Politics

General election rules explained as Labour calls for ballot

Vine caller savages Labour election prospect sparking row

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Labour and opposition leaders have called for a general election following Liz Truss’s rocky first month in Number 10. While new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has restored some economic calm, the initial chaos stemming from his predecessors unfunded tax cuts has shaken the Prime Minister’s reputation. As rebellious Conservatives discuss installing a new leader, other politicians believe Britons should decide how the country proceeds.

Can Labour force a general election?

The Conservative Party received a mandate in 2019 that gave Boris Johnson – and, by extension, his successors – five years in Government.

The mandate expires on December 17, 2024, five years since Parliament first sat following that general election.

Officials must organise another election in the 25 days following, for January 24, 2024, but Labour wants a national ballot sooner.

Sir Keir Starmer called for an election “for the good of the country” during an interview with The Guardian last week, and his MPs claim the Conservatives have lost their mandate.

The Labour leader said the Government “could fall at any time”, adding that he has asked his team to “ensure we would have a manifesto ready” to meet the possibility.

While Labour can’t force a general election, it can organise a vote that may lead to one.

Opposition day has given the party an opportunity to topple the Government today.

Labour has proposed a bill that would ban fracking for shale gas, a controversial issue even among Conservative MPs.

Whips have reportedly told Tory backbenchers that the vote will serve as a confidence motion in the Truss Government.

They have demanded MPs vote against the Labour-led bill when it goes before the Commons this afternoon.

Parliamentary convention dictates that in the event the Government loses a confidence motion, the Prime Minister is “expected either to resign or to request a dissolution of Parliament”.

The latter option would trigger a general election, and if she wishes, Ms Truss can call an election without this prerequisite.

She can dissolve Parliament after she has sought permission from King Charles III to dissolve Parliament.

Boris Johnson’s decision to repeal the Fixed-Term Parliament Act granted the Government this option in March.

The 2011 legislation only allowed Parliament to call an election if the Government lost a vote of no confidence and the House of Commons could not confirm a successor administration or if two-thirds of the lower chamber voted for one.

But King Charles may reject the request if he believes the UK has a functional Government.

In this case, the Conservative party must decide whether Ms Truss stays on and whether her departure results in an election.

MPs and Cabinet members may pressure her to resign, as they did with Mr Johnson, and find a replacement.

But if they can’t, constitutional norms requiring the UK to always have a Prime Minister would trigger a general election.

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