Political figures and organisations in Northumberland have been giving their reaction to Prime Minister's announcement today that there will be a snap General Election on June 8.
Political commentator Steven Bridgett, who is standing as an Independent candidate at the Northumberland County Council elections on May 4, said: "I think it is a smart move and I would be amazed if Theresa May didn't get back in. All she is doing is trying to strengthen her hand, and who in politics wouldn't."
He believes the Copeland by-election victory by the Conservatives, over-turning a Labour majority of more than 2,500 in an area that hasn't seen a Tory MP for more than 80 years, was the trigger to today's announcement.
He says Mrs May is striking while Labour are at a low ebb, just when she needs a clearer mandate to progress with Brexit.
"I just hope voters draw a clear distinction between the local elections on May 4 and the General Election on June 8," said Mr Bridgett.
A Northumberland Labour group spokeman said: "After denying the country needed an expensive General Election, the Conservatives have once again put party gain before the country. We're keen to highlight the raw deal ordinary people are getting from this government. Northumberland has seen cuts to schools, our NHS, the county council budget and the Tory broken promises on dualling the A1. We think ordinary people need a fair deal from government and only Labour will offer that in Northumberland."
Liberal Democrat spokesman for Northumberland commented: "“This election is a huge opportunity for voters across Northumberland to change the direction of our country and ensure Britain has a decent opposition. People in Northumberland may have voted to leave the EU, but many did not vote for the extreme form of Brexit that Theresa May has imposed on us after being backed by Labour.
“For all those who want to protect our local economy by staying in the Single Market and ensure the people have the final say over what comes next, this is your chance. The Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to the Conservative Brexit Government and the only party fighting for a Britain that is open, tolerant and united.”
The incumbent Tory MP for the Berwick constituency, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: "The Prime Minister has signalled her intention to go to the country on June 8 to give voters a clear choice between a stable Government, with a strong leader in Theresa May, or a weak, shambolic coalition Government with Jeremy Corbyn propped up by the Lib Dems and the SNP.
“An election held before the negotiations with the European Union begins mean the country has the opportunity to vote for a stable future and certainty for a full five years, not just up to the point at which we leave the European Union but beyond it too.
"In Theresa May, the Conservative Party and the nation has a trustworthy and proven leader intent on uniting the nation and strengthening our hand at the negotiating table with the European Union. Theresa May is the best person to get the right deal for the UK, with a strong, united government and country behind her.”National Farmers' Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond said: “With farming arguably the sector most impacted by Brexit, NFU members will want to understand how each of the political parties plans to support profitable, productive and progressive agriculture and horticulture in the future. The right post-Brexit trade deal is absolutely critical but equally well so is a new wider policy framework that better delivers for farming and the nation.
“Throughout the next seven weeks, the NFU will ensure that all parties fully understand and engage with the food and farming community on the issues facing the sector both now and post-Brexit. British farms currently grow the raw ingredients for the UK food and drink manufacturing sector worth £108billion and, moreover, the public want to continue to buy British food. For that to happen, it’s vital that candidates recognise the enormous contribution that agriculture makes - for every £1 invested, farming delivers £7.40 back to this country – and to back British farming.”
Country Land and Business Association (CLA) director general Helen Woolley said: “In light of the Prime Minister’s decision to call a General Election, we welcome the opportunity to get out and engage with candidates about the future of the countryside and ensure the rural voice is heard. The CLA will work throughout the campaign to ensure MPs understand that the future of the rural economy must be a national priority through Brexit and beyond.”