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How MPs are elected

The UK is divided into 650 areas called constituencies. During an election everyone eligible to cast a vote in a constituency selects one candidate to be their MP. The candidate who gets the most votes becomes the MP for that area until the next election.

General elections

At a general election, all constituencies become vacant and a Member of Parliament is elected for each from a list of candidates standing for election. General elections happen every five years.

If an MP dies or retires, a by-election is held in that constituency to find a new MP for that area.

Political parties

Most MPs are members of one of the main political parties in the UK - Labour, Conservative, Scottish National Party or Liberal Democrat. Other MPs represent smaller parties or are independent of a political party.

To become an MP representing a main political party a candidate must be authorised to do so by the party's nominating officer. They must then win the most votes in the constituency.

UK-wide representation and devolved Parliaments and Assemblies

The UK Parliament has MPs from areas across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In addition, there is a Parliament in Scotland, a National Assembly in Wales and a National Assembly in Northern Ireland.

Separate elections are held for these devolved political bodies (which have been granted powers on a regional level that the UK Parliament was formerly responsible for) - candidates who win seats in these elections do not become MPs in the UK Parliament.

See also

House of Commons Enquiry Service

The House of Commons Enquiry Service answers questions about the work, history and membership of the House.

Telephone: 0800 112 4272 (Freephone) or 020 7219 4272
Text phone: Dial 18001 followed byour full number

Telephone enquiry service is open between 10am-12 midday and 2pm-4pm (Monday to Friday).

Find out more

Related internet links

Who can stand as an MP?

You must be:

  • aged 18 or over
  • a citizen of the UK, Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland, and
  • not disqualified

More on who can stand as an MP

Related internet links

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