Politics

Labour MP Tristram Hunt Standing Down To Become Director Of V&A Museum

The former historian’s resignation will trigger a by-election in his Stoke constituency, where UKIP came second in the last election.

Chris Radburn / PA Archive/PA Images

Labour MP Tristram Hunt is standing down to become the director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

His resignation will trigger a by-election in his Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency, which was a target seat for UKIP at the last general election but is due to be abolished under proposed boundary changes.

Hunt is the second Labour MP in as many months to announce they are quitting parliament, with Copeland MP Jamie Reed resigning to take a job at the Sellafield nuclear power plant. Reed won the seat with a majority of 2,564 in 2015.

But Hunt said he had “no desire to rock the boat now and anyone who interprets my decision to leave in that way is just plain wrong.”

Anthony Devlin / PA Archive/PA Images


“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,” he said in a statement to local party members, adding in a separate statement that he had “loved the V&A since I was a boy”.

Hunt became an MP in 2010 and was appointed shadow education secretary by Ed Miliband in 2013, but he resigned from the shadow cabinet when Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

In the wake of last year’s Brexit vote he called on Corbyn to stand down as leader, supporting Owen Smith in the ensuing leadership campaign.

His appointment as V&A director was approved by prime minister Theresa May and culture secretary Karen Bradley, the museum said.

V&A chair Nicholas Coleridge said the museum was “delighted” at Hunt’s appointment.

“He is an informed and articulate leader and communicator on numerous facets of culture, both historic and contemporary, and I greatly look forward to working with him at the V&A,” he said.

In a statement, Labour leader Corbyn said: “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.”

Tristram Hunt’s statement to the Stoke-on-Trent Central Labour party in full:

Dear Member of Stoke-on-Trent Central Labour Party,

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 for 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 F.A 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 I 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 for 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 factors and implement our policy programme following our defeat 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 front 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.

Yours sincerely,

Tristram Hunt

More to follow.




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Matthew Champion is a weekend editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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