General Election 2017: MPs and political parties react to news of upcoming vote
PUBLISHED: 13:00 20 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:33 24 April 2017
A surprise General Election was called by Prime Minister Theresa May this week, meaning Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset and Wells is likely to return to the polling stations on June 8.
Mrs May said Britain needed ‘certainty, stability and strong leadership’ as it moves towards its exit from the European Union (EU), from which she insisted there is ‘no turning back’.
Mrs May addressed the public on Tuesday morning outside 10 Downing Street, and said: “(Brexit) is in the national interest but the other political parties oppose it, at this moment of enormous national significance, there should be unity here in Westminster but instead there is division.”
That means the country has just seven weeks to prepare for another election.
Weston, North Somerset and Wells constituency groups have now begun preparing for a gruelling seven weeks of campaigning – yet the snap election decision came as such a surprise, few have yet to identify their candidates.
The Mercury will keep you up to date with all the news and issues over the coming weeks, but here is how news of the election was greeted in Weston, North Somerset and Wells:
WESTON MP JOHN PENROSE
John Penrose coasted to victory in the 2015, with his closest competitor more than 15,000 votes behind.
That represented a third consecutive General Election victory in Weston for the Conservative candidate, and he is hoping for a similar result in June.
He said: “No-one was predicting an early General Election but, now we have fired the starting gun for two years of tough Brexit discussions and global trade negotiations, the country needs a strong Government with a fresh democratic mandate to deal with the challenges ahead.
“I am looking forward to discussing the issues with people in Weston, Worle and the villages over the next six weeks and, providing they are willing, I hope to represent them in Westminster for five years after that.”
WELLS MP JAMES HEAPPEY
Former army man and current Conservative MP for Wells, James Heappey is serving his first term for the party.
Mr Heappey said he entered Parliament expecting a ‘normal week’ and was ‘surprised’ by Mrs May’s announcement, but said she had made ‘the right decision’.
He added: “Right now, we need the strongest possible Government with a strong mandate to get the very best deal for the UK.
“I will be proud to stand on my record as the MP for the Wells constituency and on my vision for what more we can do to make sure our part of Somerset continues to be a great place to live and work.
NORTH SOMERSET MP LIAM FOX
Dr Liam Fox has been the Conservative MP for North Somerset for 25 years and said he is ‘looking forward’ to the General Election campaign.
He added: “The choice facing the country at this election is all about leadership.
“The choice in this election is strong and stable leadership in the national interest with Theresa May and the Tories – or weak and unstable coalition government, led by Jeremy Corbyn.”
North Somerset Labour Party has welcomed the announcement made by Mrs May.
Party secretary Angela Everitt said: “This will provide the people of North Somerset with the opportunity to have a say on the Brexit deal which they think will be best for our country.
“Labour’s fair and ‘soft’ Brexit deal which is good for all of us, or the ‘hard’ Brexit of Theresa May which will exacerbate divisions within our society and bring with it a more precarious economy, cuts in our health, welfare and education services, and falling living standards.”
Weston Labour Party vice chairman Dave Townsend said Mrs May did a ‘massive U-turn’ when she made her announcement.
He added: “We all know Mrs May has been stumbling over Brexit and this is happening before the negotiations begin, which is very telling about her lack of a plan or ability to negotiate the best possible package for the UK. We welcome this opportunity to bring about changes which will make Weston, and Britain, a fairer place to live.”
WESTON LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
North Somerset councillor Mike Bell said Weston and North Somerset’s Liberal Democrats Party ‘welcomes’ the election and looks forward to taking the party’s message to the people.
Cllr Bell ran against John Penrose during the 2010 election and lost out in a close battle by 3,000 votes.
Cllr Bell said: “This area is traditionally closely-fought between the LibDems and the Tories – we won in 1997 and 2001, they won in 2010 and 2015.
“If people want to avoid a disastrous ‘hard’ Brexit and if they want a Britain which is open and tolerant. This is their chance to vote for a united, liberal alternative.
“North Somerset divided virtually 50/50 between leave and remain in the referendum. Only a LibDems vote offers an internationalist, sensible and electable alternative to the Tory Brexit Government.”
UK INDEPENDENCE PARTY
UKIP has placed third in all three of the area’s votes last time out – the party’s best result yet in Weston, North Somerset and Wells.
However Weston chairman Anita Spencer-Johns said the party was ‘pleased’ to hear about the election.
She told the Mercury: “We all had quite a surprise on Tuesday morning. I was pleased to hear Mrs May make negative comments of other parties but not in regard to UKIP. This is looking to be the equivalent of yet another referendum.
“UKIP has proven to be the only party which was consistent and united about leaving the EU, therefore to ensure Brexit will achieve the wishes of the people of the UK, there needs to be UKIP MPs in Parliament.”
Anita said her party has always ‘worked hard’ to ensure the ‘security and prosperity’ of the UK for generations to come, and she said it will continue to do so.