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General elections

A general election is an opportunity for people in every part of the UK to choose their MP. This person will represent a local area (constituency) in the House of Commons for up to five years.

There is a choice of several candidates in each constituency. Some will be the local candidates for national political parties. The candidate that receives most votes becomes their MP.

Who decides to call a general election?

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 provides that Parliament is dissolved automatically after 5 years. Before the Act, dissolution was a personal prerogative of the monarch. The Act replaced the prerogative. Parliament is now dissolved automatically 25 working days before a general election.

Since the Fixed-term Parliaments Act was passed, the House of Commons has twice decided that an earlier general election should be held: in 2017 and in 2019.

When is the next general election?

Under the terms of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, the next general election can be expected to take place on Thursday 2 May 2024

When was the last general election?

The date of the last general election was 12 December 2019.

Do general elections have to be held on Thursdays?

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 sets the next date of the general election at five-year interval on the first Thursday of May.

If an earlier general election is triggered outside of the five-year period, the election does not have to be held on a Thursday.

Triggering an election other than at five-year intervals

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 provides for general elections to be held on the first Thursday in May every five years. There are two provisions that trigger an election other than at five-year intervals:

  • A motion of no confidence is passed in Her Majesty's Government by a simple majority and 14 days elapses without the House passing a confidence motion in any new Government formed
  • A motion for a general election is agreed by two thirds of the total number of seats in the Commons including vacant seats (currently 434 out of 650)

On Wednesday 19 April 2017, MPs voted by 522 to 13 to allow an early general election. The election took place on Thursday 8 June 2017.

On Thursday 31 October 2019, Parliament passed legislation to make provision for a parliamentary general election to be held on 12 December 2019.

Who are the candidates in my constituency?

After the deadline for nominations has passed, a list of the candidates who are standing - or 'Statement of Persons Nominated' - are posted on your local authority website and on local noticeboards where you live. At the 2019 general election, the deadline for nominations was 14 November 2019.

You can find official election information for your area on the Electoral Commission website at:

In addition, at the 2019 election, information about candidates in each constituency was collected online by the independent website, 'Who Can I Vote For?':

Can I vote for a new Prime Minister?

You can only vote to elect your local MP in a general election. You cannot vote for a new Prime Minister. If you live in the constituency represented by the current Prime Minister you are still only voting for them as your local MP in the next Parliament. This is the same if you live in the constituency of the leader of another political party. You will only be voting for them as your local MP.

Who chooses the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister is appointed by the monarch. The monarch's appointment of the Prime Minister is guided by constitutional conventions.

The political party that wins the most seats in the House of Commons at a general election usually forms the new government. Its leader becomes Prime Minister.

These conventions, laws and rules are set out in the Cabinet Manual. These affect the conduct and operation of government. It includes the role of the Sovereign.

Who forms the government?

The Prime Minister appoints ministers who work in government departments. The most senior of these attend Cabinet meetings.

What is a hung Parliament?

A 'hung Parliament' is a Parliament in which no political party wins a majority of seats. The largest party can either form a minority government or enter into a coalition government of two or more parties.

Where can I find the results of the general election?

Local and national media report on election results. Many providing live coverage of the results as they happen.

Local authorities publish results for constituencies in their area.

The Electoral Commission publishes the national election results. It also publishes results for individual constituencies.

Following each general election, the House of Commons Library produces a briefing paper providing full results and analysis.

Further information about general elections

The Library has published briefing papers on general elections and the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011:

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Constituencies

The UK is currently divided into 650 areas called parliamentary constituencies, each of which is represented by one MP in the House of Commons.