Wow. The resignation of Tristram Hunt as an MP (he’s quitting to become the director of the V&A museum) is a nightmare for Labour’s extraordinarily hapless leader, Marxist throwback and amateur woodcarver Jeremy Corbyn.

Hunt is the kind of MP that the Corbynistas want to see the back of, because he’s talented, thoughtful, modern and capable of being a minister. So off he goes, sensibly jumping in to a nice lifeboat .

But the timing is terrible for Corbyn, who now faces a by-election in very difficult circumstances. It comes when Labour is getting eaten alive, by the Lib Dems in areas where Remain voters want to fight back, potentially by UKIP in the north with Labour split, and in the south of England by the Tories who have in Mrs May a leader middle England prefers to Corbyn by a mile. Labour looks stuffed.

In Stoke-on-Trent Central in the 2015 general election, the turnout was 49.9% and the result was as follows:

Tristram Hunt (Labour): 12,220 – 39.3% (+0.5)

Mick Harold (UKIP): 7,041 – 22.7% (+18.3%)

Liam Ascough (Conservative): 7,008 – 22.5% (+1.5)

Mark Breeze (Independent): 2,120 – 6.8% (+6.8)

Zulfikar Ali (Liberal Democrat): 1,296 – 4.2% (-17.5)

And then there were some other assorted waifs and strays.

There’s obvious room for a lot of movement of votes in the by-election. At the general election Mark Breeze took votes as an independent targeting what he described as Labour’s failed stewardship of Stoke, and that large fall in the Lib Dem vote conceivably could be reversed and more if the Remainers can get organised. To win UKIP needs to emerge as the clear Leave choice, nicking votes from the Tories and hammering Corbyn on his confused position on immigration, on Brexit and his general unsuitability to run even a whelk stall.

As Stephen Bush points out, Stoke is not, not, not the north. It is the kind of seat which illustrates Labour’s existential crisis perfectly, however. The area voted Leave heavily in the EU referendum. In the EU referendum in Stoke-on-Trent, of which the parliamentary seat is a smaller part, Leave won with 81,563 (69.4%) against 36,027 (30.6%) on a turnout of 65.7%.

The by-election is all set-up for UKIP, if (and it is a big if) the Eurosceptic party can run a coherent campaign and put up a good candidate, presumably either someone local or Paul Nuttall, the new party leader. Former leader Nigel Farage is having too much fun as a disc jockey for LBC and is not going to make his eighth failed attempt to become an MP. It is reported that he has announced he will not stand, which is a mercy for all concerned.