202 MPs backed Sunak - but more than 400,000 of you vote for a General Election Now

Independent readers demand democracy

Adam Forrest,Andy Gregory
Tuesday 25 October 2022 17:29 BST
Rishi Sunak greeted with cheers from Conservative colleagues after winning race for PM

A total of 202 Tory MPs backed Rishi Sunak to be the next prime minister – but more than 400,000 of The Independent’s readers have now demanded their say in the form of a general election.

In less than a week, more than 425,000 people have put their names to a petition set up byThe Independent arguing that it is time for voters to decide who should govern the country.

The former chancellor was named Tory leader on Monday after he won the support of a majority of Tory MPs, and his rivals Boris Johnson and Penny Mordaunt both withdrew from the race.

He is expected to go to Buckingham Palace to meet King Charles III to take over at No 10 on Tuesday.

Mr Sunak ruled out an election quickly after it was announced he would become the second Conservative MP to be handed the keys to No 10 since the last nationwide vote in 2019, after a race which ultimately became a coronation based solely on Tory MPs’ nominations.

Speaking after he was crowned by the 1922 Committee of backbenchers on Monday afternoon, Mr Sunak made clear to Tory MPs in a behind-closed-doors meeting that he would not be going to the country early.

Tory MP Simon Hoare said opposition parties “always want an election” but that 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 was quoted as saying that Mr Sunak “made it clear he will go [to the polls] in two years”, while another reportedly said he had “made it clear it’s a long way to the next election”.

As things stand, the latest date at which the next general election could take place under the law is January 2025. The PM has 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 added: “What we’ve seen played out is a coronation here and not an actual election where people have a mandate to serve the British people of this country.

“Rishi Sunak was rejected by his own party membership only weeks ago.

“The people in this country now deserve us to go to the electorate to put our policies forward about how we’re going to deal with this cost of living crisis that the Conservatives have put upon the British people and let them have a vote.”

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 Mr Sunak should accept a vote and “must not unleash another round of austerity”.

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said his crowning by 202 MPs was “anti-democratic”, 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”.

Tory peer and Foreign Office minister Zac Goldsmith broke ranks on Sunday night to warn that it “will be morally unavoidable” for his party to deny the nation a say.

Mr Goldsmith, the minister of state for Asia, energy, climate and environment, said it was inconceivable to have a third new prime minister and policy “miles away from the original manifesto” without a general election.

It comes as a new poll found almost two-thirds of voters want a general election before the end of the year.

Some 62 per cent of people told polling company Ipsos that they wanted to see a general election held in 2022, once Rishi Sunak had taken office.

The proportion of the public calling for a general election has increased since Liz Truss announced her resignation on 20 October.

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