THE reaction of East Lancashire MPs to the early general election poll was surprise and then excitement for the battle to come.

Most seemed happy to gear up for a crucial election in the wake of last year's pro-Brexit vote in the Euro-referendum.

With three sitting on majorities of less than 6,000 in Burnley, Rossendale and Darwen and Pendle, every vote will be fought for.

National party leaderships know how important East Lancashire is to overall victory.

Conservatives welcomed the poll as a chance to cement their party's position in advance of Brexit negotiations, portraying it as a fight between her and Jeremy Corbyn.

However Labour MPs declined to enthusiastically endorse their leader Jeremy Corbyn as an election winner.

Senior local Liberal Democrats Tony Greaves and Gordon Birtwistle predicted a revival for their party which could grab Burnley back after a narrow 3,244 vote defeat in 2015.

Pendle Tory MP Andrew Stephenson confessed to being 'nervous' in a seat he won in 2015 by just 5,435 votes and which often changes hands

The Labour MPs for Hyndburn, Graham Jones, and Blackburn, Kate Hollern, admitted their party faced a tough battle to win power nationally.

They accused Mrs May of 'opportunism' as opinion polls gave the government a lead of up to 20 points.

In a vote later today to unpick the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which set the next election for 2020, all seven East Lancashire MPs were ready to fire the starting gun, agreeing with Lancashire Telegraph readers who voted six to four in favour.

An early poll makes May 4's Lancashire County Council elections a key indicator of what happens five weeks later.

Burnley MP Julie Cooper expressed fears of 'voter fatigue' lowering the turnout in a second bruising election in 25 months.

She said: "It was shock but her decision is a combination of opportunism and weakness because she cannot trust her own party to support her Brexit deal.

"I shall be asking the people of Burnley and Padiham to put their trust in me and in Labour,.

"Leaders come and leaders go but our leader is Jeremy Corbyn.

"It is going to be a tough fight."

Pendle peer Lord Greaves said: "This election is a great opportunity for a Liberal Democrat revival.

"We are the only party supporting the half of the country who voted against Brexit and want the best possible deal with the EU.

"I would bet a lot of money on us winning back Burnley."

Blackburn Labour MP Kate Hollern said: “I am confident Labour will unify.

"This is about policies and the future of the country not about who is leader.

"Theresa May has called a general election to disguise her own shortcomings."

Mr Stephenson said: "This is a brave but necessary decision.

"I am aware that Pendle has historically mainly been represented by Labour MPs, so I am personally nervous.

"This is not about my position but the future of the country.

"I shall be fighting tooth and nail for every vote."

Mr Jones said: "This is opportunism.

"I have to be realistic. We are going to have to work very hard to win or form a strong opposition.

"This is not about the relative merits of Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn but the future of our country."

Mr Birtwistle, who confirmed he would stand in Burnley, said: "I shall be fighting not just on Brexit but the cuts imposed on the people of Burnley by the Tory government and Labour county council."

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said: "I am very excited.

"Theresa May needs to win her own majority to give her a stronger mandate in her negotiations over Brexit."

Mr Berry, whose majority in 2015 over Labour was 5,654, said: "We have a one-off chance to hold an election while the EU agrees its negotiating position.

"I never take voters' support for granted and I will be fighting for every vote."

The only MP not surprised was Chorley Labour's Lindsay Hoyle who said: "I shall be fighting this election as I always have by putting Chorley first."

Former Blackburn MP and Labour cabinet minister Jack Straw said: "Let battle be joined.

"Labour doesn't quite have a mountain to climb but is going to have to be unified and work very hard to win."