What is the GE and how does it work?
The Government has called a snap general election (GE) for June 8th. This was a surprise announcement - the next election was scheduled to be in 2020. It now means all 650 parliamentary constituencies represented in the House of Commons are up for election on June 8 2017.
Even if you were registered to vote in the previous election, it’s important to register to vote now at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote - particularly if you have moved or want to vote by post. You may need your NI number in order to do so. EU nationals may vote in local council elections, but not in a general election.
You will then receive a polling card explaining where your nearest polling station is. You can vote in person, by post or using a proxy. More information about the process can be found here: www.gov.uk/voting-in-the-uk. You will need to register before May 22.
The UK voting system works by simple majority: the candidate with the largest single number of votes in the constituency is elected as your local MP, and the party with the largest number of MPs gets to pick the Prime Minister and Cabinet. You do not vote directly for the Prime Minister.
The three largest parties are the Conservatives (led by Theresa May) with 330 seats, Labour (led by Jeremy Corbyn) with 229 MPs and the Scottish National Party (who only stand in Scotland) with 54 seats. Several other smaller parties are also represented in the House of Commons – such as the Liberal Democrats and Green Party, Plaid Cymru and Northern Irish parties, and some independents.
What does my MP do?
MPs split their time between working in Parliament itself, working in the constituency that elected them and working for their political party. Some MPs from the governing party (or parties) become government ministers with specific responsibilities in certain areas, such as Health or Defence.
When Parliament is sitting (meeting), MPs generally spend their time working in the House of Commons. This can include raising issues affecting their constituents, attending debates and voting on new laws.
In their constituency, MPs often hold a 'surgery' in their office, where you can come along to discuss any matters that concern you.
MPs do a large amount of casework. This might include raising your issues with government ministers, the local council, business or other relevant bodies.
How do I find out who my MP is?
You can find your MP by using this tool: www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/. Their pages then provide contact details and information about surgery times and other ways they can help you. You can write to them by post or email or phone their offices. Most appointments will have to be booked.
Before you contact an MP, be very clear about the question or comment you are making. Introduce who you are and why you’re writing. A good letter or email to an MP will be concise, lay out your point clearly, and make a clear ask from them about what you would like them to do. It should of course be polite and courteous. The more information they have on your issue, the more they will be able to understand and respond – but don’t overload them, or try to raise too many issues at once.
Check beforehand that your issue isn’t better dealt with by another body. For instance, MPs often get complaints about roads and parks that are better directed to the local council, or questions about crime that the police would be better at answering. However, you may want to get an MP involved if you have tried other ways to get your issue resolved and they have not worked.
How do I find out who my candidates are?
In the next weeks, details of all candidates for Parliament will be made available. They will be posted by your local elections office and on your local council’s website. You can find your local elections office here: www.yourvotematters.co.uk/register-to-vote/find-your-local-authority
You are likely to be canvassed, perhaps by telephone, or by leaflets, or by volunteers on your doorstep urging you to vote for their preferred party, as well as seeing party political broadcasts on TV or newspapers endorsing a party. You can also do your own research - most parties and candidates will have websites with their policies available, for example.
How do I ask a candidate a question or meet them?
Candidates are there to convince you to vote for them. They should be happy to answer questions from voters, and will be out engaging people throughout the campaign. If you’re interested in a specific candidate, you may want to check their election materials or websites, or search for them on Twitter, to ask them a question or provide a comment - or if you’re convinced, maybe even volunteer to help them!
There are also hustings throughout the election campaign period, where candidates will take questions from an audience and debate each other. These might require a little research to find - look in local newspapers, do a Google search, check community noticeboards or ask friends and neighbours. Hustings will often be held by non-partisan organisations like charities, religious groups, local media or community organisations.
Where do I find the election results?
The results for your constituency will be posted on your local council website, and announced on BBC News as they come in. It usually takes the night to count results, with the overall national picture becoming clear in the early hours of the morning, and the last seats declaring by the following afternoon.