When is the next UK general election?

With a wounded Boris Johnson defying calls from many in his own party to stand down following the confidence vote against him, attention has now turned to whether he can survive to fight the next general election, and when that might be.

On the surface, his chances appear good. Having just won the support of the majority of his fellow Tory MPs Johnson is, according to current Tory Party rules, safe from another challenge for at least 12 months.

Whether that turns out to the case is another matter, but if Johnson were to remain in post for another year that would leave little time for a possible successor to make a mark for themselves before the nation is due to go to the polls.

When is the next election scheduled?

According to the new Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act, the current Parliament will be automatically dissolved on 17 December 2024, five years after it first met.

The Evening Standard says polling would then take place 25 days later, meaning the latest the next general election could be held would be January 2025.

The new act came into force in March, when the Conservatives honoured their manifesto pledge to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FTPA), which limited a prime minister’s ability to call an early election. As the Institute for Government (IfG) explained: “Elections will still have to be held no more than five years apart, but the timing of elections can be otherwise determined by the prime minister.” One reason the Conservatives gave for scrapping the FTPA was that it “was responsible for the parliamentary deadlock that happened over Brexit in 2019”. 

How have the rules changed?

Before the introduction of the FTPA in 2011, prime ministers could call for a dissolution of parliament and therefore a general election at any time if they thought it politically necessary or beneficial.

Under the FTPA, however, the government had to “either get two-thirds majority support in a parliamentary vote, or introduce a bill which by-passed the FTPA” if it wanted an early election. 

This happened both in 2017, when the then prime minister Theresa May decided to call a snap election to legitimise her position – which ultimately backfired – and in 2019, when Boris Johnson secured his 80-seat majority.

Is an early election likely?

The Daily Mirror reported that following the confidence vote, Johnson was immediately subjected to questions about an early general election. 

But the embattled PM “ruled it out”, saying the government was “certainly not interested in snap elections”, said the paper.

There has been an “abysmal downturn” for the Conservative Party in opinion polls “since the Partygate scandal and Owen Paterson sleaze affair”, said the Mirror. 

“Labour has been ahead in the polls since December 2021 and some show Keir Starmer’s party eight points ahead. Calling a snap election could well mean a poor result for the Tories.”

Would a new Tory leader mean a general election?

If Johnson were to be ousted and a new Tory leader elected, they would automatically also become prime minister.

In what the Financial Times described as “a far-from-subtle hint aimed at new Tory MPs in constituencies with small majorities that bringing down Johnson could lead to an election in which they risked losing their seats”, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brexit opportunities minister, courted controversy earlier this year when he suggested that “a change of leader requires a general election” because this particular prime minister had a president-style mandate from the people.

“But the claim is not rooted in reality”, said the FT. Both Theresa May and John Major assumed office in the middle of a parliament and did not hold immediate elections, as did Gordon Brown when he took over from Tony Blair in 2007.

What are the latest odds on when it will be held?

Following the prime minister’s statement ruling out a snap vote, the odds of a general election being called in 2022 dropped to 10/1, rising to 4/1 in 2023.

With the Tories hoping to improve their standing before going back to voters, the odds for a later election, in 2024, are currently the shortest at 1/4.

Alex Apati of Ladbrokes said: “Boris Johnson has seemingly ruled out a general election any time soon, and the odds seem to strongly support that, with 2024 or later being the most likely year as things stand.”


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.