“Snap” General Election

Motion for early election announced 

Following the ruling of the Divisional Court of Queen’s Bench [Thomas LCJ, Etherton MR and Sales LJ] on R (Miller & Anor) v The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) we observed there were a number of commentators who had suggested that this might result in the Prime Minister calling a “snap” election. However, on the Andrew Marr show she had expressed her “absolute certainty” that there wouldn’t be a General Election before 2020, here.

We noted that a “snap” election  would be governed by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 which was introduced by the Cameron administration; S2 requires the resolution of a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government, or a motion for an early parliamentary election supported by two-thirds of the membership of the House of Commons (including vacant seats). At that time, the Prime Minister was confident that the government would succeed in its appeal to the Supreme Court.

Today the likelihood of a “snap election” increased substantially with the announcement, albeit five months later, that the prime minister will move a motion for an early election in the House of Commons tomorrow, (19 April). A motion may be passed by the Commons with or without a division, but if a vote is called, the motion calling for an early parliamentary election will pass only if the number of members who vote in favour of the motion is a number equal to or greater than two-thirds of the number of seats in the House (including vacant seats), i.e.at least 434 votes in favour.

The current state of the parties is:

Conservative: 330
Labour:  229
Scottish National Party:  54
Liberal Democrat: 9
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Independent: 4
Sinn Fein: 4
Plaid Cymru: 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party:  2
Ulster Unionist Party:  2
Green Party: 1
Speaker: 1

The Labour Party has announced it will back the motion in the Commons. No vote in the Lords is required. When the motion is carried, the Act states: “polling day for the election is to be the day appointed by Her Majesty by proclamation on the recommendation of the Prime Minister”, i.e. 8th June. However, Joshua Rozenberg notes:

“Parliament will not be dissolved tomorrow. A few days will be needed for MPs and peers to pass essential business, such the Finance Bill. That can’t be done until the House of Lords returns from its recess next week. The Finance (No. 2) Bill is being debated in the Commons this afternoon.

Some other bills will be rushed through. But they will not include the Prisons and Courts Bill, which is nowhere near ready. It was always intended that it would be carried over to the next parliamentary session. If the Conservatives win the general election, they would be expected to reintroduce the bill.


Another argument in favour of an early election has received rather less attention today. Last month, the Conservative Party was fined £70,000 after an investigation by the Electoral Commission into the party’s campaign spending. Some Conservative MPs may be personally vulnerable to legal challenge. A new election limits that risk – provided the party obeys the rules this time.”

All ministers will remain in post until a new government is formed shortly after June 8, but they will not be MPs after Parliament has been dissolved.


On 12:57 pm on 19 April, the Prime Minister moved “That there shall be an early parliamentary general election”. [HC Hansard, 19 April Vol 624 Col 681]. After a 90 minute debate, the House divided: Ayes: 522; Noes: 13.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "“Snap” General Election" in Law & Religion UK, 18 April 2017, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2017/04/18/snap-general-election/

3 thoughts on ““Snap” General Election

  1. This announcement – I believe – coincides with the Director of Public Prosecutions being imminently required to decide whether or not to prosecute around 30 Conservative MPs for overspending during the 2015 General Election.

    Such prosecutions would have resulted in very bad publicity for the Conservative Party and a probable requirement to hold by-elections in each of the affected constituencies – with all the bad local publicity that would generate and the probable outcome being that Mrs May could well have lost her overall majority in the House of Commons.

    This situation – in my opinion – is the real reason she has been forced to call this general election, as doing so avoids the DPP having to initiate prosecutions and also avoids a number of unwelcome and – for the Tories – potentially unpleasant outcomes at the hands of the Liberal Democrats who have 48 “lost” seats to win back.

    Forget Brexit or Europe: this is all about pure political power calculations by May.

  2. Although it really was predictable if you factor out the strange concept that politicians speak the truth. Mrs. May must have said at least three times as PM that the next election would be in 2020.

    She clearly doesn’t like dissent, criticism or even well-meaning adverse comment so she did an Erdogan. Her argument that a massive Westminster majority would strengthen her hand in the negotiations with the EU is pure nonsense. The EU negotiators will have not the slightest interest in the Westminster shouting match. I do suspect that her popularity will fade as the weakness of the UK position becomes increasingly apparent – and I suspect she also anticipates that. By 2022 (possibly) the time of the next but one election, memories of the humiliation may have faded and, in any case, she will probably have been dumped by the Tory Party by then.

  3. Pingback: Law and religion round-up – 23rd April | Law & Religion UK

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