‘Labour is doomed’ warn­ing af­ter MP Hunt quits

In­sid­ers fear dis­il­lu­sion­ment with Cor­byn will lead to more leav­ing

The Herald - - POLITICS - MICHAEL SET­TLE UK PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR

LABOUR in­sid­ers are pre­dict­ing many more of the party’s MPs, dis­il­lu­sioned with the lead­er­ship of Jeremy Cor­byn, will stand down in the next 18 months to pur­sue al­ter­na­tive ca­reers.

The warn­ing came af­ter Tris­tram Hunt an­nounced he is to leave West­min­ster af­ter seven years as a Labour MP.

The 42-year-old for­mer shadow ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary is to be­come the next di­rec­tor of London’s Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum, spark­ing a by-elec­tion in his Stoke-on-Trent Cen­tral con­stituency.

Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, Mr Hunt’s 5,179 ma­jor­ity would be re­garded as com­fort­able to de­fend for Labour, but these are un­usual po­lit­i­cal times.

Stoke has been de­scribed as Bri­tain’s “Brexit cap­i­tal”. The Stafford­shire seat recorded one of the high­est pro­por­tions of those who voted to leave the EU; 81,563 peo­ple as op­posed to just 36,027, who voted to re­main.

In the 2015 Gen­eral Elec­tion, Ukip came se­cond just ahead of the Con­ser­va­tives.

The Lib­eral Democrats, who came in fifth two years ago, might be re­garded as hav­ing no chance in such a pro-leave con­stituency, but on Thurs­day it won a coun­cil by-elec­tion in Sun­der­land, an­other city that heav­ily backed Brexit. The seat was pre­vi­ously held by Labour.

Paul Oak­den, Ukip’s chair­man, said the party would be “fight­ing hard” to win Stoke. “The res­ig­na­tion of Tris­tram Hunt high­lights the brighter fu­ture that many in the Labour Party feel they have away from Jeremy Cor­byn and his brand of pol­i­tics,” said Mr Oak­den.

Nigel Farage, the party’s for­mer leader, was blunter.

“Tris­tram Hunt’s res­ig­na­tion from Stoke will be fol­lowed by many oth­ers. Labour is doomed.”

The Labour MP’s de­par­ture will be seen as an­other sig­nif­i­cant loss among the party’s mod­er­ates, who fear the left’s grip on the party is now un­break­able. One MP said: “Given the op­por­tu­nity, scores of Labour MPs will fol­low the lead of Reed and Hunt. The whips know it and are braced for more de­par­tures.”

A for­mer shadow Cab­i­net min­is­ter told pol­i­tic­shome.com: “Be­ing a back­bench MP with no prospect of power wasn’t re­ally what Tris­tram signed up for. Good luck to him and God help the rest of us.”

Alas­tair Camp­bell, Tony Blair’s for­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions chief, said Mr Hunt’s de­par­ture would be a “big loss”, and tweeted: “So many MPs fear Labour go­ing nowhere un­der Jeremy Cor­byn.”

Mr Hunt, who re­fused to serve on Mr Cor­byn’s front­bench, is the se­cond cen­trist Labour MP to quit the UK Par­lia­ment in a mat­ter of weeks for a job out­side pol­i­tics.

Last month, Jamie Reed an­nounced he was stand­ing down as MP for Copeland in Cum­bria for work at the Sel­lafield nu­clear plant.

In re­sponse, Mr Cor­byn is­sued a two-line state­ment, 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.”

He added: “I’m not ex­pect­ing any other MPs to re­sign.

“In most par­lia­ments there are a num­ber of by-elec­tions, so if they come, they come.”

‘‘ I’m not ex­pect­ing any other MPs to re­sign. In most par­lia­ments there are a num­ber of by-elec­tions, so if they come, they come

NEW CA­REER: Tris­tram Hunt is to be­come the next di­rec­tor of London’s Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum, spark­ing a by-elec­tion.

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