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When is the next general election?

by danielbarker on 11 April, 2024


The prime minister has once again avoided committing to a specific date for the forthcoming general election – but confirmed it would be held in the second half of the year.

Speaking on LBC radio on 10 April, Rishi Sunak was asked by presenter Nick Ferrari: “‘What are you waiting for to announce the election date?”

He did not answer the question, but talked about allowing measures to kick in.

Ferrari responded: “So to use a colloquialism you want to go long to allow your measures to kick in… so we’re looking at the tail end of 2024?

“I thought you said you weren’t going to ask me,” Sunak laughed.

“I said at the beginning of this year very clearly that my working assumption was that we would have an election in the second half of this year.”

Speculation has been rife on when an election could be. Sunak could technically wait until January 2025 to hold a general election, but has confirmed that 2024 will be an election year.

He has always referred to his “working assumption” that the election would happen in the second half of the year, but there was previously speculation in Westminster that he was preparing to call a general election to coincide with the local elections.

But Sunak’s comments on 14 March dismissed the possibility of a May polling day, and indeed the last date for him to call a May election (parliament would have needed to be dissolved by 26 March) has long passed, as rules in the UK require a general election to be held 25 days after asking the King to dissolve parliament.

The 2019 election was unique in modern times due to being held in December – most general elections are held in late spring or early summer. This means the five-year term of the government can be stretched to December 2024, which means polling day could take place the following month – in theory.

In the past, governments have only called elections early when confident of victory, so Sunak was previously thought to be likely to hold off for as long as he can. That seems to be his more likely strategy now.

A late autumn election could, however, be unpopular with campaigners, who disliked being forced to campaign in the cold and dark ahead of the 2019 polling day.

Cabinet ministers have also been warned that holding a general election that coincides with the US presidential election in November would be a security risk, according to The Times.

When do people want the next election?

YouGov poll released in February 2024 suggested that a May 2024 general election was the “most palatable” option to voters – however, this option is no longer viable.

Two-thirds of respondents (68%) said this would be acceptable, compared to just 13% who would find it unacceptable. The next most popular months were June (64%) and April (61%).

December 2024 and January 2025 were the least preferred months to go to the polls, with only 30% and 32% respectively considering these options to be acceptable.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey claimed the prime minister was “running scared” by refusing to commit to a spring poll.

Pic Shows Jeremy Hunt Chancellor of the Exchequer in No11 Downing Street
The early budget was mistakenly taken by some as a sign of a potential early election. (Alamy) (PAUL GROVER)

How can a snap election be called?

Only the King can trigger an election by dissolving parliament, but he does so on advice from the PM. Once parliament is dissolved every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant and MPs cease to represent their seats meaning no new laws can be passed.

Between 2011 and 2022 the PM needed permission of parliament to ask the monarch to dissolve parliament, but this was scrapped with the Dissolution and Calling of Parliaments Act 2022. The new powers mean effectively only Sunak can trigger an election at any time he chooses by simply recommending it to the King.

When is the last date an election will be called?

Parliamentary terms run for five years and the current parliament met for the first time on 17 December 2019, meaning it must dissolve on 17 December 2024. With general election campaigns taking 25 days, the Electoral Commission has said the latest date for the election can be 28 January 2025.

However, it is seen as extremely unlikely the government will call for an election over the Christmas and new year period.

Published and promoted by Dan Barker on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, 1 Vincent Square, London, SW1P 2PN.

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