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When is the next general election? Date of next UK vote - and what happened in the 2019 general election

By-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton have seen the Conservatives roundly rejected by voters. But when is the next general election?

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suffered two humiliating by-election defeats (Photo by DAN KITWOOD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suffered two humiliating by-election defeats (Photo by DAN KITWOOD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Two crushing by-election defeats delivered a double blow to Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party today (June 24).

The Lib Dems overturned a 24,000 Tory majority in Tiverton & Honiton, while Labour reclaimed Wakefield.

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It has sparked discussions and predictions about the potential outcome of the next general election.

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Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield: Boris Johnson and Conservatives suffer double ...

Elections in the UK range from local votes to decide your area’s council to nationwide ballots electing MPs to the House of Commons in Westminster.

These are known as general elections which are supposed to be held every five years under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

While the last general election didn’t take place that long ago, much has changed since people cast their ballots - namely, the Covid pandemic.

So, when is the next general election in the UK - and what happened in 2019? Here is everything you need to know.

How does a general election work?

The UK is divided up into 650 constituencies, with each area having an MP representing it in Westminster. Each person in the UK has one vote to choose their preferred candidate.

In the first-past-the-post system, the candidate who receives the most votes automatically becomes the MP for that constituency and wins a seat in the House of Commons.

A political party wins a general election by an overall majority if it reaches 326 MPs. The Queen then invites the leader of the party to form a new government, with the leader becoming the country’s Prime Minister.

But if no single political party wins a majority - known as a hung Parliament - a coalition government or minority government is formed.

What happened in the last general election?

The last general election was held on 12 December 2019. Boris Johnson called the UK’s third election since 2015, and the first to be held in December for nearly 100 years.

There were concerns that the winter vote would affect turnout.

However, the Conservatives won a sweeping victory which handed the party a strong mandate to progress with completing the country’s exit from the European Union. In a shocking twist, compared to earlier polls, they won 368 seats - the biggest majority for the Tories since 1987.

Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn at the time, suffered a huge defeat as the main opposition party. They suffered significant losses, which analysts put down to the demand for Brexit and the leadership of Mr Corbyn.

When is the next general election?

The UK’s next general election is scheduled for Thursday 2 May 2024.

It will happen on that date if Boris Johnson serves a full term as Prime Minister, which is five years according to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

However, the date of the election could change if Mr Johnson calls a snap vote before then.

That is exactly what happened in 2019, when he gambled by calling a snap general election in an effort to increase his parliamentary majority and end months of deadlock over Brexit.

After MPs debated in Parliament, it was agreed the election would go ahead. Two-thirds of MPs are required to agree to an early election through a vote.

If the snap election hadn’t been called, a general election would have taken place in 2022 instead as every five years Parliament is automatically dissolved.

What is a by-election?

By-elections take place in the UK when a seat in the House of Commons becomes empty between general elections.

This can happen for a number of reasons, including if an MP resigns or dies, or is convicted of a serious offence.

In Tiverton & Honiton, the by-election was caused by Conservative MP Neil Parish resigning after admitting watching porn in the House of Commons.

While in Wakefield, Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan resigned after being convicted of sexually assaulting a child.