Labour insists it is ready to fight the surprise June 8 election called by Theresa May.
The party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was a chance to get a government that puts “the majority first”. He went on: “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.”
As Tribune went to press the prime minister was seeking Commons approval to junk the five-year parliament agenda set by her predecessor, but with both the Tories and Labour committed to an early poll there was no doubt that she would get the two-thirds majority necessary under legislation.
But having at least twice denied in recent weeks that she would call a contest before 2020, Mrs May now faces charges of lying to the electorate – and her own troops.
Mrs May said Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership following the EU referendum, adding: “The country is coming together but Westminster is not.”
However critics – and cynics – pointed to the latest opinion polls giving the Tories a 21-point lead, her current slim majority vulnerable to revolts in both the Commons and the Lords, and her personal lack of a mandate to steer through Brexit.
In a statement outside Number 10, Mrs May said Labour had threatened to vote against the final Brexit agreement and cited opposition to her plans from the Scottish National Party, the Lib Dems and “unelected” members of the House of Lords.
“If we don’t hold a general election now, their 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,” she said.
Corbyn said the election, following hard on the heels of the local government contests in which Labour is expected to do badly, would allow his party to focus on crises in housing, education funding and the NHS and pushfor an “economy that works for all”.
He added: “I’m starting straight away and I’m looking forward to it and we’ll take our message to every single part of this country… We’re campaigning to win this election – that’s the only question now.”
Asked if he will be the next prime minister, the Labour leader said: “If we win the election – yes – and I want to lead a government that will transform this country, give real hope to everybody and above all bring about a principle of justice for everybody and economic opportunities for everybody.”
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would be fighting the election “to win”, adding: “I think the prime minister has called this election for selfish, narrow, party political interests, but she has called it and therefore I relish the prospect of getting out to stand up for Scotland’s interests and values, standing up for Scotland’s voice being heard and standing against the ability of a right wing Conservative Party to impose whatever policies it wants on Scotland.”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron tweeted: “This is your chance to change the direction of your country. If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the single market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance.”