Labour leader Keir Starmer is backing the idea of a snap election after Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak dramatically quit, leaving Boris Johnson in what critics said was an “untenable” position.
The resignations of two of the most high-profile cabinet members was followed by that of Tory vice-chair Bim Afolami and a string parliamentary private secretaries.
Sir Keir said the government was collapsing and the prime minister was unfit to govern – as talk of a snap election mounted.
He said if ministers who had backed him had a shred of integrity “they would have gone months ago”.
“The Tory party is corrupted, and changing one man at the top won’t fix it: we need a real change of government and a fresh start for Britain,” he said.
Just four days ago, the prime minister dismissed the idea of calling a snap election, after 41 per cent of his party voted against him in a no-confidence vote last month.
The UK’s next general election is scheduled for Thursday 2 May 2024 – but a snap election could mean voters being asked to go to the polls sooner.
A snap vote is often held when the government needs to resolve a specific issue and is confident it will increase its majority without weeks of the usual campaigning.
Until 2011, prime ministers were able to call an election whenever they felt the time was right within five years of the last one.
Then under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, a general election had to be held every five years on the first Thursday of May.
Theresa May gambled on a snap poll in 2017 – which backfired when she lost her majority and voting led to a hung parliament, with the Tories reliant on a confidence-and-supply deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party – as did Mr Johnson in 2019.
But earlier this year, the government repealed the Act, so at any time the prime minister may ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament at any time to hold an election.
Mr Johnson has claimed he has a new mandate following his victory in the confidence vote last month.
But many observers say the Chris Pincher scandal – and claims that the prime minister had known about allegations against the ex-deputy chief whip when he promoted him – were the final straw in a long list of reasons why many in his own party had called for him to go, including Covid lockdown-breaking parties.