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When is the next general election? Everything we know

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

Rishi Sunak has been laying groundwork for his forthcoming election battle, warning that Labour would take Britain "back to square one" if it wins.

The Prime Minister has been using the slogan in recent weeks, in a bid to garner support from voters ahead of a general election. Along with the 'square one' reference, he has also been urging voters to "stick to the plan".

His attempts to win people over comes as the Conservatives lag behind Labour in the polls, while a YouGov survey last month found that 75% of Britons agreed with remarks from a Tory MP that the UK is in worse shape than in 2010 when the party took power.

Sunak has also faced a further blow thanks to a double by-election defeat in which Labour overturned large Conservative majorities to take Kingswood and Northamptonshire seat of Wellingborough, where the swing of 28.5% was the second biggest from the Tories to Labour in any post-war by-election.

Starmer said the results showed the country was "crying out for change", and Labour was winning support from "Tory switchers" and people who had never voted for the party before.

Sunak is the UK's third PM since the 2019 election which saw Boris Johnson win by a landslide. Since then Johnson has been kicked out of office, Liz Truss took up the post briefly and Sunak came into office facing a cost of living crisis.

Sunak has since seen the Conservatives plunge in the polls as the scandals of previous administrations and the cost of living crisis have led to many voters turn their backs on the Tories.

When is the next general election?

No definite date has been announced but Sunak's most recent comments are a further indication it will almost definitely be in 2024.

The 2019 election was unique in modern times due to being held in December when most general elections are held in late spring or early summer. This means the five-year term of the government can be stretched to December 2024, which means polling day could take place the following month - in theory.

The last General Election was in 2019. (PA)
The last general election was in 2019. (PA)

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. The 2019 election was unpopular with many campaigners due to being forced to campaign in the cold and dark so an election before late autumn or early winter may still be called.

Cabinet ministers have also been warned that holding a general election that coincides with the US presidential election in November would be a security risk, according to The Times.

How can a snap election 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.

When is the last date an election will be called?

Parliamentary terms run for five years and the current parliament met for the first time on 17 December 2019, meaning it must dissolve on 17 December 2024. With general election campaigns taking 25 days, the Electoral Commission has said the latest date for the election can be 28 January 2025.

However, it is seen as extremely unlikely the government will call for an election over the Christmas and new year period.

When was the last election?

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 which had begun in 2016.

Polling stations open at 7am. (PA)
Polling stations open at 7am. (PA)

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

How can I register to vote?

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.

How can I vote?

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 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.

When do polls open?

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

Who's standing in my area?

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.