Theresa May has called an early general election for June 8 in an announcement that has stunned Westminster.
The Prime Minister had repeatedly denied that she would call an election before the next scheduled poll in 2020. But following a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street she said she would go to the country this year.
Speaking outside Number 10, the Prime Minister said the Cabinet had agreed to call an early election.
The move takes place against the backdrop of the country’s decision to leave the European Union in last year’s referendum.
Justifying the decision, Mrs May said: “The country is coming together but Westminster is not.”
She said the “division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed Mrs May’s calls for an early election saying it will “give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.”
After Theresa May’s shock announcement, the Liberal Democrats claim to have gained 1,000 new members in an hour.
Sal Brinton, president of the Liberal Democrats, said: “This is a time when liberals must stand together, and people across the country are doing just that.
“The surge in our membership proves that the Liberal Democrats are seen as the real opposition to this Conservative Brexit Government.”
Jeremy Corbyn has welcomed Theresa May’s call for an early election, arguing that Labour will offer the country “an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy”.
The Labour leader indicated that he would move his party to back the Government in a parliamentary vote on whether an election should be called. The PM is expected to hold the vote tomorrow in the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister needs a two-thirds majority under the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 in order to trigger an election before 2020, when the next one is scheduled. Without Labour’s support such a vote would be impossible to pass
“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,” Mr Corbyn said in a statement.
“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.”
Labour is currently 21 points behind the Conservatives in the most recent polls, a result that would see dozens of the party’s MPs lose their seats.
One MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has already said he will not stand in the coming election because he fears a wipe-out.
Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has also already said he would support the move for an early election