The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 provides for two ways that an early general election can be held before the end of the five-year fixed term:

  • A simple majority vote for a motion of no confidence (which triggers a general election unless a new government receives a motion of confidence within 14 days), or
  • A two-thirds vote for a motion to hold an early general election

Section 2(7) of the Act says that in these cases, "the polling day for the election is to be the day appointed by Her Majesty by proclamation on the recommendation of the Prime Minister".

This is currently controversial due to speculation on whether Prime Minister Johnson might table a motion in September for an early general election, but then set the election date after the October 31 Brexit deadline.

My question: Is there any restriction on what election date can be chosen? For example, if Parliament votes in September for an early general election, could the government set the election date to be 5 months later in February?

  • Related (but not duplicate): politics.stackexchange.com/questions/18224/… Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 1:23
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    Not an answer but: Boris Johnson will not choose to do that. Parliament dissolves 25 working days before the election. If the election is in February, then the dissolution is in January or perhaps December, which is too late to matter for Brexit purposes.
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 5:18

1 Answer 1


There is no legal upper limit on the time a Prime Minister can wait.

The only restriction in the act is that parliament must be dissolved at least 17 working days before the election, so one could not choose to schedule the election so quickly that that couldn't happen. This time was then extended by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 to 25 working days. It appears, however that no thought was given to a Prime Minister who simply refused to hold an election as soon as practically possible.

In practice, I suspect a Prime Minister who didn't hold the confidence of the house would find it very difficult to continue to govern for long, and the speaker might choose to allow opposition parties to pass legislation that would set a polling date if the Prime Minister refused to do so. There is, however, no mechanism (other than perhaps the queen but that is really only theoretical) to stop a Prime Minister choosing a polling date in the near future for political gain.

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