The General Election explained for the politically clueless

Sorry. That was a bit harsh. But it’s true and you clicked on it. Understanding why and how a General Election takes place is more important than you’d think, because it WILL impact your life. It’s sort your duty to understand it and take part really. If you don’t understand it, we need to fix that.

The person in charge who isn’t in charge at all

We live under a parliamentary democracy. That means the at we combine the system where everyone has a say, and the system where the head of state gives their power to a small group of people.

There are two houses in the Houses of Parliament. Here, we’ll be talking purely about the Houses of Commons, because it’s the only democratic one.

The other one is called the Houses of Lords. It has it’s role in refining the laws being passed by the Houses of Commons, but is mostly ceremonial. It’s members aren’t selected democratically at all. Unless you’re an aspiring billionaire who is viciously power hungry, just forget about it to be honest.

In our case, the head of state is The King, and the small group of people is parliament. Members of parliament are selected (about 100 of them) to be in the government, who make the final decisions. The members selected are almost always from the party(s) with the majority of seats.

In recent history, The King doesn’t really do anything in terms of actually running the country. He sits there as pompously as possible, and we celebrate it and get international attention because, in truth, it is part of British culture whether we like it or not. Lucky bastard.

What The King does do, however, is kick off the general election cycle.

Dissolution of parliament

Yesterday, outside of Downing Street in the pouring rain, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Earlier today, I spoke with his Majesty the King to request the dissolution of parliament. The King has granted this request and we will have a general election on the 4th of July.”

Sunak gets to do this because he is the leader of the party who currently have the most people in parliament. He’s really the guy in charge. Being the Prime Minister means you are the the first link on the chain between The King and Parliament.

Now obviously in that quote it’s implied that The King could say no and parliament would not dissolve and there would not be a general election. But he can’t do that really because then we wouldn’t live in a democracy. The illusion would be broken and then people would riot or something. Or maybe people wouldn’t care, which is incredibly concerning.

Anyway, the dissolution of parliament is a strange way of saying that Parliament ends for a bit. Debates, meetings and things which would normally happen in parliament stop for a bit. Normally, once the break is over, the same people would return back and the parliamentary year would start again.

But at least once every 5 years, people have to campaign for their place in parliament again. They have to contest a general election.

Winning a general election

In parliament, there are 650 seats for 650 members. Each seat represents an area of land containing around 80,000 people, in what is called a constituency. In the general election, every constituency except one (more on that later), votes for who they want to fill their seat in Parliament.

This years general election is the first since 2015 where it has been “called by default” and not as a “snap election”. A snap election is when two thirds of members of parliament vote for an election to take place. It’s usually a tactical move by the party in power to take further control at a time where they are popular with the public.

On the general election day, people have until 7am to 10pm to go to a polling station and vote for one of their local candidates. Polling stations are often in schools, churches or really any building which is a public amenity. If you’re reading this and you’re a school kid, then you’ll get the day off mate. Go and kick a ball about or something.

At 10pm, the polling stations close. We then get the the exit poll. The exit poll is simply a prediction of how the country has voted, using a large sample size from constituencies where people reckon the vote will be close. It’s done by third party companies and news organisations working together.

Over the night afterwards, the results start pouring in from across the country. It’s a tradition that Newcastle and Sunderland race to finish their vote counting first, although both results are almost always for Labour.

Normally by the next morning, we know which party has won the election. Oversimplified, the winner is whoever has the most seats. In reality, if a party has the most seats but not a majority of them (so less than 326) then they can’t form a government on their own because they’ll just lose every vote in parliament. They need to work together with other parties to get to 326 seats. The parties then share responsibility in government in a “coalition government”.

Coalition governments have happened twice since 2010, with the Conservatives pairing up with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, and then the Irish Democratic Unionist Party in 2017 (sort of). Polls say that it’s very unlikely to happen this time around.

If you’re a massive political nerd (or want to be for some reason), then check out this video on the history and results of every general election. It might help you visualise what’s going on:

Oh yeah, and that one seat that isn’t contested in a general election? That’s the Speaker’s seat. The Speaker of the house controls debates to make sure they don’t devolve into a shouting contest, and is also the official voice of communication between the House of Commons and the King. As I said, in reality this is the Prime Minister.

You would think that The Speaker would be neutral, but they are actually members of a political party. Additionally, they take up a seat but don’t ever face elections because of a gentleman’s agreement between the parties.

The current speaker is Lindsay Hoyle, of Labour, who represents Chorley. Unlucky Chorley. You aren’t getting a say in this years election 🙁

Up to speed now? If not, then just take away one thing from this. No matter what, VOTE. In fact you don’t even have to vote. If you don’t like any of your local candidates, just spoil the ballot. Draw a dick on it or whatever. Just make sure you turn up and be counted. At least that will show what you think of them all. Make your voice count for something. Please for the love of God just vote!

Read more here

Top ten TV: Find your new favourite show

Top ten TV: Find your new favourite show

I don’t care if TV rots your brain, I can’t get enough. Here as some of the best shows that you should be watching right now. but if you do fancy reading a book instead of watching a show, check out our choices here Bridgerton Back and steamier than ever, Bridgerton…

Gaza conflict: What can I do to help?

Gaza conflict: What can I do to help?

As we are sadly reminded daily of the ongoing Israel Palestine conflict, we find out what we, as twenty-somethings on the other side of the world, can do. Here at Messy, we’re all about breaking taboos and posting light-hearted content to help you navigate the…