The Jenkins Commission Report on reform of the electoral system in the UK recommended that the House of Commons should in future be elected by a system where most MPs are elected in single-seat constituencies, by the Alternative Vote (i.e. Single Transferable Vote for one seat), and about 15% are then elected from regional lists to produce a more proportional result. It seems currently very unlikely that this proposal will ever be implemented; the more likely revisions are those envisaged by the Boundary Commission.
The Jenkins Commission's recommendations for Northern Ireland were that there should be 14 single-member constituencies grouped into two regions as follows:
For what it's worth, the 2001 elections point towards the following likely new boundaries and probable results if this system is adopted soon:
North Belfast will then need to shed some territory to West Belfast, certainly including the bits of the Shankill it currently contains but possibly also inclding the New Lodge and parts of Ardoyne. East and South Belfast extend further into Castlereagh, absorbing Dundonald and Carryduff respectively; South Belfast may also need to include Dunmurry and nearer fringes of Lisburn.
North Down expands to take in the Ards Peninsula and Newtownards. The bits left over from Lagan Valley and Strangford are sufficient for a new Mid Down constituency. Effectively the two seats that disappear are East Antrim and Strangford.
Results for individual seats: The Alternative Vote system drastically favours the UUP who even on their recent appalling form would have a chance of winning six of the eight seats after transfers, even if the DUP come out ahead in first preferences. The exceptions are the new West Belfast, which on their current form is fairly sure for Sinn Fein, and the expanded North Belfast, where the UUP are so far behind the DUP, but Unionists sufficiently far ahead of Nationalists that the DUP must come out on top. Both Ian Paisley's stronghold of North Antrim, and that of his deputy, Peter Robinson, in the new East Belfast, would be good prospects for the UUP after transfers from everyone else. A projection of the 2001 votes onto new boundaries for single-member AV seats gives the UUP four, the DUP three, and SF one.
List seats: A "proportional" result based on the 2001 elections would have given the UUP (with 33% in the Westminster elections/26% at local government) 3 seats, the DUP (27%/26%) 3 seats, and one each to Alliance (6%/10%), the SDLP (13%/12%) and Sinn Fein (also 13%/12%), with a tenth seat up for grabs (probably going to a straggling Unionist). However the Jenkins system is not proportional; it merely partially corrects the discrepancy between the votes cast and the single-member seats won. The SDLP could therefore certainly expect to get a list seat if the votes are similar to 2001. Alliance's chances of doing so, oddly enough, depend on the DUP. If the DUP win only one constituency seat, Jenkins gives them a second; if they win two, then they and Alliance are both pretty close to qualifying for the last seat; if the DUP win three seats, then Alliance gets a list seat. The projected overall result from 2001 is thus: UUP four, DUP three, SF one, SDLP one, Alliance one.
Results for individual seats: East Londonderry and the Armagh County seat will be won by the UUP under Alternative vote, though the latter will be a close run with Sinn Fein. Even on their recent disappointing form, South Down (even including Banbridge) and Foyle are safe for the SDLP; the two Fermanagh and Tyrone seats look good for Sinn Fein, whatever the boundaries - they are far enough ahead of the SDLP, who will not get enough Unionist transfers to make the difference.
List seats: The two Unionist parties are each on about 20% and the two Nationalist parties about 30% each. The DUP are very unlikely to win a constituency seat but have enough votes to entitle them to a list seat. Whichever of the UUP and Sinn Fein does not win Armagh county will be compensated with a list seat. The overall result is thus: SF three, SDLP two, UUP two, DUP one.
The overall result, based on the 2001 votes, would be UUP six with a decent chance of more, DUP four at most, SF four, SDLP three, Alliance one. In the real 2001 elections, the UUP won exactly six seats, the DUP five, Sinn Fein four and the SDLP three. Alliance make one gain from the DUP.
See also: Boundary Commission 2003 | Jim Riley's analysis of votes and seats in the 1998 Assembly election | Single Transferable Vote | Gerrymandering | The constituencies | The political parties | The NI Executive | Useful books and links
Results from 1996 to 2001 for each seat: East Belfast | North Belfast | South Belfast | West Belfast | East Antrim | North Antrim | South Antrim | North Down | South Down | Fermanagh and South Tyrone | Foyle | Lagan Valley | East Londonderry | Mid Ulster | Newry and Armagh | Strangford | West Tyrone | Upper Bann
Surveys of each recent election: 2004 European | 2003 Assembly | 2001 Westminster | 2001 local govt | 2000 S Antrim | 1999 European | 1998 Assembly | 1997 local govt | 1997 Westminster | 1996 Forum | 1995 N Down | 1994 European | 1993 local govt | 1992 Westminster | 1989 European | 1989 local govt | 1987 Westminster | 1986 by-elections | 1985 local govt | 1984 European | 1983 Westminster | 1982 Assembly | 1981 local govt | 1979 European | 1979 Westminster | 1977 local govt | 1975 Convention | Oct 1974 Westminster | Feb 1974 Westminster | 1973 Assembly | 1973 local govt | Summary of all Northern Ireland elections since 1973 | Brief summary of election results 1997-2003
Historical pieces: Westminster elections 1885-1910 | The 1918 election | Dáil elections since 1918 | Westminster elections since 1920 | Senate of Southern Ireland 1921 | Irish Senate elections in 1925 | Northern Ireland House of Commons | Northern Ireland Senate
Other sites based at ARK: ORB (Online Research Bank) | CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) | Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey
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Nicholas Whyte, 12 December 1998; heavily revised in light of 2001 election
results, 10 February 2002.
Disclaimer:© Nicholas Whyte 1998-2004 Last Updated on Wednesday, 12-Jan-2005 12:12