Another one bites the dust: Tristram Hunt, once briefly a Labour leadership contender, is standing down from parliament to become director of the V&A. In 2015 Hunt beat second-place UKIP by only 5,000 votes. Stoke-on-Trent voted 69% to Leave in the referendum – by 81,000 votes to 36,000. Another bumper Brexit by-election – Nigel Farage’s spokesman tells Guido he won’t run, will Paul Nuttall be tempted?
READ: Tristram’s resignation letter in full:
This morning I write to you with the news that I intend, at next week’s CLP meeting, to tender my resignation as Member of Parliament ﬂor Stoke-on-Trent Central.
It has been a profound privilege to represent The Potteries in Parliament over the last six and a half years. This has been a period of slow but steady resurgence for Stoke-on-Trent, after the post-industrial nadir of the early 2000s. In these years, I have been proud to see how our ceramic, engineering, technology, healthcare and higher education sectors have begun to revive. Our schools have improved in conﬁdence, with a new Maths Excellence Partnership helping us attract and train enthusiastic young teachers. Stoke City has cemented its place in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup Final. We now have the Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival, the British Ceramics Biennial, and are bidding to be City of Culture 2021. Best of all, your hard work as local party members means we have eliminated the ugly politics of the BNP from the city.
Of course, these are achievements by the people of Stoke-on-Trent, not by their politicians. But I do hope that my work in the Commons, alongside superb colleagues Joan Walley, Rob Flello, Paul Farrelly and now Ruth Smeeth – has helped in some way to contribute to that conﬁdence and support the incredible endeavours of civil society across the city. But it is the constituency surgeries and local support which one can provide as an MP that can deliver the greatest job satisfaction: giving a voice to the marginalised, battling bureaucracy, marshalling inﬂuence for the overlooked. I will miss that opportunity to serve the people of Stoke-on-Trent when I stand down as an MP, but I am not saying goodbye to the city itself which will have a huge place in my heart and in what I do for as long as I live.
The extraordinary privilege of serving in Parliament has proved both deeply rewarding and intensely frustrating. I am proud of my work in helping to save the Wedgwood Collection, secure tax breaks ﬁor the ceramics industry, scrutinise Government policy on the Constitutional Reform Select Committee, and help clean up London‘s laundering of dirty money on the Criminal Finances Bill. It took a while to get there, but I also believe the programme which myself; Kevin Brennan and the Shadow Education Team developed for the 2015 General Election was radical and right. Visiting schools and colleges in Stoke and across the country, meeting with teachers and parents and students, allowed me to see the remarkable commitment of English school leaders to their mission as educationalists. But also it highlighted the harrowing effects of poverty and inequality upon social mobility. These experiences will continue to drive me in my new position.
The frustration, of course, came with the inability to address those motors and implement our policy programme following our deﬁeat in 2015 – and, more broadly, about 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.
There were very few jobs that would have convinced me to stand down as MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, but the post of Director of the V&A – the world’s greatest museum of art, design and performance – is just that. It brings together all my lifetime passions of education, historical scholarship, meshing past with present and public engagement. It also continues my connection with this wonderful city thanks to the V&A’s ownership of the Wedgwood Collection, on show at the Wedgwood Museum in Barlaston. The history of design, craftsmanship and technology which I have been taught by so many of you, in conversations in that rooms and pot banks across North Staffordshire, will serve me well in my new job.
As I enter a new role as a public servant, I will be leaving partisan politics behind me and will work impartially as a museum director. I am sorry to put you, the party and the people of Stoke-on-Trent through a by-election. I have no desire to rock the boat now and anyone who interprets my decision to leave in that way is just plain wrong.
I will always be Labour and forever grateful for the incredible opportunity which the Party gave me to work with you to serve the people of Stoke-on-Trent as their Member of Parliament.