Can King Charles call a general election? Royal powers explained after Liz Truss resigns and Labour demands GE

Since Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned there have been calls for a general election - but can King Charles III call one?

King Charles III held his first official audience with Prime Minister Liz Truss on 12 October - but just eight days later she resigned, and soon the monarch will have to appoint a new Prime Minister.

If all UK PMs last as long as Truss, Charles will find him appointing them at a rate of about eight per year - this isn’t likely, but the instability of government over the last few months has left many political and public figures calling for a general election.

King Charles III greets Prime Minister Liz TrussKing Charles III greets Prime Minister Liz Truss
King Charles III greets Prime Minister Liz Truss

Can King Charles III call a general election?

It is the monarch’s job to officially dissolve Parliament for an election - but this is a ceremonial role and would only happen on the request of the Prime Minister. Liz Truss ruled out calling for an early general election when she was in office.

It is not certain whether her replacement would call for an election, but it is unlikely, given that the polls suggest holding a general election now would be disastrous for the Conservative Party.

The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022 allows the current Prime Minister to request that the monarch dissolves parliament - this would then allow the Prime Minister to call an election. The monarch could refuse a request to dissolve parliament, but this is unlikely.

Therefore, King Charles does not have the power to call for an election himself, he can only assent to requests from the Prime Minister to dissolve parliament in order for them to call one.

Keir Starmer and other opposition leaders have called for a general electionKeir Starmer and other opposition leaders have called for a general election
Keir Starmer and other opposition leaders have called for a general election

What powers does the King have?

Much of the UK monarch’s role is symbolic - for instance the King can appoint the Prime Minister, but only when they have been elected by the public or in an internal leadership contest, as was the case with Truss.

The King meets with the Prime Minister weekly to discuss governmental matters - whilst these meetings are entirely private, the monarch is supposed to remain politically neutral - though can offer advice where necessary.

Who has called for a general election so far?

Labour leader Keir Starmer has been calling for an election since before Truss resigned, but renewed the call following her resignation speech - he said: “We need a chance at a fresh start. We need a general election - now.”

Other opposition leaders have also called for an election including Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said it was a ‘democratic imperative’, and Liberal Democrats’ Ed Davey, who tweeted: “This is the most chaotic and incompetent government I’ve seen in my lifetime. How much longer will they cling on to power while the country suffers?”

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer, told BBC Politics: “It is very clear the Convervative Party have lost the trust of the vast majority of the public, they’ve really lost the authority to govern”, and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price tweeted: “”[The Conservative Party] have no mandate, no credibility and no legitimacy left.”

A petition to “call an immediate general election to end the chaos of the current government” gained more than 700,000 signatures, and was debated in Parliament on 17 october.

When will the next UK general election be?

The next UK general election is scheduled to take place no later than January 2025 - two years and three months from now. The last general election was held on 12 December 2019 and saw the Conservatives gain an 80 seat majority over the opposition parties.