Calling a snap election is not as easy as it used to be but here's how you do it

It is no longer up to the Prime Minister to simply call a General Election 

Tom Peck
Tuesday 18 April 2017 12:11
Theresa May calls for general election

On the steps of 10 Downing Street, Theresa May did not call a General Election.

It doesn't work that way anymore.

The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act introduced by the coalition Government in 2011 makes it harder for a Prime Minister to call a snap general election, but by no means impossible.

Before then, a Prime Minister could call an election whenever he or she chose within a five year limit, giving just six weeks notice.

The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act gave a specific date for general elections to take place every five years, but there are ways to get round it.

Now, Theresa May has in effect challenged the Labour Party to grant her the election she wants.

She has selected the less controversial of the two methods available to her - calling a Parliamentary vote on the matter which must be passed by a two thirds majority.

By this method, Theresa May could only get the General Election she wanted with considerable backing from Labour.

The vast majority of Labour MPs, if not all Labour MPs, know their prospects are bleak. But an opposition party effectively turning down the chance of an election would be unprecedented, and humiliating in the extreme.

But these are unprecedented times.

In her statement, Theresa May told Labour it would have to choose whether it wanted opposition for opposition's sake. And whether it wanted to 'treat politics as a game.

For his part, Jeremy Corbyn has long said he would support the vote for a general election were one to be called.

Her other option, by the way, would have been to call for a no confidence motion in her own government.

The act did not change the ruling that If the House of Commons passes a vote of no confidence in the government, then Parliament is dissolved and an election must be held.

A governing party with a majority would have the numbers to pass a no confidence motion in its own government, which would trigger a general election. This is a particularly inelegant solution and it is no surprise Theresa May chose not to use it.

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When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in 2007 and enjoyed a surge in popularity, he allowed speculation to mount that he would call an election. When he eventually summoned Andrew Marr to Number 10 to tell him there would not be one, his credibility never fully recovered.

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