Frequently Asked Questions: General Election

A general election is an opportunity for people in every part of the UK to choose their MP - the person who will represent their local area (constituency) in the House of Commons for up to five years. There is normally a choice of several candidates in each constituency, some of which are the local candidates for national political parties. People can only vote for one of the candidates and the candidate that receives most votes becomes their MP.

The next general election is due to take place on 5 May 2022 under the terms of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which provides that parliamentary general elections take place every five years on the first Thursday in May.

The Act, however, contains two provisions that can trigger an earlier election other than at five year intervals.

The last general election took place on Thursday 8 June 2017. This followed a decision by a two-thirds majority of the House of Commons to agree to an early general election.

A full set of verified results for each constituency with accompanying national and regional analysis has now been produced by the House of Commons Library:

Results in each constituency were announced first by local returning officers and are also published on local authority websites.

There are various ways to vote in an election.

At a general election a list of the candidates standing in your area can be found on your local council website and on local noticeboards where you live. A 'Statement of Persons Nominated' is published and made available by your local electoral registration office after the deadline for nominations closed.

You can find election information for your area by typing in your postcode at:

There is no single source for official information about the candidates: local political party associations publish information about their own candidates and may deliver information door-to-door. Independent candidates may have their own websites. Some information on the candidates standing in each constituency is normally provided by the BBC and on local news sites.

Guidance for candidates is provided by the Electoral Commission, the independent body that regulates party and election finance and sets standards for well-run elections.

Under provisions in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, Parliament is dissolved automatically after 5 years. Prior to the Act, dissolution was a personal prerogative of the Queen. The Act has replaced the prerogative and now Parliament is dissolved automatically 25 working days before a general election.

The Act provides that parliamentary general elections take place every five years on the first Thursday in May. It also provides for early general elections if either the House of Commons votes for an early general election or following the failure of the House to agree a vote of confidence in a new government within 14 days of a vote of no confidence in the government holding office.

On Tuesday 18 April 2017, the Prime Minister announced her intention to ask the House of Commons to approve a motion to hold an early general election. This motion was passed by more than the required two-thirds majority on Wednesday 19 April 2017.

Not necessarily. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 sets the date of the next general election at Thursday 7 May 2015 and subsequent elections to be held on the first Thursday of May at five year intervals. However, if an earlier general election is triggered the Act does not state that the election has to be held on a Thursday.

Before the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 the Prime Minister could choose any weekday for a general election, according to a fixed electoral timetable. However, Thursday became the traditional day for general elections.

The last general election not to be held on a Thursday was on Tuesday 27 October 1931.  

Dissolution is the official term for the end of a Parliament. A Parliament can last for up to five years and is dissolved automatically under provisions in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

Following the decision to hold an early general election in June 2017, Parliament was dissolved on 3 May 2017.

For the General Election on 7 May 2015 Parliament was dissolved on 30 March 2015.

Parliament and Government are two separate institutions.

The Government does not resign when Parliament is dissolved. Government ministers remain in charge of their departments until after the result of the election is known and a new administration is formed.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the Sovereign. Ministers are appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister. These appointments are independent of the role of MP. Ministers retain their ministerial titles after dissolution, but those who were MPs can no longer use the MP suffix.

The Cabinet Manual sets out the main laws, rules and conventions affecting the conduct and operation of government.

The 'wash-up' period refers to the last few days of a Parliament, before dissolution. All the unfinished business of the session must be dealt with and the Government seeks the co-operation of the Opposition in passing legislation that is still in progress. Some Bills might be lost, others might be progressed quickly but in a much-shortened form.

When Parliament is dissolved the role of MP ceases to exist until the election of a new House of Commons at the next general election.

Although MPs are under no obligation to continue helping their constituents after the end of a Parliament, and must not try to do so in an official capacity, in practice most MPs will continue some urgent constituency work in the pre-election period.

Officially no one has an MP from dissolution until the result of the election is known. MPs who are hoping to be re-elected will often keep in touch with their former constituents, although they cannot do this in any official capacity. Members who are not standing for re-election are not able to honour commitments made to their constituents when they were an MP.


The House of Commons Library has published the following papers:

1974. The first general election was held on Thursday 28 February, the second on Thursday 10 October.

General elections do not affect the membership of the House of Lords. Members of the Lords are appointed to the House of Lords and are not elected. 

There are a number of routes to becoming a Member of the House of Lords

Contact the House of Commons Enquiry Service

The House of Commons Enquiry Service provides information on the work, history and membership of the House of Commons.

Our telephone enquiry service is open between 10am-12 midday and 2pm-4pm (Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays).


The House of Commons Enquiry Service produces a series of free publications which you can read online, or contact us to request copies.

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