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Could King Charles have said no to a general election?

King Charles III with UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak

King Charles III has spoken to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and agreed to his decision to call a general election.

It means that the UK will head to the polls on July 4th 2024 to choose 650 MPs.

The King had to agree to parliament being dissolved before the election could be called.

The Monarch retains the right to dissolve parliament but only ever does so, in reality, on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Technically, King Charles could have said no to Rishi Sunak’s request to end this parliamentary session and send the country to the polls.

In 2011, fixed term parliaments were introduced meaning that elections automatically happened after five years meaning the UK would have headed to the ballot boxes in December 2024 anyway.

And there is also the matter of the Lascelles Principles – they are the conditions in which a Monarch can refuse a request from the Prime Minister to dissolve Parliament.

They were set out in 1950 when debate began around the role of King George VI in a political maelstrom which followed a general election which had seen Labour retain power but with a wafer thin majority. Sir Alan Lascelles, usually called Tommy, had been the King’s Private Secretary for most of his reign. As April came to an end, he wrote to The Times under the pseudonym ”Senex”, Latin for ”old man.” By then, he was 63 years old and had been in royal service for the best part of three decades.

His letter was short and to the point and began by stating ‘‘It is surely indisputable (and common sense) that a Prime Minister may ask—not demand—that his Sovereign will grant him a dissolution of Parliament; and that the Sovereign, if he so chooses, may refuse to grant this request.”

He then went on to set out three reasons why the Monarch could deny a request to dissolve Parliament. They were if parliament was ”still vital, viable and capable of doing its job”, if a General Election would be damaging to the national economy and, lastly, if the Monarch was able to find another Prime Minister who could continue in Government for a reasonable period ”with a working majority in the House of Commons.”

However, King Charles agreed to Rishi Sunak’s request and the UK heads to the polls on July 4th 2024.

If Mr Sunak loses power and Labour take Downing Street, their leader, Sir Keir Starmer, will become the third Prime Minister of the reign of King Charles III which is currently just 19 months old.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.