#GE19 – Parliament Dissolved as Election Campaigns get Underway

06 November 2019 - by Gráinne Walsh

From 00.01 this morning, 6th November, Parliament has officially been dissolved, and we are now in the period between dissolution and the election known as ‘the period of sensitivity’, or commonly referred to as ‘purdah’.

This will be the second time the public have gone to the polls for a general election since the EU Referendum in 2016, with this current Parliament lasting just over two years.  The Fixed-Term Parliament Act (2011) introduced by David Cameron was meant to ensure that a Parliamentary term would last for a period of 5 years. 

This can be bypassed by a two thirds majority of the House of Commons backing an election, which following three attempts, the Prime Minister was unable to command. Johnson did however overcome this hurdle by introducing a Bill on October 29th calling for an election that required only a simple majority. 

One of the key restrictions will be on announcements by Ministers, who remain in post during the election period.  However, they will be unable to make any policy or financial announcements which may impact upon public opinion. Given the recent Queen’s Speech, this has been the subject of some debate already. Even as late as the day before Parliament dissolved, we witnessed a row break out between Labour and the Chancellor over the refusal to publish a cost analysis of Labour’s policies.

During a UK General Election, the devolved administrations and their civil servants will continue to carry out their functions. However, civil servants will need to be aware of any actions which could be construed as being party political or otherwise controversial in the context of the election. In short, do not expect to see a Permanent Secretary making any policy or funding announcements during the next 5 weeks.

What does mean for your organisation?

Election time often brings a strong desire to mobilise, raise your issues and encourage voter participation. That said, there are also a number of things for organisations to keep in mind:

  • While organisations can still promote their views and ideas in publicity material, they are prohibited from endorsing the policies of a political party or a particular candidate; 
  • Events can and will be taking place in Parliament Buildings at Stormont;
  • Assembly All Party Groups continue to meet, as does local government;
  • Always refer to those seeking election as 'candidates', especially outgoing MPs;

If in doubt about the dos and don’ts you can check out the Electoral Commission guidance.