On April 18, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, announced a snap election to be held on Thursday, 8 June 2017. Citing division within Westminster as a major reason why she feels a general election is vital, Mrs May said that while the “country is coming together” in the wake of last June’s Brexit result, “Westminster is not”. MPs also voted overwhelmingly, by 522 votes to 13, to bring forward the election from its scheduled date of 2020.
Here is everything you need to know about the UK’s first general election since 2010.
What is a general election?
A general election is how the British people decide who they want to represent them in House of Commons, the lower chamber of the British Parliament – members of the House of Lords are appointed, not elected – and ultimately run the country. Everyone who is eligible – and registered to vote – gets to vote for a candidate to represent their local area, which is known in Parliament as a constituency. There is normally a choice of several candidates in each constituency. People can only vote for one of the candidates and the candidate that receives most votes becomes their MP.
The next general election in the United Kingdom was due to be held in May 2020, but the PM has decided to jump in sooner by proposing a snap election on June 8.
There are 650 parliamentary seats, the vast majority of them (533) in England, the biggest and most populous part of the United Kingdom. Scotland has 59 seats, Wales 40 and Northern Ireland 18.
What is a snap election?
A snap election is one at short notice outside of those normal requirements. It is usually called earlier than expected, or indeed needed. Most parliamentary systems require elections to be called at certain times. Under UK’s Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011, passed when David Cameron was prime minister, general elections in the UK are supposed to take place every five years on the first Thursday in May.
Why a snap election is called?
A snap election can be called for two reasons: if there is a vote of no-confidence in the government or if MPs vote for an early election by a two-thirds majority. Mrs May chose the second option, which was overwhelmingly backed by MPs, by 522 votes to 13.
Who is allowed to vote?
Basically, a British citizen who is 18 or over on election day and is also registered to vote, can cast his ballot. Citizens of the Republic of Ireland resident in the UK and citizens of qualifying Commonwealth states resident in the UK can also vote, if they are over 18 and registered to vote.
British citizens living abroad can register online to vote as an “overseas voter,” if they have been registered to vote in the UK in the past 15 years.
What are major political parties?
1. The Conservative Party (or The Tories) led by Theresa May
2. The Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn
3. The Liberal Democrats led by Tim Farron
4. The Green Party led by Caroline Lucas and
5. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) led by Paul Nuttall
6. The Scottish National Party (SNP) led by Nicola Sturgeon
What does this election mean for Brexit?
May is seeking an election in order to unite the country behind the decision to leave the EU. She may calculate that, in terms of Brexit negotiations with other EU Member states, her “own” majority will add strength to her bargaining position.
However, it is unlikely that the result of the election will affect Brexit, with both the Tories and Labour saying they will enact the EU referendum result, though if Labour wins, a “soft Brexit” as opposed to a hard one, appears more likely.
There are a number of MPs who campaigned differently from the way their constituency voted, for example the Labour MP for Vauxhall, Kate Hoey, who backed Brexit, while only 22% of her constituents voted to leave. And while nationally Labour campaigned for remain, many traditionally Labour constituencies voted to leave the EU. How this plays out in the general election remains to be seen.
What do the Polls suggest?
Polls indicate that Theresa May could win a huge Tory majority in Parliament.