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Anyone interested in British politics?

It's six weeks until the British general election, parliament was dissolved today and the campaigning can officially begin (though it's been ramping up for the last year). Here's an interesting video from the ever-knowledgable Tom Scott about what you can and can't do to get elected to the House of Commons.

For anyone who wants to know more about how our elections work here's a quick and dirty rundown.


General elections are traditionally held on a Thursday and take place every five years (though this rule was only brought in in 2010, prior to that they were indeterminate, but generally between four and six years and called by the Prime Minister, so the government would decide to hold the election when they were strongest). This year it will be May 7th.

It is not a vote for a party in general, but a series of local elections to decide the Member of Parliament (MP) to represent each of 650 constituencies. These MPs will sit in the House of Commons, the members of the House of Lords are appointed (or inherited) and not elected.

Since there are 650 seats, 326 will be needed for a party to form a majority government. This year it is highly unlikely this will happen and one of the two main parties (Conservative and Labour) will have to form a coalition with another party or parties to get past the winning post of 326. The current government consists of 302 Conservative MPs and the 56 Liberal Democrats.

There are 'safe' seats, constituencies where one party has historically won by a large percentage, and 'marginal' seats where support for more than one party is equal. This is where most of the campaigning will be done. They are the equivalent of swing states in US elections.


The leader of the winning party will take the position of prime minister, and he or she will appoint other MPs to be ministers in the cabinet. Each MP is still responsible for the constituency that elected them in addition to their ministerial duties. For instance, David Cameron is the member for Witney in Oxfordshire, so if he loses on May 7th to another candidate (unlikely as it is; he got almost 60% of the votes cast there in 2010) the Conservative Party would have to elect themselves a new leader.

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