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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Lisa O'Carroll

‘Such a letdown of democracy’: clamour grows for early UK general election

Polling station in London
A petition on Friday calling for a general election attracted almost 800,000 signatures. Photograph: Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/Rex/Shutterstock

The UK government is facing mounting calls to hold a general election as voters demand a say in who runs the country.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is leading the campaign, arguing the country cannot afford “another experiment at the top of the Tory party”, with voters also believing it is time to return to the polls.

One petition calling for a general election had attracted almost 800,000 signatures by Friday night.

As Boris Johnson considered a dramatic comeback to replace Liz Truss in Downing Street, voters on the streets of London were incredulous.

“No, please no, just no. The awfulness of it,” said Yvonne, 61, as she wheeled two small children. “We need a general election. They have made an awful mess of it all.”

Brett, 37, agreed. “It feels like it is not democratic to select a second prime minister without the public having a say.” By the time a new prime minister is appointed the country could be on a third policy vision for the country since 2019 “so it is high time they asked the public what they want”, he added.

Joe, 19, a student, said the Conservative party had “big cojones” to impose another prime minister on the public. “I heard that they are thinking of letting Boris back in. That feels like such a letdown of democracy,” he said.

Others disagreed. Ann, 80, said the timing was wrong. “We are in the middle of an economic upheaval and things need to settle down before we have a general election,” she said.

The chances of an early election are slim as polling shows the Tories would face a wipeout. Labour’s seven-day average poll share stands at 54% on 21 October, up from 41% on 23 September. Over the same period, Tory support has crashed from 33% to 21%.

Figures from People Polling put the Conservatives on 14%, three points ahead of the Liberal Democrats on 11% and the lowest poll score for the Tories for at least 50 years.

These are the sorts of figures that would probably translate into a landslide Labour victory at a general election – were one to take place tomorrow, and were people to vote in the same way across the country.

Before this year, the last time Labour enjoyed regular poll leads of 20 or 30 points was in the months directly after the general election of 1997, when Tony Blair’s party won a 179-seat majority.

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