What happens now Rishi Sunak has called a General election for July 4?

ITV News UK editor explains what will happen over the next six weeks, and the key issues the General Election is likely to be fought over

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a General Election for July 4 - so what happens next and when will campaigning start?

Mr Sunak confirmed on Wednesday an election will take place this summer following months of speculation.

The prime minister said the King had granted his request to dissolve Parliament on May 30.

Mr Sunak, speaking from outside Downing Street in the pouring rain, said the question now is "who do you trust".

He added: “Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future, to decide whether we want to build on the progress we have made or risk going back to square one with no plan and no certainty."

The announcement comes after rare welcome news for Mr Sunak, as official figures showed inflation slowed to 2.3% in April - the lowest level since July 2021.

How does the prime minister call a General Election?

The prime minister had until December 17, 2024, to call a General Election - exactly five years after Parliament returned following the 2019 general election.

Mr Sunak requested permission from the King on Wednesday, formally asking the monarch to dissolve Parliament. The King granted his request.

Downing Street confirmed Parliament will be prorogued on Friday May 24, meaning it will shut down and there will be no sittings in the House of Commons or the House of Lords. That means MPs and peers do not hold debates, or vote on laws.

Dissolution will take place on Thursday May 30.

An election will take place 25 working days later - not counting weekends or any bank holidays - on July 4.

What is the dissolution of Parliament?

Dissolution is the formal term for the end of a Parliament, and it occurs ahead of a General Election.

There are normally several days between an election being called and Parliament being dissolved to allow for any outstanding parliamentary business to be finished - known as the "wash-up" period.

Any parliamentary business not completed by the end of 'wash-up' will fall, meaning that any bills that haven't already received royal assent won't become law.

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston said he'd learned the final stages of the finance bill are "being rushed through" tomorrow.

Once Parliament is dissolved, all MPs lose their status, meaning they stop representing their constituencies and have to campaign to be re-elected at the next election.

More than 100 MPs have announced they are standing down from their constituency at the next General Election. Most of these are Tories and include former prime minister Theresa May.

Government ministers however will remain in post and continue to run their departments. They are only replaced when a new government is formed following a General Election.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…

The government also enters a pre-election period - often referred to as "purdah" - the time during an election campaign when there are restrictions on what the government can do.

Government activity is restricted during campaigning to ensure that public money is not used to support the party currently in power.

Buckingham Palace has also announced that the Royal Family has postponed engagements "which may appear to divert attention or distract from the election campaign".

The King and Queen’s D-Day 80th anniversary appearances in Portsmouth and Normandy in June are expected to go ahead as scheduled, but the announcement of a July 4 vote disrupted other events in the carefully planned forthcoming royal diaries.

When does campaigning start?

The parties decide when to launch their manifestos - there is no set date for this.

However, since 1997, Labour and Conservative manifestos have been launched between 18 and 29 days before the election.

The manifesto will include the key promises the party is making to encourage people to vote for them.

On polling day, voting happens between 7am and 10pm, with results being announced overnight and into the early hours of the next morning once counting has been concluded.

Downing Street said the new Parliament will be summoned to meet on Tuesday July 9, when the first business will be the election of the Speaker and the swearing-in of members, and the State Opening will be on Wednesday July 17.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…