University 18 Yrs + | Parties and Voting
The UK General Election Campaign – Choosing the Date
How do you choose the date of a UK General Election?
The date of the General Election has traditionally been chosen by the Prime Minister under the Royal Prerogative.
Although cabinet members and close advisers were consulted, it was always very much the personal decision of the PM and almost no one else would know until it was announced.
Sometimes PMs knew pretty much that they would win as with Thatcher in 1983 and Blair in 2001 and Eden in 1955 and the preference was for a summer election after four years.
The two Prime Minister that kept going for the full five years, Douglas Home and Major, both lost.
Sometimes Prime Ministers probably got it wrong as with Callaghan, who might well have won in 1978 before industrial disputes affected the Government’s popularity the following winter, and Gordon Brown, who probably would have won if he had called an election soon after he succeeded Blair in 2007 and before the economic crisis.
Fixed Term Parliaments
The Fixed Term Parliaments Act, 2011 removed the PM’s right to call the election so that the next election would be 7 May 2015 as long as the Coalition did not collapse and Labour and the Liberal Democrats combine to win a vote of no confidence in Parliament. On paper, the one after that would be 2020 and so on.
The Act provides for elections every five years, whereas they have more often been every four or less and most other European countries have four.
Are they fixed?
The Act was tested in 2017 when Theresa May wished to call a General Election. In accordance with the law she went to Parliament and gained a majority vote to ask the Queen to hold one. But would the Labour Party have said no? Politically, would it have made them look like they a) weren’t ready or b) running scared. In reality, unless having a General Election was considered the wrong time for a major reason of national security it is likely a Prime Minister will still be able to call a UK General Election when they want one.