Keir Starmer renews call for immediate general election after Truss resigns

Labour leader attacks ‘revolving door of chaos’ and says Britain is not Tories’ ‘personal fiefdom to run how they wish’

Keir Starmer has called for an immediate general election after Liz Truss’s shock resignation, saying: “The Conservative party has shown it no longer has a mandate to govern.”

After the prime minister’s abrupt Downing Street statement, in which she announced that another leadership contest would be held within a week, Starmer attacked what he called “this revolving door of chaos”.

“The Tories cannot respond to their latest shambles by yet again simply clicking their fingers and shuffling the people at the top without the consent of the British people,” he said. “They do not have a mandate to put the country through yet another experiment; Britain is not their personal fiefdom to run how they wish.

“The British public deserve a proper say on the country’s future. They must have the chance to compare the Tories’ chaos with Labour’s plans to sort out their mess, grow the economy for working people and rebuild the country for a fairer, greener future. We must have a chance at a fresh start. We need a general election – now.”

His call was mirrored by other party leaders. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, called a national vote a “democratic imperative”, saying: “There are no words to describe this utter shambles adequately.

“It’s beyond hyperbole and parody. Reality though is that ordinary people are paying the price.”

Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the country needed “real change”.

“We do not need another Conservative prime minister lurching from crisis to crisis, we need a general election,” he said. “It is time for Conservative MPs to do their patriotic duty, put the country first and give the people a say.”

In a later interview with Andrew Marr on LBC, Starmer repeated his call for an election – and suggested a Labour government would not make spending cuts on the scale being contemplated by the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt.

“I ran a public service for five years during a period where we took spending cuts and I know what that feels like,” he said. “And I know that there aren’t many public services that can take much more by way of spending cuts. So I’m not going to go down that route.”

But he admitted: “It may mean for an incoming Labour government that we can’t do everything that we want, as quickly as we might like.”

Addressing trade unionists in Brighton earlier, Starmer had criticised the unruly scenes in the House of Commons on Wednesday night, and accused the Conservatives of failing the country.

“The victims of crime who can’t get justice. People dying because ambulances can’t get there in time. Millions going without food or heating. And none of it can drum into the Tories the idea that our country must come first,” he added. “They lack the basic patriotic duty to keep the British people out of their own pathetic squabbles.”

Truss’s leadership had been hanging by a thread since a string of dramatic missteps that began with the mini-budget. The new chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, rejected most of its measures this week after Truss sacked his predecessor, Kwasi Kwarteng.

Starmer’s speech came on the closing day of the Trades Union Congress’s three-day annual conference, which had been postponed after the death of the Queen. During the event, several general secretaries, including Sharon Graham from Unite and the RMT’s Mick Lynch, have called for coordinated strike action across industries.

In her speech on Wednesday, Graham called on Starmer to make an unequivocal statement of support for unions taking industrial action in the face of double-digit inflation.

“Whose side are you on?” she asked. “Do not stand on the sidelines and play this safe.”

Starmer has irked some unions in recent months by ordering frontbenchers not to appear publicly on picket lines, wary of being portrayed by the Conservatives as responsible for the disruption. Unite, which was Labour’s biggest donor at the last general election, has reduced its funding for the party.

The Labour leader took on this criticism directly. “You’re doing your job, and I respect that: but my job is different,” he said. “The single most important thing I can do for working people is to make sure we win the next election and get a Labour government.”

He said he would not apologise “for approaching questions on industrial action as a potential Labour government”, adding: “This can’t be a rerun of the 1980s: that’s what they [the Conservatives] want.”

In response to a question from a Unite bus driver called Taj about recent pay increases won after industrial action, Starmer said: “That’s an incredible record for Unite in terms of the strikes and the negotiations and what they’ve won for their members, and quite right too.” He also called on Amazon to recognise the GMB and become a unionised employer.


Heather Stewart

The GuardianTramp

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