Rishi Sunak has ruled out an early general election after becoming leader of the Conservative party, despite calls from every opposition party and growing public support for a snap vote.
More than 400,000 people have signed The Independent’s campaign petition for a general election, as Mr Sunak was made prime minister-in-waiting on Monday.
A poll run by YouGov in the wake of Liz Truss’s resignation last week found that almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of the public believe the new PM should call an early election.
Mr Sunak was named Tory leader after winning the support of more than 200 Tory MPs. He is expected to go to Buckingham Palace to meet King Charles III on Tuesday before taking over at No 10.
But the new Tory leader made clear he would not be going to the country early in remarks to Tory MPs at a behind-closed-doors meeting shortly after being crowned leader by the 1922 Committee of backbenchers.
Tory MP Simon Hoare said opposition parties “always want an election”, but Mr Sunak had ruled one out. “His key message to the public is, ‘Can you give us the space and the time, can you give us more of your patience, and he’ll argue it’s worth their time’.”
One MP told the Mirror that Mr Sunak “made it clear he will go [to the polls] in two years”, while another third MP said he had “made it clear it’s a long way to the next election”.
Mr Sunak had 202 publicly-declared backers by the 2pm deadline. His campaign wouldn’t give a precise final total of MPs giving support, but said it was “over 200”.
As things stand, the latest date at which the next general election could take place under the law is January 2025. The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022 gives the PM the power to decide the date any time before then.
Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s deputy leader, repeated the party’s call for a general election, tweeting: “Nobody voted for this.”
In a statement, she said: “Rishi Sunak has no mandate and no idea what working people need. We need a general election so the public get a say on the future of Britain – and the chance for a fresh start with Labour.”
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said Tory MPs had “installed another out of touch prime minister with no plan to repair the damage and without giving the British people a say”.
The SNP has said the Tories “cannot be allowed to impose a third prime minister without a general election”. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said he should accept a vote and “must not unleash another round of austerity”.
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said his crowing by 200 MPs was “antidemocratic”, while Green MP Caroline Lucas said it was “difficult to think of a prime minister with less of a mandate to govern than Rishi Sunak”.