Rishi Sunak refused Sir Keir Starmer’s demand for an immediate general election, as the Labour leader mocked the new Tory prime minister over his summer leadership defeat to predecessor Liz Truss.
Sir Keir questioned Mr Sunak’s mandate to lead as he repeated his call for a snap vote during a feisty first exchange between the party leaders at PMQs on Wednesday.
“He got trounced by the former prime minister, who herself got beaten by a lettuce,” the Labour leader told the Commons – referring to the viral campaign which saw Ms Truss fail to stay at No 10 longer than a decaying vegetable.
Questioning whether the Tory leader was “on the side of working people”, Sir Keir added: “Why doesn’t he put it to the test, let working people have their say and call a general election.”
Referring to Sir Keir’s Remain stance during the Brexit referendum, Mr Sunak replied: “He talks about mandates, about voters, about elections. It’s a bit rich coming from the person who tried to overturn the biggest democratic vote in our country’s history.”
Refusing to accept the need for a general election, the prime minister said: “Our mandate is based on the manifesto that we were elected on [in 2019], to remind him, an election that we won and they lost.”
The clash came as a new poll has found more that than four in five young people in Britain think Mr Sunak should call a general election.
Some 83 per cent of 18 to 32-year-olds believe that the new Tory leader should go to the country now, according to a new poll of 1,000 for LadBible.
It follows a poll for The Independent earlier this week which found almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of all voters – including nearly two in five (38 per cent) backing the Tories in 2019 – want an immediate general election.
In less than a week, almost 500,000 people have put their names to a petition set up by The Independent as part of our Election Now campaign urguing that it is time for voters to decide who should govern the country.
All opposition parties at Westminster have demanded a new national vote after Mr Truss’s resignation led to Britain’s third prime minister in as many months.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford claimed Mr Sunak was “running scared of democracy” by refusing to go to the country, with polls suggesting the Tories could be wiped out.
“He is feart of voters and too afraid to face their verdict, after the Tories plunged the UK into economic chaos,” said Mr Blackford. “No-one voted for this – and the Tories have no mandate to impose the devastating cuts they are now planning.”
On Wednesday Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey introduced a private members’ bill calling for an early general election – which is now set to be debated by MPs on 18 November.
Sir Ed has said the PM is failing to “trust” voters. “Rishi Sunak asked the British people to put their trust in him, but he and the Conservative Party are not putting their trust in the British people.”
Meanwhile, protesters and union organisers are planning to stage major rallies demanding a general election next week.
The Trade Union Congress has organised a ‘General Election NOW’ rally in Westminster on 2 November at 6pm. “Britain deserves much better than this. Change is long overdue,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
The left-wing campaign group People’s Assembly asking supporters to meet at Embankment in London at noon on 5 November for a rally demanding a general election.
The Independent petition calling for a general election
It is a simple and fundamental principle that the government derives its democratic legitimacy from the people. The future of the country must not be decided by plotting and U-turns at Westminster; it must be decided by the people in a general election. And for this reason The Independent is calling for an election to be held. Have your say and sign our election petition by clicking here.