Welcome to 2015: general election year.
With so much uncertainty about the result and inconsistency among the opinion polls, perhaps the only thing it’s safe to say about the election is that it will take place. A date has been set: 7 May. Whether it will be the only election to take place this year is another matter. While it is no longer constitutionally quite as simple for a prime minister to call a general election, it would not be impossible for a second poll to be held before 2015 is over, should the vote in May not produce a government that is able survive more than a few months.
In the meantime, the countdown to 7 May is properly under way.
Here are the key dates between now and polling day.
5 January: The House of Commons returns after the Christmas recess; the House of Lords returns the following day.
12 February: The Commons and Lords break for half-term.
23 February: The Commons and Lords return from half-term.
18 March: George Osborne delivers the final Budget speech of the parliament.
25 March: The final session of prime minister’s questions.
30 March: Parliament is dissolved by the Queen, marking the formal start of the election campaign.
3-6 April: Easter weekend, including bank holidays on Good Friday (3rd) and Easter Monday (6th)
9 April: The deadline for the delivery (and the withdrawal) of nomination papers for any candidate wishing to stand in the election.
20 April: The deadline for registering to vote in the general election.
21 April: The deadline for receiving postal vote applications.
28 April: The deadline for receiving proxy vote applications.
4 May: Bank Holiday Monday.
7 May: Election day. Polls open from 7am to 10pm.
The campaign could be a bit of a stop-start affair, what with the number of bank holidays and weekends that fall between dissolution and polling day. There’s also likely to be a bit of a rush to get the Budget and any other outstanding legislation through parliament between 18 and 30 March: a period of just seven working days.
In fact, the whole of the next four months are likely to be a bit of a rush. The general election takes place just 18 weeks from today. It’ll be here sooner than you think.