Just two years after voters last went to the polls, talk of another snap general election is rife. The Government is many seats short of an overall majority and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is putting forward his third motion to call a general election tomorrow.
So how soon could an election be called and what are the potential dates it could take place?
What does the law say?
Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, future elections should take place on the first Thursday of May five years after the previous election, except for special circumstances. If no election is called prior to this, the next election is due to take place on May 5 2022.
However, an election looks likely to be called much sooner than this.An early election can be called through the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act if two thirds of Parliament vote for it. Failing this, the act can be bypassed with a short law which sets out a date for an election to take place.
Parliament is dissolved 25 working days before the date of a general election, meaning there needs to be a gap of five weeks between whenever an election is called and the vote itself.
If an election was called tomorrow, theoretically the earliest an election could take place is December 2. However, almost all elections in British history have taken place on a Thursday, which would take polling day to December 5.
There is no legislation underpinning the exact day that voting must take place, and the last time an election took place on a day other than Thursday was in 1931.
Johnson’s motion to Parliament proposes that an election take place on Thursday 12 December, following more time to debate the Government’s Brexit deal in Parliament.
However, with the EU yet to confirm an extension to Article 50, Labour has indicated it will vote down the motion. As the Government’s motion requires a two-thirds majority, this means it will likely fail.
The SNP and the Liberal Democrats have proposed an alternative to the Government’s plans for a general election, with an poll set for Monday 9 December – which would be the first UK election to take place on that day.
The earlier polling day is to give no time for Parliament to debate the Withdrawal Agreement Bill before an election takes place.
It is not clear whether the Conservatives or Labour would vote for such a proposal, although the Tories are rumoured to be considering all options should their plans fail to pass.
Unlike the Government’s motion, the proposal made by the two opposition parties is a bill which would require only a simple majority to pass. However, it would be open to amendment by Parliament, which may put off Conservative MPs as amendments to extend the franchise to EU nationals or to 16 and 17 year olds could theoretically be added.
Any date later than December 12 could result in logistical challenges in organising a general election. Common places for polling stations, such as school halls and churches, may become booked due to Christmas festivities, making it a challenge to find alternatives.
With Parliament likely to go into recess on December 19, any polling date later a week prior is unlikely, pushing any election to the new year.
Even then, an election called in the first few weeks of 2020 could result in a campaign period stretching through the Christmas period itself.