Prime Minister David Cameron drove from 10 Downing Street to Buckingham Palace on Monday to inform the Queen of the dissolution of Parliament and fire the starting gun in what he has termed “the most important General Election in a generation”.
The campaign for the May 7 poll kicked off in earnest with all three major parties making their pitch for voters in an election which is widely expected to end with another hung parliament.
Prerogative to order the dissolution of Parliament no longer rests with the monarch, under new rules fixing each term at five years, but Mr Cameron nevertheless took the short journey to Buckingham Palace to recommend the Queen issue a proclamation summoning the new Parliament on May 18. With the majority of polls still showing the two established Westminster parties running neck and neck – and one at the weekend giving Labour a four-point lead – increasingly bitter blows are being traded.
What you need to know...
What actually happens?
By law, Parliament dissolves 25 working days before an election. Dissolution of Parliament is the formal term for when Parliament ends.
Prime Minister David Cameron travels to Buckingham Palace to seek the Queen’s permission to call a General Election. The Monarch is, officially speaking, the head of Parliament.
When Parliament dissolves, every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant and all MPs revert back to being members of the public and lose all privileges that go with being an MP.
We have now entered what is known as purdah – the period between parliament dissolving and the election results coming in. During this time, members of central and local government are prohibited from making announcements on new initiatives that might give candidates an advantage over their opponents in the election.
So, who’s in charge?
The same people. Parliament and Government are two separate institutions. The Government does not resign.
All ministers remain in charge of their departments and David Cameron will continue as Prime Minister until he visits the Queen to inform her of the result of the General Election and a new administration will be formed.
Ministers cannot announce anything new because of purdah.
And after the election?
The polls suggest there will not be one party who holds a clear overall majority and it is likely a coalition will be formed.
In 2010, it took the Conservatives and Lib Dems several days to form a deal and it is expected – with UKIP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP in the mix – in 2015 it could take much longer.
When either one party has a majority – or has enough support in the house to pass a Queen’s Speech, through coalition or an informal deal (sometimes known as supply and confidence) with other parties – David Cameron will visit the Queen.
If he has won, he’ll tell her he’s going to form a government. If not, he will resign his post as Prime Minister, and invite another party leader to form a government.
All to play for in elections for Lancaster & Fleetwood
In the ‘ultra marginal’ seat of Lancaster and Fleetwood in 2015, there’s everything to play for politically as voters go to the polls next month.
In 2010, the Conservative Party won the Lancaster and Fleetwood parliamentary seat by a majority of 333 votes.
Eric Ollerenshaw received 36.1 per cent of the vote, while Labour’s Clive Grunshaw, now Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, took 35.3 per cent.
The turnout was 61 per cent, and a total of 42,701 people voted.
For this year’s election, on May, the seat of Lancaster and Fleetwood is considered ‘ultra-marginal’.
Seven candidates stood in 2010, and so far this year five are in the running.
Who is standing?
Conservative: Eric Ollerenshaw
Labour: Cat Smith
Lib Dem: Robin Long
UKIP: Matthew Atkins
Green: Chris Coates
Morecambe & Lunesdale seat could indicate change
Since 1979, Morecambe and Lunesdale has been noted as a “bellwether” political seat – one that leads or indicates change.
In 2010, the Conservative Party won the Morecambe and Lunesdale parliamentary seat by 866 votes.
David Morris received 18,035 votes, while Geraldine Smith got 17,169 for Labour.
The turnout was 43,436.
Five candidates stood in 2010 – with Liberal Democrats geting 5,791 votes, UKIP getting 1,843, and the Green Party getting 598.
So far in 2015, five candidates have stepped up.
Who is standing?
Conservative: David Morris
Labour: Amina Lone
Lib Dem: Matthew Severn
UKIP: Steve Ogden
Green: Phil Chandler