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Wolves of Westminster

UK Political News and Opinion

How can or will a General Election happen before October 31st (Brexit)? | News Editor analysis

3 min read
4 July 2019 | ANALYSIS
The road map to a General Election has many, many hurdles but it is possible – especially in these political times.

I’ve been out of the wolf pack for a couple of weeks, but not out of politics – in this piece, I analyse the ways to a General Election for the country.

Getting a General Election off-schedule became more difficult in 2011 when the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act was passed which stopped the Prime Minister of the day having unchallenged power to call an election regardless of any opposition, while restricting any Parliament to a 5-year term instead of 4.

Since then, we have had two General Elections – one scheduled in 2015 and another called outside the timetable (2017), which means that since the Act was passed, we have not had a full 5-year term. There are only 2 ways to get a General Election before the scheduled Brexit deadline of 31st October: A Vote of No Confidence is passed or the new Prime Minister asks for an election and the Parliament votes in favour by at least two thirds.

Because of time and guidelines set by the independent Electoral Commission, there is a deadline of September 3rd to enact a General Election before the 31st October in either circumstance, however there is a stumbling block: Summer recess.

Theresa May leaves Downing Street on the afternoon of 24th July, and the new Prime Minister gets handed the keys that evening. The last day of sitting for the House of Commons is the 25th July. If Labour were to push their Conference Motion to obtain a General Election before Brexit – they could try force a Vote of No Confidence on the last day which, if passed, would mean a timeline of 14 days starts.

In this 14 days, the new Prime Minister would try command the confidence of the House, however if they could not, it would be up to the Leader of the Opposition to attempt to command the confidence. If neither of these could command confidence, other Party Leaders in opposition could give it a go or they filibuster until the 14th day occurs. At the 14th day with no leader commanding the House, the Queen would dissolve Parliament and a General Election would be called.

Britain last had a General Election during summer in 1895, long before women had the vote, and so the way it would happen during a Summer Recess cannot be compared. It would certainly be eventful. As far as my constitutional knowledge goes, during a Recess period (where Parliament doesn’t sit), there cannot be a Confidence Vote in the Government so the 24/25th July would be the final day.

There is much confusion about what would happen if the new Prime Minister wanted a General Election after the House of Commons rises for summer and before it sits again, because they couldn’t naturally get the super-majority vote in Parliament during Recess without calling MPs back for the day.

There is speculation that a small number of Remain-backing Conservative MPs could ‘No Con’ their own Government in the event of a No Confidence Vote and this would bring the divisions in the Conservative Party open in a unique, shocking way that we have not seen before.

With our deadline to leave the EU coming at marathon speed, Parliament is taking its time to bring a solution to stop no-deal… or even vote through the agreed Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration that the UK negotiated with the EU since 2017.

Whatever the outcome before Halloween, we’re guaranteed that the country is in political paralysis until Parliament does something.

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