The pre-election period

Timing of the pre-election period

The pre-election period is generally the three months immediately before the election. In 2020, it starts on 19 June. During the pre-election period, unless the Government has clearly lost the confidence of the House and sees itself bound by the caretaker convention, it is generally business as usual, subject to any self-imposed restraint that the Government decides on. There are no special obligations on the State services from the date when the Prime Minister announces the election date until the pre-election period.

Exercise of voluntary restraint

The Government continues to have full power to make decisions in the pre-election period. However, successive governments have usually chosen to exercise restraint at this time in two areas:

  • making significant appointments
  • taking action that might result in government advertising campaigns running at the same time as the election campaign.

This restraint recognises that an election and, therefore, potentially a change in government is imminent.

Read the Cabinet Office Circular: Government Decisions and Actions in the Pre-election Period

Working on government policy

Ministers can continue to commission policy work that goes through the Cabinet and Cabinet Committee decision-making process in the pre-election period. This is referred to as government policy. However, Ministers should not request policy work to support their party-political work, for example, to use in election campaign debates.

State servants who are concerned they are being asked to work on something that is not part of the government policy process, should inform their chief executive.

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