On December 12, 2019, UK will hold a general election. As stated in Wikipedia's 2019 United Kingdom general election:

The election is to be contested under the same boundaries for 650 constituencies that have been used since the 2010 general election

This means that the 650 members of the Parliament are elected individually, each one in a different constituency.

Some polls show that the current primer minister, Boris Johnson, leader of the Conservatives, does not have his seat granted in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the constituency he is running for:

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Wikipedia on Prime Minister of the United Kingdom states:

The Office of the Prime Minister is not established by any statute or constitutional document but exists only by long-established convention, whereby the reigning Monarch appoints as Prime Minister the person most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons; this individual is typically the leader of the political party or coalition of parties that holds the largest number of seats in that chamber.

However, I cannot find a reference on whether the Prime Minister needs to have a seat in the Parliament. Is there any rule on that?


1 Answer 1


Legally, no. By convention, yes, although not necessarily at the moment of being appointed. Consider the case of Douglas-Home, who was a member of the House of Lords when he was appointed Prime Minister. He disclaimed his peerage and contested a by-election to enter the Commons.

So if the Conservatives win a majority but Johnson loses his seat, it would not be unprecedented for one of his colleagues in a very safe seat to take the Chiltern Hundreds and trigger a by-election which Johnson could contest.

  • 2
    I assume well in that 'taking the Chiltern Hundreds' referers to the legal fiction used to resign from the House of Commons (source)?
    – fedorqui
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 10:54
  • @fedorqui correct.
    – Dan Scally
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 10:57
  • So based on your answer: it would not be possible and would need to have Boris Johnson elected in another constituency? Would that mean waiting several weeks due to all the bureaucracy attached to organising a by-election, so in the meanwhile the prime minister wouldn't be appointed?
    – fedorqui
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 10:57
  • 2
    @fedorqui, he would continue as PM (although I'm not sure what would happen to Prime Minister's Questions - probably another minister would take his place in the interim). If he lost a second by-election in a seat that was supposed to be safe, I would expect a motion of no confidence (internally in the party, in the House of Commons, or both). Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 11:06
  • 2
    It's been suggested that if an MP were to vacate a seat for the PM, that MP would be given a life peerage as a reward. This would automatically disqualify them as an MP, as you can't be a member of both the House of Lords and the Commons at the same time. Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 13:14

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