What happens if a prime minister loses their seat in a General Election?

What happens if a prime minister loses their seat in a General Election?

Rishi Sunak holding a Q&A event with farmers in Barnstaple, north Devon, yesterday (Picture: Leon Neal/Pool/AFP)

Among several big General Election polls released yesterday, one predicted a particularly shocking result: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak losing his seat in North Yorkshire.

The Savanta poll, carried out for the Daily Telegraph, suggested the Tories could be almost wiped out next month with the party getting just 53 MPs.

Other similar forecasts have suggested a slightly less devastating result for the party, though almost all suggest Labour will win in a landslide on July 4.

If the Telegraph’s prediction of ‘wipeout’ comes true, Sunak would become the first sitting prime minister to lose their seat in a General Election.

But how likely is that? And what would happen as a result?

Is Rishi Sunak going to lose his seat?

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Yesterday’s MRP poll from Savanta and the Telegraph was an outlier.

Another similar major poll released yesterday, conducted by YouGov, said the PM’s Richmond and Northallerton constituency is a ‘likely’ Conservative hold.

But it looks like it’s no longer considered a safe seat for the party, which is quite extraordinary in itself.

Following boundary changes, Richmond and Northallerton is the new name for the constituency mostly covering the area that previously fell under the constituency of Richmond.

Sunak’s seat was previously held by ex-Tory leader William Hague (Picture: PA)

That seat has been held by the Tories since 1910, and was previously represented by heavy-hitters like Margaret Thatcher’s Home Secretary Leon Brittan and former party leader William Hague.

Sunak’s majority in the 2019 election – held before his appointment as chancellor made him a household name – was more than 27,000.

It would take an enormous swing for the PM to lose his seat, and only one mainstream poll has shown it as a possibility since the election was called. So it’s currently unlikely that such a bombshell will drop.

What would happen if Rishi Sunak loses his seat?

If the unlikely was to happen, it probably wouldn’t result in constitutional drama.

The last time these questions were asked was in 2019, when Boris Johnson’s relatively small majority in Uxbridge and South Ruislip led people to wonder what would happen if he lost but the Conservatives remained as the largest party.

In Sunak’s case, it appears that he would only lose his seat as party of a country-wide anti-Conservative tsunami – meaning Sir Keir Starmer would become prime minister anyway.

But let’s entertain a scenario that polls suggest is nigh on impossible: the Conservatives remain as the largest party in the Commons, but the PM loses his seat.

The 2019 results compared to the Savanta/Telegraph MRP prediction for the July 4 election

It would be the first time in UK history an incumbent PM was kicked out as an MP.

A couple of others have come close: Arthur Balfour lost his seat a month after he resigned as prime minister in December 1905, while the first Labour PM Ramsay MacDonald also lost his seat in the 1935 General Election, again shortly after resigning.

All prime ministers have either sat in the House of Commons or the House of Lords, though the former has been the convention since 1902.

While the possibility has never been tested, someone no longer in parliament would almost certainly be unable to remain prime minister indefinitely due to the need for them to answer questions and deliver statements in the House.

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