Election 2017: Everything you need to know about the UK's snap general election
PUBLISHED: 17:14 18 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:47 18 April 2017
A snap general election has been called by prime minister Theresa May, to be held in June.
The PM made the announcement outside 10 Downing Street shortly after 11am this morning.
But there is lots of uncertainty about what will happen – so here is everything you need to know for now.
What is a ‘snap election’?
It is usually one called earlier than expected, or indeed needed. Most parliamentary systems require elections to be called at certain times (at least every so many years, that sort of thing). In the UK there has to be one every five years (see our bit about the Fixed-term Parliaments Act below). A snap election is one at short notice outside of those normal requirements.
When will it be held?
The date announced by Mrs May outside 10 Downing Street was June 8, seven weeks away on Thursday. However, that might not be completely certain just yet...
Is a general election an absolute certainty?
It’s highly likely, but not guaranteed at the moment. The reason is the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (more on that below), which means Mrs May has to ask Parliament first.
What is the Fixed-term Parliaments Act?
Before the Act (brought in in 2011) Parliament could run for a maximum of five years, but the Queen could dissolve parliament at any time – though she only does this on the recommendation of the prime minister, so effectively it’s their decision. However the act brought in, as the name suggests, fixed terms for parliaments of five years – so you could theoretically predict every General Election for the next 50 years.
How can Theresa May call a snap election two years after the last one?
There is a bit in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which allows for this, so it is still possible for a snap election to be called, though it is harder than it used to be. For an early election to be called the House of Commons has to vote on whether it wants one – and there has to be a two-thirds majority in favour of an election for it to happen. The other way an early election can happen is if the House of Commons decides it has no confidence in the Government, but that is highly unlikely.
So there might not be a general election?
It would be extraordinary for Parliament not to agree to Mrs May’s request. Stranger things have happened though...
What happens next?
After today’s statement, Theresa May will go to the House of Commons tomorrow and ask them to vote on whether a general election should be held on June 8 this year. If she gets the two-thirds majority needed, the date will be set and things will start to swing into action. There will be a short “wash-up” period to clear up outstanding legislation such as the Finance Bill to enable the funding of government to carry on.
Parliament will then be dissolved on Wednesday May 3, 25 working days before polling, marking the start of the official campaign.
What are the views of the other main parties?
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North), the Labour leader, has already said he welcomes it. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) has said the election will be “your chance to change the direction of our country”. Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley has tweeted that the party is ready for what he calls “this seismic moment in our country’s future”. Paul Nuttall of UKIP said the party welcomed the “opportunity to take UKIP’s positive message to the country” but also called said Mrs May’s announcement was “a cynical decision driven more by the weakness of Corbyn’s Labour Party rather than the good of the country”.