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6 September 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 5:38pm

How is a general election called?

By New Statesman

Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, passed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2011, the next UK general election is due to be held on 5 May 2022, five years after the 2017 contest. 

But the House of Commons retains several means by which to trigger an early election. The simplest method, as in 2017, is for two-thirds of MPs to vote that “there shall be an early parliamentary general election”. Alternatively, should MPs pass a motion stating that “this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government”, a new election will be held unless the government, or an alternative administration, wins the confidence of MPs within a 14-day period. 

Alternatively, as the New Statesman’s political editor Stephen Bush has noted, an election can be called by “passing a one-line bill stating that ‘notwithstanding the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, the next election will be on X, the FTPA act will continue to apply otherwise” (one route Theresa May considered in 2017).” 

In all cases, the Queen (on the recommendation of the prime minister) appoints the date of the new election by proclamation. Parliament is then dissolved 25 working days before that date. Crucially, however, unlike in previous times, the prime minister can no longer exercise the royal prerogative to dissolve parliament without reference to MPs. But as demonstrated by Boris Johnson, the power to suspend, or prorogue, parliament in advance of a Queen’s Speech is unaffected. 

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