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Kent MPs stunned as Gordon Henderson admits he was ‘completely unaware’ of Theresa May plans for general election on June 8

PUBLISHED: 11:11 18 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:49 18 April 2017

Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement in Downing Street, London, announcing a snap general election on June 8. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement in Downing Street, London, announcing a snap general election on June 8. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke described the announcement as “fantastic news”

Theresa May’s plans for a snap general election have stunned members of her own party, with a Kent MP admitting he was “completely unaware” of today’s announcement.

The prime minister made the shock declaration just after 11am this morning, and MPs will vote tomorrow on whether to trigger the vote, which would see 17 seats across Kent and Medway being contested on June 8.

Mrs May needs 66 per cent of those in the Commons to vote in favour.

Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson declined to confirm his intention to defend his seat until the vote was made when informed by Kent News of the planned election.

“As far as I’m aware, the next election is in 2020, I’m completely unaware of anything else,” he told us.

“But if this is the case, I would be interested to see the result.

“I can’t imagine there are too many Labour or Scottish National MPs wanting one.

“I think we have to see what happens in the vote tomorrow before we can say any more.”

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke said: “This is fantastic news. Theresa May is right to go to the country.

“Labour, Lib Dem and SNP MPs will stop at nothing to scupper the Brexit process.

“We must give the prime minister the backing she needs to strike the best deal for Britain.

“This election will enable her to do just that.”

Canterbury MP Sir Julian Brazier added: “We need to hold this election now to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond.

“Division in Westminster, and the government’s small majority, risks weakening our government’s hand in its negotiations with the European Union.

“We have a one-off opportunity to hold an election while the EU agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed Brexit talks begin.

“This decision cannot be delayed and needs to happen now - that is the only way to end the uncertainty that the other parties are causing.

“The choice is clear- strong and stable leadership with Theresa May and the Conservatives – or a weak and unstable coalition government led by Jeremy Corbyn, propped up by the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats.”

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said: “This announcement came as a surprise to me as much as anyone else.

“It is right though that people will be able to determine who is going to run our country.

“Dartford is Britain’s longest lasting bellwether seat, having returned an MP from the governing party at each election longer than anywhere else.

“This means that if Labour win in Dartford on June 8, Jeremy Corbyn will be our prime minister and running our country.

“The thought of that makes me shudder.

“We cannot allow Jeremy Corbyn to spoil the work that Theresa May has started.

“I will be putting myself forward to continue serving the people of Dartford and help Theresa May continue her work.

“I hope that I will be given that opportunity.”

Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant said the call had her full support.

“Until recently, like the prime minister, it was my long-held view that another election was not what our country needed,” she said.

“Westminster party politics of late has made it plain, however, that such a slim majority will surely compromise the government’s position as we proceed into vital Brexit negotiations.

“Theresa May requires a strong personal mandate to provide our country with the leadership, certainty and stability it needs for a full five-year term of parliament, taking us safely beyond our departure from the European Union.

“A June general election can deliver that leadership, certainty and stability.”

Helen Whately also welcomed the announcement: “Theresa May has already shown she is a strong and principled leader.

“This election is an opportunity to give her a substantial mandate, and strengthen her hand in negotiations with the European Union.

“Now, while the EU is determining its own priorities, is the right time.

“I want to see the prime minister secure the best possible deal for Britain and particularly for Faversham and Mid Kent.

“While I have backed her to see through the referendum result, MPs from other parties haven’t; their threats to overturn the referendum result just weaken her position.

“A successful result on June 8 will enable the prime minister to negotiate more strongly in our national interest, and give Britain stable leadership to see us through Brexit.”

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”.

Explaining her change of heart on an early election, Mrs May said: “I have concluded the only way to guarantee certainty and security for years ahead is to hold this election.”

More to follow.

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