When is the next general election in the UK and how often is a general election held?

Many are wondering when the next general election will be now that Boris Johnson has resigned

Photograph of a sign reading 'polling station' outside a church
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has officially resigned (opens in new tab), meaning the Conservative party are looking for a new leader and a new Prime Minister. Does this mean the next general election is not far off?

After a turbulent few weeks in politics, the battle to become the next Conservative leader is well underway. While many speculated that deputy PM Dominic Rabb would be the next Prime Minister (opens in new tab), it's Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss that are left in the ring.

There's a lot of questions around what happens when a Prime Minister resigns (opens in new tab), and it would be reasonable to assume that a general election will take place. But that's not always the case. Read on to find out when you can expect the next general election to be called.

When is the next general election in the UK?

Unless an earlier one is called, the next election isn't due until January 2025. This is because it will be five years since the current Parliament first met, on 17 December 2019. 

However, there are circumstances in which an early election can be called. These are: if two-thirds of MPs voted for an early general election, or if the House of Commons voted no confidence in the government. On ITV's Tory leadership debate (opens in new tab) on Sunday 17 July, all the candidates running to become the next PM ruled out calling a snap election.

See more

How often is a general election held?

In the UK, general elections are held every five years by law. The Fixed-Term Parliament Act of 2011 created these fixed five-year periods and only allows earlier elections in specific circumstances.

Before this, the power to call a snap election was held by the Prime Minister, and they were able to do this at any time if they thought it was politically necessary or would be beneficial e.g. result in a larger majority of MPs for their party. 

Why is the general election always held on a Thursday?

There is no official rule in place, but it has been tradition to hold general elections on a Thursday since the 1930s. By-elections have also mostly been held on Thursdays since 1965.

There are many theories as to why Thursday emerged as the traditional day to hold elections in the UK. It is thought that Friday was ruled out because it was payday, and voters would be more likely to go to the pub to spend their money or vote while drunk. 

Sunday was also ruled out so that people's voting intentions could not be swayed by a sermon they heard at church.

Thursday was thought to be the best option because it is a traditional market day, meaning people were more likely to be out in their town and near a polling station at some point during the day.

A hand putting a piece of paper into a ballot box

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When was the last general election?

The last general election in the UK was held on Thursday 12 December 2019. It was called three years early after Parliament agreed to the motion by the necessary two thirds majority.

A few months before, in July, Boris Johnson had been appointed as the new Prime Minister through a Conservative Party leadership contest, after Theresa May stepped down due to failing to secure a Brexit deal that was approved by Parliament.

Just two years before that, in 2017, there had been another snap election after David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister, following the outcome of the EU referendum.

Boris Johnson's Conservative party won the most recent general election by a large majority, securing 365 seats out of 650. 

How many terms can a Prime Minister serve in the UK?

In the UK, there is no limit to how long a politician can remain as Prime Minister. However, they must retain the support of the House of Commons to avoid a confidence vote, which, if they lose, will result in a general election. 

Video of the Week

Ellie Hutchings
Ellie Hutchings

Ellie joined Goodto as a Junior Features Writer in 2022 after finishing her Master’s in Magazine Journalism at Nottingham Trent University. Previously, she completed successful work experience placements with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue and the Nottingham Post, and freelanced as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. In 2021, Ellie graduated from Cardiff University with a first-class degree in Journalism.