January 13, 2017 / 10:40 AM / 10 months ago

MP Tristram Hunt quits citing 'frustration' at party

LONDON (Reuters) - A senior MP from the Labour Party and critic of its leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Friday he would resign from parliament to take up the role of Director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Prospective Labour leader Tristram Hunt arrives at the annual conference of independent organisations for Labour Party members and trade unionists, London, May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

The resignation of Tristram Hunt, 42, MP for Stoke-on-Trent in central England since 2010 and a former Labour education spokesman, will provide a fresh electoral test for Corbyn, under whom Labour are lagging in the opinion polls.

Hunt said he had been frustrated by Labour’s inability to tackle poverty and inequality after losing the 2015 general election, and by the party’s response to forces that he said had rocked mainstream social democratic parties across the world.

“The frustration, of course, came with the inability to address those factors and implement our policy programme following our defeat in 2015,” Hunt said in a letter explaining his resignation to local party members in his constituency.

“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,” he said.

Though Hunt did not mention Corbyn in the resignation letter, he has been a vocal critic and has argued that Corbyn should have done more to persuade Labour voters to back remaining in the EU at last year’s referendum.

Corbyn, re-elected leader in September after a challenge from one of his MPs that exposed sharp divisions between the party’s elected representatives and grassroots supporters, is already facing a by-election in Copeland in northern England.

Many activists in the party fear it could lose that seat in a vote prompted by the resignation of another Corbyn critic, Jamie Reed.

In a December election for a vacant Conservative-held parliamentary seat, Labour slipped from second to fourth place.

Labour have held Hunt’s constituency since it was created in 1950, but the popularity of the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has been on the rise in the area, which voted strongly in favour of Brexit in last June’s referendum.

At the 2015 election, UKIP came second there with nearly 23 percent of the vote, an increase of more than 18 percentage points on their 2010 result.

“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,” said Hunt, a former TV historian.

Editing by Stephen Addison

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