How does the PM call a General Election?
To call the election Theresa May will need a two thirds of majority (theoretically 429 MPs, but Sinn Fein’s MPs refuse to take their seats, so in fact she needs 427 in the Commons. This vote will take tomorrow (Wednesday 19th April). If the Prime Minister was to fail in securing two thirds of MPs she does have an alternative but high risk option: she can call for a vote of confidence in herself. With a slim majority and obvious backbench pressure she will want to avoid this option at all costs. Theresa May’s willingness to call the General Election would suggest that she is confident that she will be able to secure two thirds, especially with Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, welcoming the decision.
How long is Purdah?
Once the vote has passed and election is agreed, the Government will be able to set out the purdah period. The Government has confirmed that the dissolution of Parliament will take place on the Wednesday 3rd May (00:00am). This means that Purdah and campaign period will last 6 weeks.
Importance of manifestoes
It is during this period between now and purdah that all parties will be drafting their election manifestoes. For the Conservatives their manifesto will be particularly important because they will want to ensure they have all pledges they want to include as part of the Great Repeal Bill or Brexit. By doing so they will be able to stop the Lords from voting against their manifesto pledges. We would expect manifestoes to be published in the coming weeks.
What happens to the Government during Purdah?
During ‘Purdah’ specific restrictions on the use of public resources are in place on the civil service. There is a restriction of public resources, policy decisions and legislation. Ministers remain in charge of their Departments because “essential business” and the “responsibility to govern” remains in place. However, do not expect any major policy announcements until after the General Election. Any engagement with Government Ministers will be politicised because it is taking part in political campaign.
What happens to legislation going through Parliament?
Before the dissolution of Parliament, ongoing legislation that the Government wants to see finished goes through “wash-up”. This is where the Government and opposition come together and negotiate what it is possible to give Royal Assent to. Due to the ‘snap’ nature of this election, wash-up may be particularly frantic, with less than fortnight to get any legislation finalised. The Government may be happy to see Bills currently going through Parliament unfinished, working on the assumption that they will resurrect the Bills after the General Election.