EXCL 'Exodus' of Labour MPs predicted as Tom Blenkinsop says he won't stand in early election
Dozens of Labour MPs could stand down ahead of the general election planned for 8 June, PoliticsHome has learned.
Senior party insiders predicted an "exodus" of talented backbenchers, long-serving veterans and those in marginal seats in the wake of Theresa May's shock announcement.
Arch-Jeremy Corbyn critic Tom Blenkinsop, the MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, released a statement on his website moments after the Prime Minister's statement saying he would not be seeking re-election.
He said: "I have made no secret about my significant and irreconcilable differences with the current Labour leadership. It is because of these differences I feel I cannot in good faith stand as the Labour candidate for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.
"Representing the people of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has been the proudest years of my life.
"I will do all I can in my time remaining as an MP to champion my constituents and the area that means so much to me, as I have been proud to do over the last seven years.”
Mr Blenkinsop secured a majority of 2,268, at the 2015 election, up from 1,677 five years earlier, but faces a fierce battle with the Conservatives to retain the seat again.
Two opinion polls over the Easter weekend gave the Tories a 21-point lead, leaving many Labour MPs staring at near-certain defeat in the upcoming election.
One Labour MP said "loads" of others were now actively considering following Mr Blenkinsop's example by standing down ahead of 8 June.
"I think you'll see an exodus of Labour MPs - before and after the election," said the MP.
"Lots of colleagues are now thinking about their future, or as in many cases, the lack of it. Lots will stand down ahead of near-certain defeat or because Jeremy has made the atmosphere inside the party so miserable
"And of course the sad fact is very many decent hardworking colleagues are set to lose their seat thanks to Jeremy and his allies."
However, Mr Corbyn insisted he was looking forward to putting Labour's alternative vision to the country.
He said: "I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.
“Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS.
“In the last couple of weeks, Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain.”