General elections

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.

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.

The date of the last general election was 8 June 2017.

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.

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.

When there is a parliamentary election, a list of the candidates who are standing - or 'Statement of Persons Nominated' - is posted on your local authority website and on local noticeboards where you live, after the deadline for nominations has passed.

You can find official election information for your area via the Electoral Commission website by typing in your postcode at:

In 2017, some additional information about candidates in each constituency was collected online on the independent website, 'Who Can I Vote For?':

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Find Your MP


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

Voting in elections