Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt quit together to spark double by-election
Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt formally stood down as MPs today as Labour confirmed that the contests to replace them will take place on 23 February.
PoliticsHome revealed last night that party bosses had ditched plans to delay the by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central until May. The writ for both polls will be moved by party managers on Monday.
Mr Reed announced he was quitting before Christmas to take up a job in the nuclear industry, and had been expected to resign his seat on 31 January.
But he announced today that he had decided to bring his departure forward after Mr Hunt revealed last week that he was also leaving parliament, to become the new director of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
In a statement on his website, Mr Reed said: "Serving as the MP for Copeland over the last 12 years has been a privilege and an honour.
"As you will know, it was my intention to resign at the end of January to take up my role at Sellafield. However in light of the additional by-election in Stoke, I have decided to hand in my resignation early so that both by-elections can take place at the same time."
He urged local voters to back Labour's candidate, Gillian Troughton, in the forthcoming by-election. She was selected by local party activists last night after Jeremy Corbyn failed in a bid to have her rival, Rachel Holliday, chosen instead.
Mr Reed added: "If Copeland elects a Conservative member of parliament, it will be a vote for everything they have planned for the health service in West Cumbria. The Tories will use it to cut our NHS services. We cannot have people not being able to access their A&E or having to travel miles on potentially dangerous roads to give birth."
Bookmakers make the Tories slight favourites to be victors in Copeland, where Labour won last year with a 2,500 majority.
Labour will choose its candidate for the Stoke by-election next Wednesday.
Mr Hunt retained the seat with a 5,000 majority from Ukip at the last election. New Ukip leader Paul Nuttall is tipped to be his party's candidate in the seat, with the final decision being taken tomorrow.