May calls snap election - Harrogate and Knaresborough reaction

The seat of Harrogate and Knaresborough couldbe contested along with 649 others across the country
The seat of Harrogate and Knaresborough couldbe contested along with 649 others across the country

Parties and candidates across our district have stirred at the breaking news of Prime Minister Theresa May's call for an early general election for June 8.

The seat of Harrogate and Knaresborough could be contested along with 649 others across the country if the Prime Minister is able to secure a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at Department for Transport and Conservative MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, Andrew Jones said: "It's a surprise but I can understand why she has done this now, we are in a period of momentous change and the time has come to bring that uncertainty to an end.

"We have had a huge period of decision making and we are entering into a critical time for the negotiations. We can now produce a secure and stable government for these negotiations and secure what is necessary in these most complicated set of negotiations.

"There is a need to end uncertainty and make sure we do not have a team with half an eye on the general election and another on Brexit. We are making sure that we have a government that is in a position of strength.

"Something has changed since the referendum, people have realized something has happened and people want to work together. The referendum was divisive but the decision was made, we now have a chance to come together and have a strong government in charge and in place during this negotiation period.

"Harrogate reflected the country with its result, it was a very evenly split. I however thought that both campaigns were poor, for my politics I look to bring people together and I want to find solutions not finding division.

"We have triggered article 50 and this election will decide who is the team who will lead."

Response to the news in Harrogate has however been mixed outside of the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats remain confident of their post-referendum membership growth but are wary of the type of fight that two close campaigns could produce, as the local elections loom on May, 4.

Geoff Webber of the Liberal Democrats said: "Its a heavy burden on local authorities to run these elections two at a month apart. People who are part of the campaigning process will now have to do this all over again.

"Parties are going to face a resource problem, she promised not to run this election and we have planned accordingly, she should have stuck by her promise and waited until 2020. Plainly she is looking to raise the support she needs for a hard Brexit.

"In Harrogate there are an awful lot of people who think they (Conservatives) have lost their point and actually want a soft Brexit. The Liberal Democrats are on the up nationally and locally, we have seen our numbers grow, last month we saw 24 new members and that is good going for Harrogate. Since the referendum we have had 100 new members.

"During the last run when we were knocking on doors we were hearing about issues that reflected the times of the coalition, the decision to raise tuition fees, we know that this is wearing off. It was never something that we wanted.

"We are hopeful of the results, although the burden it will place on grassroots parties will be huge. More and more it is the party with more resources that is successful, just like America."

Helen Flynn, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Harrogate and Knaresborough, has called the election an opportunity for the seat to once again swing to the party.

Mrs Flynn said: "Harrogate district was one of only 4 northern districts to vote remain in the EU Referendum last year. With a hard Brexit now being pursued by the Conservatives nationally and by the current local MP who voted for it, it is important for local people to have their say on whether this is the direction they believe the country should take.

"I actually welcome the opportunity during this campaign to put the case forward for a softer approach to Brexit, which at the minimum should guarantee our access to the single market. To my mind, a hard Brexit would be reckless for the future health of our economy both nationally and locally.”

Labour is confident at the prospect of a general election even while it faces additional fights in Bilton, Woodfield, New Park and Knaresborough.

Kevin McNerney,Chair of Harrogate and Knaresborough Labour said: "Theresa May has shown that she cannot be trusted by making this call, she wanted to remain in the EU and now is for ratting on that, she is is an empty suit with no vision. The call for an election was done simply to try and ring the neck of Labour, but we are and we will fight.

"There is no shadow of a doubt that this has been done because she is ahead in the polls, there is still years before the negotiations will go through and she will continue to use that line. How is this a mandate for an election to be called? They think they can kill us but we have almost triple their numbers.

"First and foremost we can say that with housing in Harrogate we can see that millionaire's homes are being put up, but how many affordable houses have been built? Less than a hundred. The Tory Council's performance over the Nidd Gorge bypass? The people who live there do not vote Tory.

"If you want good schools to be replaced and the rest of us to be impoverished vote Tory."

The call for a snap election has been described by the Green Party as 'cynical hope' for the Prime Minister to gain a mandate for a more right wing government and support for a harder Brexit.

Green Party candidate for Harrogate and Knaresborough, Greig Sharman, said: "We will do all we can to ensure that this Tory attempt at a coup will be frustrated by the clear voice of the people in unseating Conservatives nationwide, including in Harrogate and Knaresborough.

"We hope voters will recall the tragedies to personal lives due to the Tories' wrongheaded and unnecessary austerity, the Tory bonfire of environmental, workers and consumer protection, Tory attempts to destroy and sell off our education system and the NHS; an overcrowded and inefficient rail system, the dash for gas through fracking with police violence and disrespect for democracy."