Liz Truss: how to call a UK general election with PM under pressure? When can snap election be called by?

After Chancellor Jeremy Hunt completely overhauled the Prime Minister’s mini-budget following Kwasi Kwarteng’s sacking, Liz Truss is battling for her party’s position in power amid calls for a general election

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Prime Minister Liz Truss is facing calls to hold a snap general election amid the political chaos she and her party currently themselves in.

Criticism towards the Conservative leader and her handling of the country in her short time in office has ramped up. It comes after newly-appointed Chancellor Jeremy Hunt completely overhauled the mini-budget put in place by former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.

Many critics have speculated that Truss no longer has a handle on her cabinet or government, after her key tax-cutting policies were scaled back by Kwarteng’s successor. As a result, many have called for a snap general election to be called.

Snap elections have been called before in British politics, as recently as 2019. But how does a snap election come about and what is the timeline needed to organise one? Here’s everything you need to know about how to call a snap election in the UK.

Here are the new rules around calling for a snap election in the UK. (Credit: Getty Images)Here are the new rules around calling for a snap election in the UK. (Credit: Getty Images)
Here are the new rules around calling for a snap election in the UK. (Credit: Getty Images)

What is a snap election?

A snap election is a general election called outside the traditional timeline. Normally, general elections in the UK are called every five years to allow the public to regularly vote on their representatives in government.

A snap election, on the other hand, is often called when there is a political opportunity to strengthen the ruling party’s position or to give the British public a mandate on a key policy point. For example, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson called a 2019 snap election shortly after his success in the Conservative leadership contest, after his Brexit agreement was shot down in parliament.

However, snap elections can also be called outside these reasons, including during a period of political instability.

When can a snap election be called by the Prime Minister?

Previous snap elections had been held under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. This meant that an election could only be triggered by one of two scenarios.

This was if two-thirds of MPs in the House of Commons voted in favour of holding an unscheduled election, or if the government lost a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons and there was no alternative government confirmed within two weeks.

This legislation was repealed this year, under the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022. The Act revives the prerogative powers of the monarch, with the Prime Minister able to advise His Majesty to dissolve parliament at a time of their choosing.

The monarch’s decision to dissolve parliament to hold an election can also not be reviewed or overturned by the courts. This was introduced by the Conservative Party after the Supreme Court ruled that Johnson’s prorogation of parliament before the 2019 snap election was “unlawful” over claims the former Prime Minister had misled the Queen over the advice he gave to her in suspending parliament before the Brexit deal deadline.

Therefore, in 2022, a snap election can be called at any time of Truss’ choosing if King Charles III agrees to accept her advice to dissolve parliament.