How the General Elections Work

A brief explanation of how General Elections work

Groups of disabled campaigners outside Redbridge town hall

General elections

A general election allows people in every part of the UK to choose their MP. This person will represent a local area (constituency) in the House of Commons for up to five years.

There is a choice of several candidates in each constituency. Some will be the local candidates for national political parties. The candidate that receives the most votes becomes their MP.

When is the next general election?

The date of the next general election has not yet been announced. The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022 revived the power of the monarch to dissolve Parliament, at the request of the Prime Minister of the day.

Who decides when to call a general election?

The government of the day can decide when to call a general election.

When is the latest that the next general election could be held?

The maximum term of a Parliament is five years from the day on which it first met. The current Parliament first met on Tuesday 17 December 2019 and will automatically dissolve on Tuesday 17 December 2024, unless it has been dissolved sooner by the King.

Polling Day would be expected to take place 25 days later, not counting weekends or any bank holidays that fall within this period.

Who are the candidates in my constituency?

After the deadline for nominations has passed, a list of the candidates who are standing – or ‘Statement of Persons Nominated’ – is usually posted on your local authority website and on local noticeboards where you live.

You can find official election information for your area on the Electoral Commission website at:

In addition, at the 2019 election, information about candidates in each constituency was collected online by the independent website, ‘Who Can I Vote For?’:

Can I vote for a new Prime Minister?

You can only vote to elect your local MP in a general election. You cannot vote for a new Prime Minister. If you live in the constituency represented by the current Prime Minister you are still only voting for them as your local MP in the next Parliament. This is the same if you live in the constituency of the leader of another political party. You will only be voting for them as your local MP.

Who chooses the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister is appointed by the monarch. The monarch’s appointment of the Prime Minister is guided by constitutional conventions.

The political party that wins the most seats in the House of Commons at a general election usually forms the new government. Its leader becomes Prime Minister.

These conventions, laws and rules are set out in the Cabinet Manual. These affect the conduct and operation of government. It includes the role of the Sovereign.

Who forms the government?

The Prime Minister appoints ministers who work in government departments. The most senior of these attend Cabinet meetings.