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Next UK general election

Question

  • The UK’s Fixed Term Parliaments Act fixes the date of the next general election on 2 May 2024. This is the first Thursday in May in the fifth year after the last election - held on 12 December 2019. The purpose of the act was to take away the prime minister's right to choose when to call the next general election.

  • There have been three general elections since the Act was passed in 2011. Only one, the very first in 2015, was on the five-year schedule fixed by the Act.

  • In 2017, an election was called via a provision in the Act which triggers an early election if two-thirds of MPs support it. Theresa May, therefore, was able to demand an election.

  • In 2019, the Act was circumvented by a special-purpose Act passed through both Houses of Parliament.

  • The government has, furthermore, begun the process to repeal the Act - with the intention of returning the discretion to call elections back to the prime minister. There are some constitutional issues it creates, but the intention is to restore power over the timing of elections to the executive.

  • There has never been complete discretion over elections: even before the FTPA, parliamentary sittings could not exceed a five-year term. That has been a feature of British politics since 1911. Prior to 1911, the maximum term was 7 years. Proposals to ditch the FTPA have, to date, not envisage moving to a longer or shorter maximum term.

  • Historically, it was quite normal for parliaments not to go to term. Some PMs went early for elections because they lost their majorities in parliament - like Jim Callaghan in 1979. Sometimes it was because they figured a slightly earlier election would be easier to win than one at the five-year mark. Blair, for example, called his two elections as sitting prime minister four years into each term - in 2001 and 2005.

  • Governments going to a full five-year term have, in recent decades prior to the FTPA, been governments expecting to lose. Prime ministers delayed elections in the hope that the political temper would move in their favour. Major won a shock victory in 1992 in a vote almost 5 years after the 1987 election. He lost, five years later, in 1997. Gordon Brown held on to reach the fifth year in 2010.

When will the UK hold its next general election?

This question will be resolved when the next UK general election is held. The relevant date is election day itself.

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