When is the next general election? Everything we know

Rishi Sunak has made a surprise announcement about the next polls, here's what we know

Kier Starmer and Rishi Sunakat party conferences September 2023 Composite (PA)
Rishi Sunak will face stiff competition from Sir Keir Starmer during the next general election. (PA)

Rishi Sunak has announced that a general election will be held on 4 July.

It had been widely expected Sunak would decide on an autumn date, but speaking outside Downing Street to confirm the surprise move, the prime minister said: "Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future."

He pointed as positive news about inflation as among his successes, also hailing his work on the furlough scheme during the COVID pandemic.

"The question now is how and who do you trust to turn that foundation into a secure future for you and your family," he said, as he announced that the King had granted his request to dissolve Parliament as he released the date of the next election.

Many commentators had pointed to positive news about inflation lowering to 2.3% – its lowest level in nearly three years – as a key driver behind the decision.

However, Sunak has been significantly behind Labour leader in the polls for some months and faces a significant challenge to overhaul such a deficit.

On Wednesday, Sunak had declared UK inflation is “back to normal” in a “major milestone” for the country, as it hit its lowest level in nearly three years despite falling by less than economists were expecting.

The last General Election was in 2019. (PA)
Boris Johnson casts his vote in the 2019 general election. (PA)

Sunak has announced a snap election will be held on Thursday, 4 July - in just 43 days.

Ahead of the announcement, Oddschecker had put the likelihood of an election held between July to September as 8/13, compared to 5/4 for an election between October to December.

The 2019 election was unique in modern times due to being held in December as most general elections are held in late spring or early summer.

In the past, governments have only called elections early when confident of victory, so Sunak was previously thought to be likely to hold off for as long as he can. However it appears he is hoping that his inflation announcement will have given him a much-needed boost ahead of the polls.

According to YouGov, most voters would prefer an election to take place in summer – with Sunak's 4 July announcement likely to have been welcomed by those keen on a summer poll.

In a survey taken earlier this month, 41% of people said they wanted the general election to take place in summer this year – compared to just under a quarter (23%) who said they would prefer one in the autumn.

Most voters would prefer a summer election, polling suggests. (YouGov)
Most voters would prefer a summer election, polling suggests. (YouGov)

Just 7% said they wanted another winter election – following the December election in 2019. Another 9% said they would rather it take place in January 2025 – which was (prior to Wednesday's announcement) the latest possible time it could be called.

Only the King can trigger an election by dissolving parliament, but he does so on advice from the PM. Once parliament is dissolved every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant and MPs cease to represent their seats meaning no new laws can be passed.

Between 2011 and 2022 the PM needed permission of parliament to ask the monarch to dissolve parliament, but this was scrapped with the Dissolution and Calling of Parliaments Act 2022. The new powers mean effectively only Sunak can trigger an election at any time he chooses by simply recommending it to the King.

The last election was held on 12 December 2019 with Boris Johnson winning a landslide victory over Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party. The election was dominated by the issue of Brexit and finishing the UK's exit from the EU, a process which had begun with the referendum in 2016.

Polling stations open at 7am. (PA)
Polling stations open at 7am and this time you'll need to show photo ID to cast a vote. (PA)

The Conservatives won 365 seats, their highest number since 1987 and Labour won 202 seats, its lowest proportion since 1935.

You can register online on the government's website, you need to be over the age of 16 and a British citizen. The form takes five minutes and you will need your national insurance number. Despite being able to register to vote at 16 you must be 18 to vote in a general election.

There are three ways to vote in a UK general election, in person, by post or by proxy. Most people vote in person at a polling station. At the time of the election, you will be able to find where you should go to vote on the government's website. You'll also be sent a polling card which will tell you where you should vote, you can take this along with you when voting but it isn't necessary.

You will also need to show a photo ID to confirm your identity, you can find out what IDs are accepted on the government's website.

It is usually clear who has won a General Election by 6am the following morning. (PA)
It is usually clear who has won a general election by 6am the following morning. (PA)

To vote by post, you need to apply to do it before election day, but you do not need to give a reason as to why you wish to. You must be registered to vote before you apply and you can apply no later than 5pm 11 working days before the election you want to vote in.

You will be sent a postal vote in the post which you will then need to return before the specified date. If you pass the specified time and date before posting it then you can still take it to the local polling station by 10pm on election day.

The final way to vote is by proxy, getting someone trusted to cast your vote. You need to provide a valid reason for voting by proxy, whether that is you are away on the day, have a medical issue or disability or are unable to due to work. You must apply six working days before the election.

Polling stations open from 7am to 10pm on polling day.

You will be able to check the candidates standing in your area online. All of the major political parties select their candidates a considerable amount of time before general elections and you can see on their website who they have selected for what constituency.