Hartlepool MP Iain Wright has accused Prime Minister Theresa May of putting party before country in calling a snap election for June.
Mrs May’s decision to go to the country on June 8 stunned Westminster, as she and Number 10 have repeatedly insisted she would not seek a general election before the scheduled 2020 poll.
But Mrs May, who has a fragile working majority of just 17 in the Commons, said she wanted “unity” at Westminster as talks on Brexit begin in earnest with the European Union.
She will require the support of two-thirds of MPs to go to the country, with a vote scheduled in the Commons tomorrow: “We want a deep and special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and a United Kingdom that is free to chart its own way in the world.
“That means we will regain control of our own money, our own laws and our own borders and we will be free to strike trade deals with old friends and new partners all around the world.
“This is the right approach, and it is in the national interest. But the other political parties oppose it.
The announcement has come as a huge shock, given that the Prime Minister had been adamant before she would not call a general election until 2020 as planned. However, she has chosen to put party advantage before the good of the country.Iain Wright MP
“At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.”
But Iain Wright said the Prime Minster was prioritising her own party’s political interests.
“The announcement has come as a huge shock, given that the Prime Minister had been adamant before she would not call a general election until 2020 as planned,” he said.
“However, she has chosen to put party advantage before the good of the country.
“The announcement, although a shock, is not altogether surprising, given the uncertainty over Brexit, economic storm clouds emerging in the distance, the wish of Theresa May to secure a mandate of her own for Downing Street and a commanding lead in the opinion polls for the Conservatives.”
Jonathan Walker, head of policy and campaigns with the North East England Chamber of Commerce said the reason for calling the election was less important than what happened next: “There will be a huge amount of speculation about the PM’s motivation for calling for a general election,” he said.
“Whatever the reasoning, the onus is on all parties to demonstrate how they will deliver fair economic growth for businesses in the North East and help the UK secure the best possible Brexit deal.”
Mrs May suggested she reached her decision over the Easter parliamentary recess - during which she went on a walking holiday in North Wales.
“I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion,” the PM said.
“Since I became Prime Minister I have said that there should be no election until 2020.
“But now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has welcomed Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election, saying his party would offer an “effective alternative” to the Tories.
Mr Corbyn said the Prime Minister’s surprise decision to call an election on June 8, almost three years earlier than the next scheduled ballot, would give the people the chance to vote for a government that will put the “majority first”.
The Labour leader indicated that his MPs would support Mrs May’s demand for an early election, which will require the backing of two-thirds of all MPs.
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.”