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 Sir Keir Starmer during the next general election. (PA) ((PA))

The prime minister has once again avoided committing to a specific date for the forthcoming general election – but confirmed it would be held in the second half of the year.

Speaking on LBC radio on 10 April, Rishi Sunak was asked by presenter Nick Ferrari: "'What are you waiting for to announce the election date?"

Sunak said: "Well when I got this job Nick, you know we'd been through a tough time as a country, everyone had been through a tough time – pandemic, war in Ukraine, impact on energy bills and there was a lot to get on with.

"I set out five very clear priorities, I'm sure we'll talk about them, to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists and to stop the boast and on all of those...

"I'm keen to just make progress and demonstrate to the country that if we stick to our plan we can deliver the change that they and I want to see and by doing so just restore everyone's confidence and hope that there's a brighter future ahead and we can have a renewed sense of pride in the nation."

Ferrari responded: "So to use a colloquialism you want to go long to allow your measures to kick in... so we're looking at the tail end of 2024?

"I thought you said you weren't going to ask me," Sunak laughed.

"I said at the beginning of this year very clearly that my working assumption was that we would have an election in the second half of this year."

When is the next general election?

Speculation has been rife on when an election could be. Sunak could technically wait until January 2025 to hold a general election, but has confirmed that 2024 will be an election year.

He has always referred to his "working assumption" that the election would happen in the second half of the year, but there was previously speculation in Westminster that he was preparing to call a general election to coincide with the local elections, seeking to reap an advantage at the ballot box from the national insurance cut announced at the budget.

Labour had been particularly keen to talk up the prospect of a general election in May, with shadow Cabinet Office minister Jonathan Ashworth betting Sky News presenter Kay Burley £10 that the election would take place then.

But Sunak's comments on 14 March dismissed the possibility of a May polling day, and indeed the last date for him to call a May election (parliament would have needed to be dissolved by 26 March) has long passed, as rules in the UK require a general election to be held 25 days after asking the King to dissolve parliament.

The 2019 election was unique in modern times due to being held in December – 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)
Boris Johnson casts his vote in the 2019 general election. (PA) (Kirsty Wigglesworth, Associated Press)

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. That seems to be his more likely strategy now.

A late autumn election could, however, be unpopular with campaigners, who disliked being forced to campaign in the cold and dark ahead of the 2019 polling day.

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.

When do people want the next election?

A YouGov poll released in February 2024 suggested that a May 2024 general election was the "most palatable" option to voters – however, this option is no longer viable.

Two-thirds of respondents (68%) said this would be acceptable, compared to just 13% who would find it unacceptable. The next most popular months were June (64%) and April (61%).

December 2024 and January 2025 were the least preferred months to go to the polls, with only 30% and 32% respectively considering these options to be acceptable.

In January, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Sunak of "dithering and delaying" over an early election "while the country wants change", as Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey claimed the prime minister was "running scared" by refusing to commit to a spring poll.

Pic Shows Jeremy Hunt Chancellor of the Exchequer in No11 Downing Street
The early budget was mistakenly taken by some as a sign of a potential early election. (Alamy) (PAUL GROVER)

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, 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) (IMAGO/Jon Super, Imago)

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) (Xinhua, Imago)

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.