PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed a General Election for July 4.

Following the announcement, we can expect to see Parliament dissolved.

Once this happens, we enter the pre-election period also known as purdah.

What is purdah?

The pre-election period is the term used to describe the period between the time an election is announced and the date the election is held.

The time is also called the period of "heightened sensitivity" or is known by the term "purdah".

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It is a time when governments, ministers and civil servants will exercise caution in making announcements or decisions that might affect the election campaign.

The pre-election period for the UK Government and civil servants is not set out in law but is governed by conventions.

At the 2019 General Election, the period started when Parliament was dissolved, 25 working days before polling day.

What are MPs allowed to do during purdah?

Backbench and Opposition MPs are not constrained by the pre-election period of sensitivity. However, all MPs, elected politicians and candidates will need to ensure they abide by campaign finance and election law during an election period.

Ministers remain in office and in charge of their departments, but it is customary for them to observe discretion in announcing initiatives that are new or of a long-term character in their capacity as a minister.

Any announcements on policies or senior public appointments where a new Government might have a different view should be postponed, unless it is “detrimental to the national interest” or believed to be wasteful of public money.

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The general principle for UK Government ministers, as outlined in the Ministerial Code of Conduct, is that ministers may campaign during elections, but public money and departmental resources should not be used for party political purposes.

Ministers or other General Election candidates are not allowed to visit departmental premises or other public bodies for electioneering purposes.

MPs cannot correspond with their constituents once Parliament has been dissolved, as they are no longer an MP.

Why is it called purdah?

The word purdah is Hindustani in origin and literally refers to a curtain or veil.

Purdahs were traditionally used to screen women from male view, and the word came to be a general term for the South Asian practices of segregating the sexes and keeping women's bodies concealed.

In English use, the word has the extended sense of "a period of seclusion or isolation", hence its use in politics.

The name has been criticised for its sexist origins, and various public bodies have dropped it in favour of terms like "pre-election period" and "heightened sensitivity".