When is the next UK general election - and could it be called early?

The last UK general election was held on 12 December, 2019. Credit: PA Images

Liz Truss has announced she will step down as Prime Minister, leaving a void that will trigger a fresh Conservative Party leadership election.

She said the Tory party's process would be completed within the next week.A new leader will be in place before the fiscal statement on October 31, chair of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives Sir Graham Brady said.

He told reporters: “The party rules say there will be two candidates unless there is only one candidate.”Ms Truss' replacement is selected by the party's membership, not by the voting public.

Opposition parties are leading calls for a general election to be called early, as they demand the public be given a say following months of turmoil, following her predecessor Boris Johnson's resignation only months ago.

But when is the earliest the might the next election might be held?

When was the last general election and who won?

The last general election was held on 12 December 2019, when Boris Johnson remained as prime minister after leading the Conservative party to an overwhelming victory.

He spent a total of nearly three years in office, but lost the support of his party after a series of scandals, including partygate.

Mr Johnson announced he was stepping down as leader on 7 July 2022, telling the British public: "I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world, but them’s the breaks."

Ms Truss announced her resignation on 20 October, becoming the UK's shortest ever serving prime minister.

Boris Johnson was in office for nearly three years. Credit: PA

When is the next general election?

The date of the next general election has not yet been announced, but before her resignation Ms Truss had signalled that she intends to call a general election in two years' time.

Following her victory over leadership rival Rishi Sunak, she told Tory members that she would deliver "a great victory for the Conservative Party in 2024."

How often are general elections called?

In the UK, general elections must be held no more than five years apart, but can be called sooner.

If the leader of the party does call an election in 2024, this would be sooner than is required by law, which gives the last possible date for the next election as 23 January 2025.

It was always likely that this date would be brought forward, however, as it would avoid the need for a political campaign during the Christmas period.

When in 2024 could a general election be held?

One option would be to hold the contest on the same day as the local elections on 2 May 2024.

Polls are scheduled to take place on this date for local councils in England and Wales, along with mayoral elections in London, Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Merseyside.

However, a general election on this date means the Tory party leader has only 20 months between taking office as prime minister and facing voters.

Another option could be an election in early autumn 2024, but before the clocks go back at the end of October.

Liz Truss beat Rishi Sunak in the race to become prime minister. Credit: PA

Do general elections have to be held on a Thursday?

There is no legal requirement for a general election to be held on a Thursday - they can be held on any weekday.

But using Thursdays has become convention, and every general election since 1935 has been held on a Thursday.

How is government formed after a general election?

Following a general election, the leader of the party with the most MPs is asked by the Queen to become prime minister and to form a government that will run the country.

The leader of the party with the second highest number of MPs becomes the Leader of the Opposition.

Who can vote in a UK general election?

To vote in a general election, you must:

  • be registered to vote in the constituency you are voting in

  • be 18 or over on polling day

  • be a British, qualifying Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland citizen

  • be resident at an address in the UK (or a British citizen living abroad who has been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years)

  • not be legally excluded from voting - Peers in the House of Lords, prisoners serving a prison sentence or having been convicted of committing certain electoral crimes.

You can register to vote online at any time - it takes around five minutes and you will need your National Insurance number. If you cannot register online, you can download a paper form or ask someone else to on your behalf.

You don’t need to register to vote before every election.

Could there be a UK general election in 2024? Credit: PA

Can a candidate vote for themselves in a general election?

The Electoral Commission says there is nothing in electoral law to stop a candidate voting for themselves, provided that they fulfil the voter eligibility criteria listed above.

Can the royal family vote in an election?

There is also nothing in electoral law preventing the monarch or members of the royal family from voting in elections.

You are not likely to hear of any working royals heading to the polling station, however.

This is because although they are eligible to vote, by convention they do not, in order to remain politically neutral.

The official website for the royal family says the head of state has to remain "strictly neutral" on political matters, but has important ceremonial and formal roles in relation to the UK government.