Published: 18/04/2017 15:19 - Updated: 18/04/2017 17:10

Highland MPs react to Prime Minister's call for a snap General Election

Written byBy Emma Crichton

Theresa May. Credit: Jay Allen. Copyright: Crown Copyright.
Theresa May. Credit: Jay Allen. Copyright: Crown Copyright.

VOTERS look set to face the polls twice in a month following the Prime Minister's calls for a snap general election.

Theresa May shocked Britain this morning with the announcement that she wants to call a vote three years earlier than scheduled as a result of in-parliament fighting on the country’s place in the EU.

She said the country needs certainty, stability and strong leadership in light of Brexit.

"If we do not hold a general election now their [our opponents] political game-playing will continue and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election," the Prime Minister said.

"Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.

"So we need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.

Mrs May is to table a motion in the House of Commons on Wednesday and has called on MPs to back an election on June 8 - just seven weeks from now and only one month after the local council elections on May 4.

The Prime Minister must secure a majority of two thirds, 434 MPs, to be successful.

She will have the backing of 330 Conservative members and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said his party will also vote in favour, giving Mrs May her majority.

But Highland SNP MP Paul Monaghan is less convinced that Labour will vote for the election, particularly as many face losing their seats due to Labour’s declining popularity.

"This is probably opportunism [by Mrs May] as she knows Labour is in such disarray and it is a chance for the Conservatives to pick up a few more seats, as well as give her a mandate as Prime Minister," said Mr Monaghan, who represents Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

"She still has a major hurdle to overcome, however, as she has to get a two thirds majority in the vote. Jeremy Corbyn has difficulty asserting his authority across the party at the moment so even if he is saying Labour will vote in favour a lot of them may not. I don’t think many of them will relish the opportunity at the moment, given the party’s popularity."

And Mr Monaghan is not worried about the future of the number of SNP seats in the House. He secured his place in the 2015 election with a majority of almost 4000 votes more than former MP, Liberal Democrat John Thurso.

"I think the Conservatives will gain seats from Labour and UKIP might do well in the south east of England. I think SNP will do well across Scotland again," said Mr Monaghan.

"This will give the people of Scotland another opportunity to make their views on Brexit known, as we voted very strongly against last year but that has not been listened to by Conservatives at Westminster.

"I’m definitely not planning on going anywhere and I don’t think any of my fellow SNP colleagues will be planning on it either."

Fellow SNP MP Ian Blackford, who took his Ross, Skye and Lochaber seat from the late Charles Kennedy by just over 5000 votes in 2015, said he will not be complacent and will ask to be re-elected on his work so far.

"If we are to face a general election I would relish the opportunity to contrast our hopes and vision for Scotland against a Tory hard Brexit," he said.

"It would be a honour and a privilege to seek the endorsement of the voters in Ross, Skye and Lochaber.

"I would never be complacent and will put myself in front of the electorate on my record of being a hard working local MP, as well as my desire to be reelected to stand up for Scotland and be a champion for the Highlands and Islands."

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP Drew Hendry, the Highlands’ third SNP MP, added: “This extraordinary U-turn is a clear signal that the Prime Minister is more concerned with the interests of the Tory party than the interests of the people – clearly an attempt to force a rock hard Brexit and increasingly right wing policies on a Scotland that did not vote for either.

“Tory policies such as the shambolic rollout of Universal Credit are devastating families across our constituency and this election is an opportunity for voters to send a message that they reject this Tory power grab and all that it stands for.”

Mr Hendry ousted Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander, former chief secretary to the treasury, by just under 10,000 votes.

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