Friday, 13 January 2017

Tristram Hunt on the by-election conveyer belt

It is unlikely that anyone named Tristram would reach the very top of the Labour party but the historian was once talked about as a future leader.

These were in the days before the Corbyn revolution transformed Labour into a party that Tristram Hunt barely recognises. That change is undoubtedly the main reason Hunt is standing down as an MP at the age of 42, regardless of what is said about the wonderful opportunity to be director of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The MP for Stoke on Trent Central faced repeated threats of de-selection under boundary changes because of his vocal opposition to Corbyn (he was marked as “hostile” on the leader’s little black list).

But it was the drift of Labour voters to UKIP that worried him. The anti-EU party came second, a distant second, to Hunt when he stood for re-election in 2015 in the Staffordshire seat

However, Stoke on Trent was dubbed the Brexit capital of Britain with the highest proportion of leave votes in the country.

Up to a dozen Labour MPs are said to join the conveyer belt of by-election resignations as they give up on the Corbyn leadership.

Jamie Reid has already signalled he will go from Copeland and it is clear the party is going to face a massive challenge there from the Conservatives.

For the inner-core Corbyn operation Hunt’s departure will be a bonus not a loss, an opportunity to put a more loyal candidate in place to catch the rising tide of support that will surely come Labour’s way as the May Brexit strategy falls apart.

Some hope. The evidence from two by-elections last night is that any Brexit blowback will miss the Labour party entirely and flow to the Lib Dems who have nailed their colours to the Remain mast

In Sunderland’s rock solid Sandhill ward, where Labour hasn’t lost since 1982, the Lib Dems won a council by-election with a massive 41 per cent increase in their vote.

One bright note -Labour’s loss is Dundee’s gain. The Victoria and Albert is opening a franchise in Dundee and Hunt, a great historian, will hopefully prove to be a dynamic director of the parent organisation.

But politically he is now history himself, amid signs that is the direction Labour is heading under Corbyn too.

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