the people who voted for them while the ship sinks. Reed and Hunt were a little more on the periphery of the group of moderate MPs who have been trying to organise a shadow shadow frontbench, and who had actually grown a little more motivated in the past month or so.
But while that group of moderates may be motivated, it is also a little less strong than it was because it has a rather more visible split in it. Those who are close to Tom Watson and the Old Right of the party believe the best thing for backbench MPs to do is to keep their heads down. Others believe that some things that Jeremy Corbyn and his allies say are so inimical to Labour’s values that they have to speak out against them.
Hunt and Reed going shows that there is a great deal of disagreement among the moderates over whether to stay or go, as well as whether to speak out or stay silent. And this fracturing will make it more difficult for this group of MPs to save the Labour party.