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The most Googled general election questions (and the answers)

Polling stations will be readied for a rare festive-season election. Credit: PA

Britain is finally heading for another general election.

Boris Johnson's government had been pushing for a national vote to end the Brexit impasse, with the Bill passing the Commons by 438 votes to 20.

Labour offered its backing to go to the polls after being satisfied a no-deal Brexit has been taken off the negotiating table.

From the most Googled searches, according to Google Trends, it appears many have been trying to make sense of British political protocol amid the Brexit fog.

But even if you do understand the difference between a workable majority and a confidence-and-supply arrangement, do you know whether the Queen can call an election? Or even - in these whirlwind days in Westminster - remember the results of the last election?

What is a general election?

For a political party to win, they need 326 MPs in the House of Commons. Credit: PA

A gentle one to start with, but still the most commonly searched for.

A general election in the UK gives anyone who resides in the country an opportunity to vote for an MP, which of course stands for Member of Parliament.

Each candidate represents a political party or stands independently for a constituency - essentially a local area - and the one with the most votes becomes MP and takes up that seat in the House of Commons.

In total there are 650 seats in the Commons, so to win a general election a party needs 326 MPs to hold sway in Parliament. (Half the total, plus one).

The winning party will be invited to form a Government, as they will have an overall majority in the Commons.

However, if a party does not reach the magic number of 326, they may partner up with other parties to reach a majority and form a coalition Government - or secure support of smaller parties by other means.

When is the next general election?

Elections usually take place on a Thursday. Credit: PA

A snap pre-Christmas election is looking highly likely on December 12 after a Bill passed the Commons by 438 votes to 20.

The one-page Bill enabling the election now goes to the House of Lords, but it is unlikely to be held up in the unelected upper chamber.

Since 2011, election dates have been set by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act (FTPA), which guarantees elections take place at least every five years.

As the last one took place in May 2017, the next one should fall no later than May 2022.

However, there are two exceptions to this Act to call an election sooner.

The first is if two-thirds of the Commons vote for an early general election - 434 out of 650 seats.

This is the method Prime Minister Johnson had tried several times but been defeated before opposition parties supported the move for a national vote.

The second method to call an election is if Parliament passes a motion of no confidence in the Government, which just needs to be achieved by a simple majority.

Either way, if an election is held outside of the fixed five-year period, polling day can be any day of the week, rather than the traditional Thursday.

Fun fact alert: The last time this happened was in 1931, when it fell on a Tuesday 27 October.

Can the Queen call an election?

The Queen and Prince Philip at the state opening of Parliament in 2015. Credit: PA

This one's easy - the answer is no.

Before the FTPA, general elections took place when Parliament was dissolved by the Queen, on the advice of the prime minister, effectively permitting the to call an early election at a time of their choosing.

So essentially, the Act took all the power of calling an election from the Prime Minister and placed it in the hands of Parliament.

What is a snap election?

The clue is in the name here, it is a snap decision with immediate consequences.

The term is officially used when a general election is called earlier then the next one is scheduled.

The last 'snap election' was called by Prime Minister Theresa May two years ago.

When was the last general election?

8th June 2017.

What were the results of the 2017 general election?

Theresa May lost her majority in the 2017 election. Credit: PA

Theresa May does not look back at the 2017 general election with fond memories - she went into the election looking to increase her majority, but ended up losing it.

The 2017 election produced a hung Parliament, in which no party gained a majority of seats.

May's party lost 13 seats as its total fell to 318, eight shy of the 326 needed to win.

Labour gained 30 to a total of 262.

The SNP lost to 21 seats to a total of 35, while the Lib Dems and DUP both gained a few seats to stand on 12 and 10 respectively in the Commons.

That proved crucial for the Conservative Party to enter into a confidence and supply agreement with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), to boost their seats and provide the Tories with an overall majority.

However, the majority Mr Johnson inherited in the Commons, when he became prime minister, is no longer in tact.

This is because Philip Lee defected from the Tories to the Liberal Democrats - he crossed the floor to join the Lib Dems as Mr Johnson addressed the Commons - before a whole raft of MPs, including former chancellor Philip Hammond, were expelled by the prime minister for going against him on Brexit.

Why does Boris Johnson want an election?

Boris Johnson has failed to get the backing of the Commons to hold a snap election. Credit: PA

Mr Johnson's government does not have a majority in the House of Commons, which makes it difficult to pass legislation.

In particular, it has made it harder to resolve the Brexit impasse.

The lack of majority also restricts the ability of a government to pass other key legislation such as budgets, as well as more routine business.

Opposition MPs feared Mr Johnson wanted an election in order to force through a no-deal.

They blocked his attempt to get MPs to agree to a snap election before the UK leaves the EU on October 31, fearing he could move the polling day until after Brexit, and as a result the UK have left the EU by default.

Who would win a general election now?

Recent polls show considerable variation from one another, but one thing remains clear from all of them - the Conservatives are in the lead, with Labour second.

On average, they suggest the Conservatives would take a bigger lead over Labour than in 2015, when the Tories won an overall majority.

However, general election outcomes are determined on the basis of seats, not votes.

So estimating seat numbers, based on national vote shares, is very difficult when politics and public opinion are so volatile.

The article was compiled with help from Matt Singh, election analyst and founder of Number Cruncher Analytics.