The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will have parliamentary elections next Thursday, and the last presidential elections in the United States were on a Tuesday.

In most other European countries, elections are generally scheduled for Sundays (see this overview). The obvious advantage is that most people have no trouble coordinating voting with their work times. Having elections on workdays, by contrast, is likely to cause trouble for some people with inflexible work hours and long commutes, even with voting hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. as in Britain.

The British Fixed Term Parliaments Act even decrees Thursday elections by law. The reasons given on the Wikipedia page of the election day (minimizes drunkenness and influence of church sermons) is unconvincing to me in modern times.

Why are elections in the UK not held on any other day apart from Thursday?

  • 4
    It used to be because of church and drunkenness and now it's just become tradition? Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 5:21
  • 1
    "United Kingdom" or just "Britain", but not "Great Britain"; there are elections in Northern Ireland too. See CGP Grey's seminal work on the subject: youtu.be/rNu8XDBSn10 Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 8:35
  • @SteveMelnikoff I see. No, we don't want to apply terms loosely here... Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 15:01
  • 2
    @jamesqf Funny enough the explanation for election on Sundays is just the other way around emphasizing the stress to work and vote on the same day. There is only one possibility to really find out though . Divide the population at random in 7 equal parts, give each the right to vote on a different weekday, then observe turnout and make a statistical test for significance. Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 21:09
  • 1
    @jamesqf I guess that's why postal vote exists. Here, the people running the vote are volunteers from the population not government employees, they are more likely to have time on the weekend. It's even the duty of everyone to help running the vote in case not enough volunteers exist and they need you. As I said there is only one way to really find out.. Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 18:37

1 Answer 1


Basically, there are some of the theories on why UK elections are always held on a Thursday. Most news articles cited tradition as the main reason.

1. Traditional influences

People are usually paid their wages on Fridays and thus they'll spend the day at the pub. This would result in pressure from Conservative brewing interests. While on Sundays, people attend church, and could be influenced by Liberal leaning church ministers. So, it's desirable to hold it on a Thursday in the past as it's the most further from both Friday and Sunday.

Furthermore, Thursday's the market day and people usually travel to town, so it's convenient for them to vote. Also, Thursday used to be the most popular "early closing" day, so it gives time for people to vote.

Obviously, these reasons don't apply now, but the tradition continues ...

2. Time for the new PM to form a government.

It's held on a Thursday so that the new Prime Minister will have enough time on Friday and the weekend to form a government. Afterwards, they will be able to start work on the following Monday, thereby allowing for a smooth transfer of power.


It's also worth noting that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 only mandates the election to be held on Thursday under normal circumstances.

There are exceptions from this rule (from Section 2 of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011):

  1. If the incumbent government loses a motion of no confidence, and 14 days pass without a vote of confidence in any new government formed.
  2. The House of Commons votes by a two-thirds majority to hold the election earlier.


  • 2
    From what I gathered the "traditional influences" are more guesses than hard truths. This is also in the source you've provided: Evening Standard starts with "The reasons are disputed. One theory [...]". The Sun also states "There are many theories on the origins of the traditional polling day in Britain".
    – user11249
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 13:03
  • "Conservative brewing interests" - it sounds suspicious enough that a citation would definitely be in order.
    – user4012
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 18:54
  • @user4012 It's mentioned in this video - standard.co.uk/news/politics/…
    – Panda
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 18:55
  • @Panda - sorry, I was angling for a citation actually proving the assertion, not a citation of where assertion was made. Considering most brewers are likely international companies not based in UK in the first place :)
    – user4012
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 19:04
  • This is a good example how traditions are formed and also how meaningless they can become. Probably any day of the week would work just fine. Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 19:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .