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Tristram Hunt quits as Labour MP to become V&A director

Lauretta Roberts
13 January 2017

Dr Tristram Hunt has quit as Labour MP of Stoke-on-Trent Central, a position he has held since 2010, to become director of the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A).

He replaces Dr Martin Roth who stood down in September in dismay at the result of the EU referendum. Roth, who is German, said he believed the UK would become more insular due to Brexit and spoke of his dismay at the rhetoric used during the referendum campaign. He had been responsible for some of the museum's most successful exhibitions, including  David Bowie is in 2013 and Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty in 2015.

Hunt, who is also the former Shadow Secretary of State and Shadow Minister for Education, is also a well-known historian, writer and broadcaster and has written several books including including The English Civil War: At First Hand, and most recently Ten Cities That Made An Empire. His broadcasting credits include Elgar and EmpireIsaac Newton and the English Civil War.

He also lectures in modern British history at Queen Mary University of London, is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a founder of the Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival and a Patron of the British Ceramics Biennial. Previously he was a Trustee of both the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and a Curator of the Mayor of London’s History Festival.

His appointment has been confirmed by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and he will join the museum "in the coming months".

"I am delighted and honoured to have been appointed director of the V&A. I have loved the V&A since I was a boy, and today it is a global leader in its unrivalled collections, special exhibitions, academic research and visitor experience," Hunt said.

"It is a moment of transformation and renewal for the V&A, with the upcoming opening of the new Exhibition Road entrance, and new sites and galleries in Dundee, China and Stratford. I am particularly pleased that, through the V&A ownership of the Wedgwood Collection, my passion for education in Stoke-on-Trent can continue," he added.

V&A chairman Nicholas Coleridge said he was "delighted" at the appointment. "He has a highly compelling mixture of experience across public life, the arts, history, education and academia, and knows our collections well from his writing and broadcasting. In addition, 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," Coleridge said.

The move however will spark a by-election in Hunt's constituency, which is seen as vulnerable Labour seat and Hunt had been an outspoken critic of Jeremy Corbyn. The party's deputy leader Tom Watson told The Guardian: “I am disappointed to see a talented MP like Tristram step down. His departure will be keenly felt by parliament and by the Labour party but I know he will continue to champion Stoke-on-Trent’s proud industrial heritage in his new role at the Victoria and Albert Museum."

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