THE candidates and parties in the four main constituencies in The Westmorland Gazette circulation area are already gearing up for what promises to be a frenzied election campaign.
After MPs this week backed the move for a general election to take place on Thursday, December 12, it is all systems go across the regional political spectrum.
The Westmorland and Lonsdale seat will be defended by the sitting MP, Liberal Democrat Tim Farron, and he will be challenged by Conservative Party candidate Cllr James Airey, who came a close second to Mr Farron in the 2017 election and was confirmed some time ago as the party’s candidate once again.
“This election will be a chance for local people to choose the MP who will champion their interests for the next five years,” said Mr Farron.
“While most politicians in Westminster fight like cats and dogs, here in Westmorland we’ve rolled up our sleeves and achieved so much together: fighting to protect Westmorland General Hospital, bringing cancer services to Kendal, saving our mental health ward, post offices, bus services, university campus and even clubbing together to run our own train service when those in charge simply gave up on us.
“And I’m so proud that we’ve been able to complete over 100,000 pieces of casework for local people since becoming your MP in 2005: whether that be securing a roof over their head for families in desperate need or getting people the vital mental health care they so badly deserve.”
Cllr Airey said he was delighted the General Election had finally been called.
“It is quite clear that the current Parliament is incapable and unwilling to deliver the will of the people. We need a new set of MPs who believe in democracy,” he said.
“Since the last election in 2017 I have continued my work as a local councillor and campaigner on the issues that matter most to residents in Westmorland and Lonsdale.
“I have and continue to campaign for better transport links in particular significant improvements to the A590 and a new Kendal relief road, better paid jobs for our young people and more investment in our NHS, schools and police.”
The Labour Party have also confirmed they will contest the seat, with the identity of their candidate expected to be confirmed within the next few days.
South Lakes Labour also said they welcomed the election announcement and said they were “looking forward to a change of government that will put an end to austerity and transform our economy so that it works for everyone across our country.
“Labour’s election manifesto policies will tackle the problems in society that this Conservative, and the previous Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, governments have created,” the statement continued.
“A Labour government will provide much-needed social housing, public transport that is affordable and efficient, and will bring the railways back into public ownership. It will provide proper funding for the NHS, education, adult social care, and the police and fire services. It will also create a society where there is no longer a need for foodbanks or rough sleeping, and urgently address the climate change crisis.
South Lakes Labour Chair, Paul Braithwaite said, “This General Election is a real opportunity to change our country for the better, and we will be fighting to return a Labour government that will rebuild Britain for all its citizens”.
The Green Party, who performed well regionally in recent local elections, are also expected to stand, but it is not known at this point whether The Brexit Party will field a candidate.
The anti-EU group have previously advised that they have vetted more than 600 parliamentary candidates and intended to contest all 650 seats.
However, rumours abound of a possible pact with the Conservatives not to stand against each other’s candidates in some seats, particularly marginals, and a decision is expected well before the November 14 deadline for candidate nominations to be submitted.
In the 2017 election, Mr Farron polled 23,686 votes, 777 more than Cllr Airey 22,909, with Labour’s Eli Aldridge polling 4,783 votes and the independent Mr Fishfinger 309.
In Morecambe and Lunesdale, the sitting MP, Conservative David Morris, was re-selected some months ago and is ready to defend the seat.
The Labour candidate for the seat is Lizzi Collinge, a former NHS worker, county councillor and mum-of-two.
“I’m excited to go into the election campaign with a clear, bright, vision for the future of Morecambe and Lunesdale,” she said.
Penrith and the Border will have a new MP after the incumbent Rory Stewart, who recently left the Conservative Party, announced that he would not stand again as he was putting himself forward as a candidate for Mayor of London.
In Barrow and Furness, MP John Woodcock is also set to stand again despite having left the Labour Party since his re-election in 2017.
Other groups have also welcomed the general election announcement.
Country Land and Business Association President Tim Breitmeyer said he hoped that “finally this political paralysis might be cured.”
“This election is an opportunity for all political parties to regain the trust of the countryside,” he said. “We hope they take their chance.”