General Election 2024: What happens now an election has been called?

22 May 2024, 14:40 | Updated: 22 May 2024, 17:41

Rishi Sunak has called a general election for this summer.

The prime minister has been saying for months he would call a vote for the "second half of the year", and it will now be held on Thursday, 4 July.

Under the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022, Mr Sunak had until 17 December this year to call an election - as votes must be held no more than five years apart.

Sky News looks at what happens now.

General election latest: Rishi Sunak to call election for 4 July

Requesting permission to dissolve parliament

The prime minister has already requested permission from the King to hold a general election, as the power to dissolve parliament - end the session - legally lies with him.

Parliament must be "dissolved" for an election to officially take place. Polling day then takes place 25 working days after that date.

Mr Sunak said in a speech outside Downing Street on Wednesday that the King had granted his request to dissolve parliament.

As a result, parliament will be prorogued on Friday, 24 May, while dissolution will take place on Thursday, 30 May.

What happens in parliament after an election is called?

There is usually a period of several days, known as "wash-up", between an election being called and the dissolution of parliament.

During "wash-up", parliament will continue as normal, but any parliamentary business not completed by the end of that time will not enter into law and cannot be continued into the next parliament.

This normally leads to a rush to pass legislation through parliament to get it onto the statute book, which often means parties having to work together to agree on which bills they will support.

The longest "wash-up" period since 1992 was in 2017 when parliament sat for a further seven days after the election was called, according to Institute for Government (IfG) analysis.

What happens after parliament is dissolved?

Once parliament is dissolved, there are no longer any MPs as every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant.

House of Lords members retain their positions, but no more business happens until the next parliament begins.

Government ministers remain in post until a new government is formed.

However, government activity is restricted during the campaign period to ensure public money is not used to support the campaign of the party in power and to maintain civil service impartiality.

Restrictions normally begin when parliament has been dissolved, however, they can start before this, as they did in 2017.

The campaign

Campaigning never stops for political parties, but it will ramp up after an election is announced.

Parties, their candidates, and supporters, will promote their policies during the campaign period by publishing informative material, knocking on doors to talk to people, writing newspaper articles, and supporters putting posters in their windows or placards in their front gardens.

There is no set time for when manifestos explaining the parties' pledges have to be launched, but they generally happen within a few days of each other.

Since 1997, Labour and Conservative manifestos have been launched between 18 and 29 days before the election, the IfG found.

Televised debates between party leaders or other politicians became a feature of campaigns in 2010.

Their timing and format are negotiated between political parties and broadcasters, but there is no obligation for any of them to take part.

Polling day

Registered voters can submit postal votes before the day, but most people go to polling stations, which are open from 7am until 10pm.

This will be the first general election where photographic ID will be required to vote.

When voting closes, an exit poll is announced following a survey of voters taken from about 150 constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales.

What happens after the election?

If the current government retains a majority in the new Parliament after an election, it will continue in office and resume normal business.

If the election results in a clear majority for a different party, the incumbent prime minister and government will immediately resign, and the King will invite the leader of the party that has won the election to form a government.

It becomes slightly more complicated if the result is a hung parliament.

The current government remains in office unless and until the prime minister tenders his and the government's resignation to the King.

The government is entitled to await the meeting of the new parliament to see if it can command the
confidence of the House of Commons or to resign if it becomes clear that it is unlikely to command that confidence.

They could also be forced to resign if they lose a vote of no confidence, at which point, the person who appears to be most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons will be asked by the Monarch to form a government.

In terms of dates, the new Parliament will be summoned to meet on Tuesday, 9 July, when the first business will be the election of the speaker and the swearing-in of members.

The state opening of Parliament will be on Wednesday, 17 July.