UPDATED: Sleaford and North Hykeham MP prepares to defend her seat after Prime Minister calls for early General Election

Dr Caroline Johnson, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham. EMN-170130-155442001
Dr Caroline Johnson, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham. EMN-170130-155442001

The MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham has spoken out in support of Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call for a snap General Election.

This morning (Tuesday) the Prime Minister made a statement in Downing Street setting out why she was going back on her previous pledge there would be no election before 2020, as previously fixed, calling for a General Election to be held on June 8.

Sleaford MP Dr Caroline Johnson, who only won a high profile and highly publicised battle for her seat last December, told The Standard this afternoon: “We need this election now to secure the strong leadership that this country needs to see us through the Brexit process, and beyond.

“The division in Westminster caused by the other parties, coupled with the Government’s small majority, risks weakening our hand in our negotiations with Europe.

“This election gives us the opportunity to bring stability and certainty for a full five years. The choice is a stark one – the strong and competent leadership of Theresa May, or the weak and unstable Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn.”

Voters may now get to comment on whether Dr Johnson is delivering on her by-election promises sooner than expected as she will have to return to the campaign trail after just five months in Parliament, decisively winning the seat given up by former Tory MP Stephen Phillips.

She said: “I am looking forward to getting back out on the doorsteps to continue my conversation with local people about what they want to see from Brexit and from a government working in their interests.”

UKIP’s Victoria Ayling, who came second in the by-election has told The Standard that at this stage she does not know whether she will be standing in the constituency again.

Liberal Democrat chairman for Lincolnshire, Ross Pepper, who came third in the Sleaford by-election, could not say yet whether he would be standing again in the constituency, but he said this was a chance for voters in Lincolnshire to “change direction of the country” and ensure Britain has a decent opposition.

Mr Pepper commented: “This election is a huge opportunity for voters in Lincolnshire to change the direction of our country and ensure Britain has a decent opposition.

“People in Lincolnshire 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.”

Sleaford resident Paul Coyne stood as an Independent in the by-election. When asked he said: “In the by-election I failed to get my message across, which was essentially that it was a Referendum on proper funding for Lincolnshire.

“What I can say for now is that if I stand again to become MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham I will succeed in getting my message across. And if I were to win, that would surely be a bonus for the NHS.”

Prime Minister Mrs May will now need the backing of two thirds of MPs in the House of Commons tomorrow, Wednesday, to overturn the Fixed Term Parliament Act currently setting the next General Election date.

Mrs May said the lack of “unity” in Westminster over the Brexit process was weakening the Government’s negotiating hand with Brussels and meant an election was required before full talks begin.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he welcomed Mrs May’s announcement because it gave “the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first”.

“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.”

* The results of the 2016 by-election for Sleaford and North Hykeham were:

Caroline Johnson, Conservatives - 17,570.

Victoria Ayling, UKIP - 4,426.

Ross Pepper, Liberal Democrats - 3,606.

Jim Clarke, Labour - 3,363.

Marianne Overton, Lincolnshire Independent - 2,892.

Sarah Stock, Independent - 462.

The Iconic Arty-Pole, Monster Raving Loony Party - 200.

Paul Coyne, Independent - 186.