How can a general election happen?

Events such as last week’s European summit still regularly produce a flurry of comment about how Cameron might / should / will / must call an early general election, written as if the rules on calling a general election have not changed.

But they have, for the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011 is now in force and the sorts of calculations that were relevant during previous political excitements are no longer relevant. A Prime Minister can no longer simply call an early general election because they want to.

Instead, there are only two circumstances in which a general election can take place earlier than the scheduled five years after the previous one.

First, the House of Commons can vote for one – but the number of votes for must be equal to or greater than two thirds of the number of seats in the House (including vacant seats).

In other words, even if Cameron had a single-party  majority, he could not fix an early general election. Only a Prime Minister in possession of a landslide or cross-party agreement could vote one through under this provision.

The second route is if the House of Commons passes a vote of no confidence in the government (by a simple majority) and then fails within fourteen days to pass a motion of confidence in a new government.

In other words, if Cameron were to demand an early election, call a vote of no confidence in himself and even get his own party to vote for the motion – there is no general election. Instead, Ed Miliband would get the chance to form a government first. It is only if he – and everyone else – fails that there is then an early general election.

Hat-tip: Thanks to Richard Morris for the idea for this post.

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Election law.
Advert

11 Comments

  • David Allen 12th Dec '11 - 1:13pm

    Miliband could argue – if he wanted to – that Cameron was playing ducks and drakes at a time when the national interest demanded stability. His argument, whether widely believed or not, would soon be forgotten since he would have blocked the election.

  • I don’t know the answer to this question: can you tell me if the Queen still retains a prerogative right to prorogue Parliament despite the Fixed-Terms Act of Parliament?

  • How about the other method? Parliament votes, by a simple majority, to repeal the Fixed-Term of Parliaments Act and Cameron goes to see the queen. Legislation can be enacted very quickly (as in the ‘wash up’) if everyone is in favour.

  • Kevin Colwill 12th Dec '11 - 8:53pm

    Back in the day I got very wound up about this one. With the passage of a few months I don’t see it as such a big deal.

    Fixed terms look good in theory but enforcing them when there is a real will to have an election doesn’t seem worth the hassle.

    Cameron has out flanked the Lib Dems from day one. I’m sure if he really wanted an early election he could do so again.

  • >>>Cameron has out flanked the Lib Dems from day one. I’m sure if he really wanted an early election he could do so again.

    I’m not sure where you’re getting this from – I thought the Lib Dems had won most of the arguments in the Coalition.

  • Andrew Suffield 12th Dec '11 - 11:37pm

    How would Milband justify or not want a general election ?

    Miliband is incapable of agreeing with Cameron on any issue. You could effectively replace him by hanging a wig on a sign that says “I disagree” and propping it on the opposition front bench.

  • I’m not sure how well the electorate would take the necessary shenanigans in order for Cameron to call an early election.

    It would amount to Cameron (and possibly others) saying “See that stability-that-was-required-in-the-national-interest that I promised you and see that fixed-term-Parliament-constitutional-reform-that-would-change-the-we-do-politics that I also promised you. I lied. Please vote for me.”

    I’m don’t see that landing well with the people.

  • RightPaddock 14th Dec '11 - 12:42pm

    Milliband shouldn’t support a call for an early election.

    Cameron & Clegg made their bed, now let them lie in it.

    If Cameron wants an early vote he could do something that would cause the LibDems to terminate the coalition. Cameron would then be relying on the LibDems or Labour bringing on a non confidence motion – if they didn’t he’d have to run a minority government to the full term.

    Tricky stuff – loose coalitions and fixed terms, Cameron should not have agreed to this. But its SitNorm for UK governments, they’re never good at Strategy, short termism wins again.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User Avatarmalc 1st Oct - 4:19pm
    My comment above was for paul barker.
  • User Avatarmalc 1st Oct - 4:17pm
    ""4 people have been murdered by Brexit fans so far, 3 of them immigrants killed by mobs in the street." Unfortunately groups of young thugs...
  • User AvatarBen Midgley 1st Oct - 4:15pm
    The only alas is the condition of the people and the lame deflections everyone keeps coming up with to avoid dealing with the actual issue.
  • User AvatarSteve Trevethan 1st Oct - 4:03pm
    Alas, the current cruelties in Syria are part of a series of hybrid wars which are a strategic policy of the US. US General Wesley...
  • User AvatarMartin Land 1st Oct - 2:57pm
    @ for the same reasons I believe that every England manager isn't up to the job. Simple lack of talent. Running a division is not...
  • User AvatarDavid-1 1st Oct - 2:51pm
    Why not have the rationale be one of making the constituencies as socially and politically diverse as possible, or (to put it another way) one...