UK Polls on July 4: How New Prime Minister Will Be Elected?

United Kingdom, the empire on which the sun never sets, is witnessing a very crucial election for House of Commons on July 4.
UK Polls on July 4: How New Prime Minister Will Be Elected?

United Kingdom, the empire on which the sun never sets, is witnessing a very crucial election for House of Commons on July 4. The polling for the general elections for choosing the new Prime Minister will be held in total of 650 constituencies in the UK and candidates who win the election will be appointed as MP of the House of Commons. 

The main contenders for the post are the current Prime Minister and Indian origin Conservative party leader Rishi Sunak, and Labour party leader Keir Starmer.

Process of Prime Minister Election:

The United Kingdom's Prime Minister is elected indirectly through a process. Prime Minister is not directly elected by the public, they are chosen based on the outcome of general elections and the ability to command the confidence of the House of Commons.

  • General Election: Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected in a general election, which is held at least every five years under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (though this can be earlier if a motion for an early election is passed by the House of Commons or a vote of no confidence is not followed by a vote of confidence within 14 days). The party that wins the most seats in the House of Commons usually forms the government.

  • Party Leader Selection: Each political party represented in the House of Commons has a leader. If one party has a majority in the House of Commons, its leader typically becomes the Prime Minister. If no party has a majority (a hung parliament), parties may form coalitions or alliances to gain a majority. The leader of the coalition or the party that can command the confidence of the House of Commons becomes the Prime Minister.

  • Appointment by the Monarch: Once a new Prime Minister is identified, they are appointed by the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II). This is largely a formality, as the monarch is expected to appoint the leader of the party that can command a majority in the House of Commons.

  • Prime Minister's Term: The Prime Minister serves as long as they maintain the support of the majority of MPs in the House of Commons. They can also resign or be replaced if their party decides to hold a leadership election and chooses a new leader.

PM Should Be a Member of House of Commons:

The prime minister is elected like any other MP. At every general election there is a possibility, however remote, that the incumbent governing party could remain the largest in the House of Commons but that their leader would not be returned to parliament.

Has a Prime Minister Ever Lost Their Seat?

No incumbent prime minister has ever lost his or her seat at a general election. Rishi Sunak, the current prime minister, is standing for re-election in the Richmond and Northallerton constituency. At the last election, his majority (in the Richmond constituency, which had slightly different boundaries) was 27,210.

Of recent prime ministers, Boris Johnson’s majority of 7,210 in Uxbridge and South Ruislip in the 2019 election is the smallest. Even at its lowest point, Margaret Thatcher’s relatively small numerical majority in Finchley translated into a 20-point lead over the Labour candidate in the constituency.

Two prime ministers have come close to losing their seats. In December 1905, Arthur Balfour resigned as prime minister in an attempt to force an election, but the leader of the opposition, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, instead formed a government and became PM. Balfour went on to lose his constituency at the election a month later. In the 1935 general election, Ramsay MacDonald was defeated, having resigned as head of the national government not long before the campaign started.

Have Other Party Leaders Ever Lost Their Seats?

Balfour was technically the first leader of the opposition in the 20th century to lose his seat at a general election. Herbert Asquith was the second – he was defeated in 1918 and again in 1924 (having returned to parliament in the interim via a by-election in Paisley). At the 1931 election, Arthur Henderson, leader of the Labour Party, lost his seat during the landslide victory of the national government led by his former party colleague Ramsay MacDonald. Since then, no leader of the opposition has ever lost their seat in a general election.

Leaders of smaller parties have lost their parliamentary seats 18 times since the turn of the 20th century. The Liberal Party lost seven leaders between 1918 and 1979. The most recent example of the phenomenon came in 2019, when the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, Jo Swinson, failed to win re-election in East Dunbartonshire.

Could a PM Remain in Post If He Lost His Seat?

The first issue is whether the defeated prime minister’s party is in a majority or clearly able to command the confidence of the Commons; or if another party is able to do so. If another party can and is invited to form a government, its leader would become prime minister and so make the situation of the defeated prime minister moot.

But if the defeated PM’s party still had a majority or could clearly command the confidence of the Commons, and will form a government, then three further factors come into play:

Difference of Election Process UK & India:

The process of electing the Prime Minister in the United Kingdom differs significantly from how elections are conducted in India. The UK uses a first-past-the-post electoral system, where each parliamentary constituency elects one Member of Parliament, and the party with the majority of seats forms the government. In contrast, India uses a parliamentary system with a mixed-member proportional representation in which citizens vote for individual candidates in single-member constituencies and for political parties in multi-member constituencies.

  • UK Prime Minister Selection: The UK Prime Minister is not directly elected by the public. Instead, the Prime Minister is the leader of the political party that wins the most seats in the House of Commons during a general election. The Prime Minister is appointed by the monarch, typically from the majority party in Parliament or from a coalition commanding a majority.

  • India's Prime Minister Selection: In India, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party or coalition of parties that wins the most seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament. Citizens vote directly for members of the Lok Sabha in general elections, and the leader of the majority party or coalition is appointed as Prime Minister by the President of India.

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