The dates of the most recent UK General Elections were:

  • Thu 4 Jul 2024
  • Thu 12 Dec 2019
  • Thu 8 Jun 2017
  • Thu 7 May 2015
  • Thu 6 May 2010
  • Thu 5 May 2005
  • Thu 7 Jun 2001
  • Thu 1 May 1997
  • Thu 9 Apr 1992
  • Thu 11 Jun 1987
  • Thu 9 Jun 1983
  • Thu 3 May 1979
  • Thu 10 Oct 1974
  • Thu 28 Feb 1974
  • Thu 18 Jun 1970
  • Thu 31 Mar 1966

It is clear that a summer day --- when it is daylight for many hours --- is preferred. We also see that, from Oct 1974 onwards, the dates are near the beginning of a month. We have to go all the way back to Feb 1974 to see a date later than the 12th of any month. This is true no matter the party of the Prime Minister choosing the date, and no matter which party is expected to win.

Granted, the timing of the 2015 General Election accorded with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. Per this Act, General Elections are "automatically scheduled for the first Thursday in May of the fifth year after the previous general election, or the fourth year if the date of the previous election was before the first Thursday in May" [Wiki]. But then the 2017 and 2019 General Elections were called early, so the aforementioned default date doesn't explain the actual dates chosen. And that Act was repealed in 2022 anyway.

Question: Why do UK Prime Ministers choose a day near the beginning of a month for a General Election?

This is not about the convention to choose a Thursday, a convention very rarely broken.

  • 1
    1964 was 15 October. Commented Jul 7 at 8:20
  • 2024 was held earlier in July because the English summer holidays traditionally start in mid-July, and people (including possibly candidates) would be out of the country.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 15 at 10:27

2 Answers 2


Historically, certain days have been avoided because they're known to depress turnout; In particular, politicians have been keen not to schedule elections on a Friday because it was traditionally payday for people who were paid weekly.

For the same reason, elections tend to be held earlier in the month, basically as far from the month-end payday for workers who get their pay monthly, and hence will have more money in their pockets and more distractions from voting.

  • 5
    Is payday is at the end of a month, then surely such workers are likely to have more money in their pockets early in the (following) month, than they are later in the month?  (Maybe politicians want workers to feel rich and confident and positive when they vote?)
    – gidds
    Commented Jul 6 at 11:42
  • 2
    @gidds - Most people have spent the bulk of their pay (on their essentials) by the second week of the month. Payday and shortly afterwards is when you feel flush with money. After a few days reality sets back in
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 6 at 12:10
  • UK elections are always on a Thursday. Always, unless there is some overwhelmingly good reason to schedule it otherwise (such as the Hamilton by-election of 31 May 1978. which was held on a Wednesday to avoid clashing with the opening game of the World Cup) Commented Jul 6 at 14:28
  • i was wondering about why earlier, when conservatives were having some time to think about another strategy? Commented Jul 6 at 16:44
  • Rather than "more distractions from voting", surely it makes more sense to assume "less reason to be dissatisfied with one's circumstances". The current government get to call the date, and incumbents are always susceptible to knee-jerk protest votes, obviously. The incumbent loses less votes to general disaffection by going for the first week or two when the monthly-paid get paid. And even the "4-weekly paid" have outgoings based on calendar months, so their bank balances have comparable cycles. Commented Jul 6 at 20:47

I think a lot of this can be attributed to the Representation of the People Act 1983, which set the annual date of local elections as 'the first Thursday in May' by statute. General elections are often held alongside local elections to, amongst other reasons, increase turnout and save money. This accounts for the dates of the five general elections between 1997-2015 elections (the 2001 election was delayed by a month due to foot-and-mouth). The 1979 election was also held at the same time as the local elections of that year, although this was prior to the Act, and unusual at the time.

Success in the local elections may also buoy Prime Ministers into calling a snap election, which is consequently held the requisite four weeks after dissolving Parliament - at the beginning of June. This helps account for the 1983 and 1987 elections.

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