With not long to go until the general election in May, here's a rundown of the key dates to look out for between now and then.
5 February: National Voter Registration Day
Organised by Bite the Ballot and supported by the Electoral Commission, this is a campaign to get people registered in good time for the big day. It is particularly designed to target the 18-24-year-old age demographic which suffers from a traditionally poor turnout, and will be publicised through social media and local councils.
27 and 28 February: Ukip Spring Conference
Ukip are taking to Kent for their biggest meet-up ahead of the general election. Technically just outside Nigel Farage’s target seat South Thanet, Margate in the previously safe Tory constituency of North Thanet is where the party says it will “launch our big campaign messages”.
13 and 15 March: Lib Dem Conference
Taking place in Liverpool, it will be one of Nick Clegg’s last chances to unveil some new ideas and salvage his struggling popularity ratings.
18 March: George Osborne’s last budget
The Government is already asking people to submit ideas for what they’d like to see in the last fiscal plan of this Parliament. Expect plenty of crowd-pleasers.
25 March: The last PMQs
Prime Minister’s Questions has been a real mixed bag this term and provoked plenty of criticism that it is a male-dominated shouting match putting British politics to shame. Not every episode his given us much food for thought in the past four and a bit years, but the final one before Parliament dissolves could well throw up some gems born of desperation.
The six-party election: key figures
The six-party election: key figures
2/12 Lynton Crosby (Con)
Chief election strategist
4/12 Lucy Powell (Lab)
Vice chair of general election campaign
5/12 Liberal Democrats
6/12 Paddy Ashdown (Lib Dem)
8/12 Suzanne Evans (Ukip)
10/12 Chris Luffingham (Green)
11/12 Scottish National Party
12/12 Angus Robertson (SNP)
General election director
30 March: Dissolution of Parliament
The Commons will rise and a proclamation will be made announcing when Parliament will next meet after the general election and setting the date of the Queen's Speech at State Opening.
Writs will be issued officially announcing elections in the UK's 650 constituencies, and the pre-election period or “purdah” will begin – preventing government departments from announcing any new policies or changes that could influence the election.
This will be the first general election since the Electoral Registration and Administration Act lengthened the campaign period for all elections.
It means Parliament will be dissolved for a period of 25 days instead of 17 prior to the ballot – and with spending caps increased to reflect this and inflation, we can expect the longest and most expensive election campaign in modern times.
2, 16 and 30 April: TV debates (provisionally)
Negotiations are still going on, but these are the proposed dates for a “7,7,2” make-up of leaders’ TV debates.
At the moment, the most likely combination of debates will be an initial two, on BBC1 and ITV, featuring seven parties including the Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Ukip, the Lib Dems, Labour and the Conservative Party.
They would then be followed by a head-to-head debate broadcast jointly by Channel 4 and Sky News between the two men vying to become Prime Minister – David Cameron and Ed Miliband.
This is all subject to change – most recently questions have been raised about the inclusion of parties from Wales and Scotland but not Northern Ireland, and David Cameron has suggested he would rather the debates were got out of the way prior to the official five-week campaign period.
9 April: The deadline for delivery of nominations
Candidates hoping to run for Parliament need to register their intentions between official notice of the election – no later than 2 April – and 4pm on 9 April. Any withdrawals of nominations must also be made by this later date – after which lists of everyone standing will be made public.
20 April: Deadline to register to vote
While the Electoral Commission is strongly advising everyone to register to vote “as soon as possible”, the official last chance to register is Monday 20 April.
21 April: Deadline for applying for postal vote
Once an individual is registered they can apply to vote by post, which involves submitting a signed form to your local electoral registration office. The commission says it is aware this is “slightly less convenient than submitting it online”, but says it “helps ensure the security of your vote and is used to tackle electoral fraud”.
28 April: Deadline for applying for proxy vote
Voting by proxy allows you to appoint someone you trust to vote on your behalf, and is generally useful for those who may be overseas at the time of the election (especially if you miss the postal vote deadline). There are also provisions for an emergency proxy if a medical or other emergency after the deadline means you can’t go to the polling station yourself.
7 May: Election day
Polling booths will be open from 7am to 10pm.
8 May: The result
Counting will continue from the time voting closes and throughout the night, followed by the result itself.Reuse content