The Queen-in-Council issued a proclamation setting out the dates when Parliament will be prorogued ahead of its dissolution, heralding the beginning of the short campaign for the British General Election on this May.
The Order read that Parliament would be prorogued (which means suspended) “no earlier than 26th March” and “no later than 30th March”, though in practice the earliest date is usually the date of prorogation.
Due to a change in law in 2011, The Queen will not herself prorogue Parliament at this election, making it the first time in history where the Monarch has not given – or needed to give – their consent to a dissolution. The Fixed Term Parliaments act determined that instead of the Prime Minister being able to call an election at any time they wished via the Monarch (thus allowing them to do so at a time of popularity), there would now be fixed Parliaments lasting five years in turn. The act explicitly removed The Queen’s ability to dissolve Parliament herself.
This year, dissolution will take place on 30th March – leading to a longer time between dissolution and polling day than in previous years. A proclamation will be read out at the Royal Exchange from The Queen stating that Parliament has been dissolved and also laying out the date when the State Opening will occur after the election.
With many pollsters and experts predicting a hung Parliament after polling day in May (where no one party commands a majority in the House of Commons), it may once again be The Queen’s Private Secretary Sir Christopher Geidt’s role to liaise with Civil Service officials as the parties try to form some kind of deal or coalition. Given The Queen has a constitutional duty to appoint a Prime Minister who is most likely to command the support of the House of Commons, officials will want to make sure that this duty is upheld as far as possible.
If a majority party emerges in the Commons after polling day, The Queen will be bound to appoint the leader of that largest party as Prime Minister. And if the incumbent Prime Minister is defeated, and another party leader emerges with a majority, The Queen will accept the current Prime Minister’s resignation. Any resignation and appointments of the Prime Minister are announced by Buckingham Palace.
The prospective Prime Minister will then travel to Buckingham Palace where The Queen will ask him to form an administration. By tradition, the Court Circular will record that the Prime Minister “kissed hands” (of The Queen) on appointment, however this doesn’t actually happen at this stage and will occur later at a meeting of the Privy Council.
After a Prime Minister has been officially appointed, The Queen will then attend the State Opening of Parliament in which she’ll read out a speech – prepared by the new Government – setting out their agenda for their first year in office. All MPs will also swear an oath to The Queen to take their seats in the Commons, as required by law.
Although there’s nothing to stop members of the Royal Family casting a vote during elections, by convention all senior members of the Royal Family avoid so doing and also avoid expressing party-political opinions in public.
photo credit: UK Parliament