Liz Truss’s dramatic resignation as prime minister has sparked a flood of demands for an immediate general election, with The Independent’s petition passing 200,000 signatures within hours of her announcement.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer led calls for a poll now, declaring: “The British public deserve a proper say on the country’s future.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey issued a call for Conservative MPs to “do their patriotic duty, put the country first and give the people a say”.
And Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The interests of the Tory party should concern no-one right now.
“A general election is now a democratic imperative.”
The Independent began a campaign for an early general election earlier this week, since it became apparent that Ms Truss could no longer hold the confidence of her party and had lost the trust of the general public, as measured in opinion poll.
Ms Truss’s successor could be decided as early as Monday if the 357 Conservative MPs come together behind a single candidate.
If they are split between two contenders, the final decision will again go to the approximately 170,000 members of the Conservative Party who chose Ms Truss as leader in September, with the victor announced on Friday 28 October.
If only one candidate secures the nominations of 100 or more Tory MPs, he or she will become prime minister without a single vote being cast.
At no point will the estimated 47 million voters of the UK have a say in the choice of their prime minister.
The eventual winner will become the fourth prime minister in succession to be chosen either by Tory MPs – as Theresa May was – or party members, like Ms Truss and Boris Johnson.
The new PM will be the third this year and the third since the Conservatives last obtained a mandate from voters in the election of December 2019.
But he or she could stay in 10 Downing Street until January 2025 – some 15 months – before having to go to the country.
Sir Keir said: “The Tories cannot respond to their latest shambles by yet again simply clicking their fingers and shuffling the people at the top without the consent of the British people.
“They do not have a mandate to put the country through yet another experiment; Britain is not their personal fiefdom to run how they wish.
“The British public deserve a proper say on the country’s future.
“They must have the chance to compare the Tories’ chaos with Labour’s plans to sort out their mess, grow the economy for working people and rebuild the country for a fairer, greener future.
“We must have a chance at a fresh start. We need a general election – now.”
Thanks to constitutional changes brought in by Mr Johnson, the new prime minister will have the power to call an election at a time of his or her choosing, so long as parliament is dissolved by the deadline of 17 December 2024 – five years after it was formed. Dissolution must be followed within 25 days by an election.
If the PM refuses to call an early poll, Conservative MPs will hold the key to delivering an election by voting alongside opposition parties to bring it forward.
But with polls pointing to a wipeout for Tories if an election were held now, most Conservative MPs view the idea as anathema.
However, former Conservative minister Anna Soubry – who quit the party to form Change UK – said: “The only way to stop the chaos, restore stability & competence is a general election now. The only person with the skills to lead us through the economic crisis & restore decency in politics is Keir Starmer.”
“It is time for Conservative MPs to do their patriotic duty, put the country first and give the people a say.”
Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer said: “The government simply cannot govern – it is unfit for office.
“We need a general election now so people can vote for the policies they want to see that will turn this mess around.”
Anti-Brexit campaigner Femi Oluwole said: By firing Liz Truss and ruling out an election, the Tories are overruling the votes of Tory MPs and Tory members, and refusing to let the public vote either. Think about how historically dangerous it is to let some unelected leader rise out of this chaos. General election now.”
The Thick of It comedian Chris Addison tweeted “General election now”. Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: “We can’t go on like this. General Election now.”
And former Tony Blair aide Alastair Campbell said that the shape of the new government had already been It has been “stitched up” between Rishi Sunak, Jeremy Hunt and Penny Mordaunt.
“They have no right to treat our entire democratic foundations as a plaything for their wretched, rotten, useless party,” he said. “General election now.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford also pushed for an election, saying “people will accept nothing less”.
And Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “It is right that Liz Truss has resigned. But, in truth, this entire Tory Government has to go.
“The next Tory leader will have no mandate to be prime minister – we need a general election now.”