General elections are held at least every five years. However not all Parliaments run for the whole five years, and a general election may be held before this period is up. In the event of a government having a small majority the election may well take place much earlier. For example, the general election of February 1974 resulted in a minority Labour government. The then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, therefore called another election in October 1974, which resulted in Labour increasing its representation to just above 50% of the number of seats. Despite its small overall majority, the Labour government then remained in power for four-and-a-half years, finally calling an election in May 1979.
The last General Election was held on 7 June 2001.
In between general elections, by-elections are held as necessary to elect a new Member of Parliament to an individual constituency.
The House of Commons currently has 659 Members of Parliament (MPs), each representing an individual constituency. Of the 659 seats, 529 are for England, 40 for Wales, 72 for Scotland and 18 for Northern Ireland.
An Electoral Commission was established in November 2000 as an independent body to oversee new controls on donations to and campaign spending by political parties and others. It also has a remit to keep under review electoral law and practice and to promote public awareness of the electoral process. Its functions and powers are set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
Parliamentary Elections (Parliamentary Education Unit Booklet)
General elections are elections of the whole House of Commons at one time: one Member of Parliament for each constituency in the United Kingdom. Each MP is elected from the various candidates through secret ballot by a simple majority system in which each elector can cast one vote.
The candidates may be from one of the three major political parties, from a minor party or from any other organisation that has been registered with the Electoral Commission. If a candidate does not represent a registered party or group s/he may stand as an 'Independent'. One Independent MP was returned at the 2001 General Election - Mr Richard Taylor (Wyre Forest).
Most voting takes place in polling stations, but any citizen eligible to vote in Great Britain can apply on demand to vote by post. British citizens living abroad are also entitled to a postal vote, as long as they have been living abroad for less than 15 years.
General elections are held at intervals of up to five years. The Government can, and often does, decide to hold one at an earlier date. In times of national emergency, such as war, general elections can be postponed, but this is very rare.
Your Vote - Frequently Asked Questions - Electoral Commission information
A parliamentary by-election is held when a seat falls vacant in the House of Commons, because an MP dies, resigns or can no longer be an MP for some other reason, such as being made a member of the House of Lords. By tradition, the procedure for initiating a by-election (known as 'moving the writ') is usually initiated by the political party which held the seat before the vacancy.
By-elections sometimes attract a great deal of attention from the media, and voters often use the opportunity to register a protest. Partly because of this, the results are often very different from those of general elections. Also, fewer people usually turn out to vote in by-elections than in general elections - often fewer than 50% of those entitled to vote.
The Labour and Conservative are promising just about anything in the run up to the General Election to get elected. But have either party said anything about tackling council corruption?
Not as far as we know. Should they not be promising voters that he will put a halt to the extraordinary waste of ratepayers money brought on by corrupt planning officers. We estimate this waste to be in the order of £10 million per council. That adds up to a tidy sum. Enough to bail out just about every other shortage in public funding.
Nelson Kruschandl says : "It's Time for Change"
Neither the Conservatives or New Labour have tackled the cancer that is white collar crime at local council level. Both of these parties allow local council's to run riot with your money - allow council officers to deceive councillors and torture the public by refusing to answer reasonable questions, the threatening citizens with legal action, where these same planning officers know developments are permitted. In some cases council's harass members of the public to bankruptcy, at huge expense to the ratepayer - See Staffordshire County Council and Brian Goodacre as prime examples. The major political parties are simply Chicken. Isn't it about time for some real action?
Why do you think politicians need to resort to stealth taxes?
Road Tax. This tax was introduced to pay for road building,
yet only about 5% actually goes to build roads. The rest is
diverted to support other high spend areas, such as protecting
crooked planning officers.
We need honest taxes for honest purposes? We need an efficient government and an efficient local government. We do not need dishonest local officials milking the system for their own purposes, building empires and wasting roughly £10 million a year defending rigged decision making. We need affordable housing, decent schools, and sensibly priced services. At the moment council tax is crippling most folk. Not to mention the fact is is a grossly unfair tax aimed only at people who are sitting targets. It is the people who work the hardest, who are bailing our inept government, needlessly.
As soon as the Human Rights Act looked set to give the common man a chance, they changed the rules regarding Legal Aid funding, making it almost impossible to obtain representation and justice. I don't believe in coincidences. The implementation of the Human Rights Act was spread over Labour and Conservative terms - clearly then, they worked together to ensure new legislation would end up making very little difference in terms of justice.
Can the Conservatives under Michael Howard, deliver the above?
We doubt it. The Conservatives have not tackled white collar crime at local council level before. true they commissioned Lord Nolan to look into the situation. But as soon as the awful truth emerged via a recommendation for new criminal statute to tackle malicious use of public funds and personal vendettas, they hastily put the brakes on. Cowards. They simply smoothed over the cracks and made sure the common man could never enjoy the Human Rights Act. The icing on the cake, is that the Courts were instructed not to allow any Judicial Reviews from applicants in person. We hope you get the message? We live in a democracy of dictators - civil servants rule!
For electoral purposes, Britain is divided into parliamentary constituencies. Each returns one MP to the House of Commons. In the 1992 parliament, there were 651 constituencies, but this rose to 659 from the 1997 general election. Constituencies range considerably in area and in the number of electors. In general, the intention is to ensure that constituency electorates are kept roughly equal. However, this is not always possible, particularly for the more sparsely populated areas where it would be difficult for an MP effectively to represent a very large area. The average size of constituency electorate over the UK as a whole is around 68,000.
At the 2001 General Election, the Isle of Wight had the largest number of electors - over 104,000. The smallest number of electors - some 21,900 - was to be found in the Western Isles. The constituency of Ross, Skye and Inverness West was the largest by area at 918,319 hectares. The smallest by area was Islington North at 727 hectares.
Constituency boundary changes
There are four permanent Parliamentary Boundary Cmmissions - one each for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. They recommend any adjustments that may seem necessary in the light of population movements or other changes. Reviews are conducted every 8 to 12 years. The current (fifth) Review has to report in the period 2003-2007.
In between periodic general reviews, the Commissions hold interim reviews of small groups of parliamentary constituencies, normally to realign boundaries with altered local government boundaries. On occasion, there can be more substantial recommendations, such as the allocation of an additional seat to Milton Keynes in a review conducted in 1989.
When the Fifth Review is complete, the Parliamentary Boundary Commissions will become part of the independent Electoral Commission. Each constituent part of the UK will, as now, have its own Boundary Committee which will submit to the Electoral Commission recommendations
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Elections Web site (10 - 13 June 2004)