Professor Petra Schleiter explains how the UK Prime Minster can call an early election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act

Barely an hour after Theresa May announced the calling of a snap election in June, the country's airwaves and social media channels have been asking whether this is possible since the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. Being an expert on this particular act, Professor Petra Schleiter offers the following explanation:

This is how Theresa May can call an early election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act

Theresa May has this morning announced that she intends to call a general election on June 8 in a bid to increase the size of her parliamentary majority and to reduce the ability of opposition parties to extract concessions from the government during Brexit negotiations.

This raises the question how she plans to achieve the election, given that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (2011) removed the prime minister’s ability to trigger general elections. Under the Act, an early election can only be called under two conditions, (i) if the government is defeated in a vote of no confidence and parliament does not vote to express confidence in a government within two weeks, or (ii) if a two-thirds parliamentary majority endorses the calling of an early election. In theory, the government could also repeal the act with a simple majority, but option (ii), i.e. a bipartisan call for an early election, is by far politically the most preferred option for the government. Labour has this morning confirmed that it will vote for an early election. This should allow the prime minister to reach the required two-thirds majority of 434 MPs comfortably. The Conservative Party currently has 330 MPs, Labour has 229.

 

Petra's most recent research project is on Fairness and Voter Reations to Government Opportunism.

You can also read an follow-up article she has written entitled ‘Strong leadership needed for Brexit’: How will voters respond?

Professor Petra Schleiter is Professor of Comparative Politics and Tutorial Fellow (St Hilda's College)