Labour MPs have warned that the party risks an exodus of its “brightest and best” unless the leadership can convince voters it is serious about winning the next election.
The stark assesment follows the resignation of the Stoke MP and former frontbencher Tristram Hunt, to take up the directorship of the V&A museum.
The former shadow Education secretary was once a favourite among moderate MPs for the leadership, and has been a vocal critic of Jeremy Corbyn since his appointment in 2015.
His resignation marks the second by a Labour MP in as many months, and has sparked fears of a “talent drain” as the left-wing of the party strengthens its grip.
“We’ve got a drain of talent that must disturb all of us in the Labour party that want to continue to attract and retain talented people,” said the Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman.
“I saw Tristram as a possible leader of the party... He’s one of the brightest and the best.
“We’ve just had one good person giving up and going into the nuclear industry... [and] we’ve got other people going to run as mayor.
“This is a clear message to the leadership of the Labour party that we’ve got to get it right, we’ve got to start looking like a party that will win an election soon.”
A number of fellow Labour MPs took to Twitter to express their disappointment at the news, including Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves who described it as a “huge loss to Parliament and Labour politics”. Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher tweeted: “Respect his decision, but a loss to the Labour Party”.
Mr Hunt’s departure will trigger a by-election in his Stoke Central seat – an area which voted strongly in favour of leaving the EU. Ukip chairman Paul Oakden yesterday said the party will be “fighting hard” to win the seat, amid speculation that party’s leader Paul Nuttall may stand.
It comes as Labour prepares to select a candidate to fight to retain its Copeland seat, following the resignation of MP Jamie Reed.