Saturday, October 06, 2007


Maybe I'm getting older and times moves faster, but it seems like we've hardly finished with one election before starting with another.

Of course, I'm also watching two cycles. Britain's and America's. So that doubles the fun.

The next big one due was supposed to be the 2008 US presidential race, but now we may be facing a snap election in the UK.

The Prime Minister has the privilege of dissolving Government and calling a general election at any time he or she wishes, but must call one every five years. And once parliament is dissolved there are 18 days until the next election. (Details from at the end of this post)

So when they say snap, they mean snap.

According to political wags, PM Gordon Brown is holing up with his advisors this weekend to pour over polling data deciding whether to dissolve or not to dissolve. Political opponents and the press are taunting the PM. Call the election and it's political gamesmanship, going now because he thinks his chance will be too slim in future when his policy chickens finally come home to roost. Don't call the election and it's because he's a coward, too timid, overly cautious and afraid of losing.

If an election is called in the next couple of weeks, there will be an absolute frenzy of political activity. Lots of leafleting and canvassing and general electioneering. For myself, I've already started to think about how I can participate while dragging around a baby.

Information about general elections in the UK

How an election is called:
Under law a Parliament has a maximum duration of five years starting from its first meeting following a general election. These means that a general election has to be held every five years, although the Prime Minister of the day can call one at any time within this five years. The current Parliament started on May 11 2005 so the Prime Minister has until June 3 2010 before an election needs to be called. Typically though, a general election is called well before it has to be by law. An election in 2007 would be unusual in coming just two years after the last general election.

After deciding to call an election, the Prime Minister will visit Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament. A proclamation will then be published dissolving the current Parliament and calling a new one.

Once Parliament is dissolved MPs cease to be, even if they are standing for re-election. During the election period they are not permitted to enter the Palace of Westminster or use any of its facilities. However, they and their staff will continue to be paid up until polling day.

Unlike MPs, the Government will continue to be the Government until the election results are declared.

Election timetable
The election timetable runs for a total of 18 days, starting with the dissolution of Parliament on day zero and ending with polling day on day 17. Weekends and public holidays are not included as part of the timetable.

If the Prime Minister goes ahead with a November 1 poll, then the timetable for the general election will be as follows:
Day 0 – Tuesday October 9 - Proclamation and issue of writ
Day 7 – Wednesday October 17 – Last day to register to vote or for postal vote
Day 17 – Thursday November 1 – Polling day


Furrow said...

Someday I'm going to sit down and really try to figure out the British system of government: backbenchers, Shadow Cabinet, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition... it all sounds like Harry Potter stuff to me. And netflixing British TV shows have been no help at all.

Vol Abroad said...

Ahh - it is all Harry Potter stuff.

KathyF said...

Thank goodness he decided against it. I found the last election to be unbearably tedious. And it's difficult enough to keep up with one election, much less two.

Sam said...

Thanks for the overview. Very interesting.