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10-11-2018, 23:38   #1
Fuaranach
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Stormont, 1921-1972: general questions

I'm just looking at the 1962 Stormont general election and an extraordinary 25.4% of the votes were given to the Northern Ireland Labour Party, up from 15.8% of the vote in 1958. In both 1958 and 1962, the NILP won a paltry 4 seats out of the 52 seats in Stormont. In 1962 that 25.4% of the vote translated as 76,842 NILP votes. In sharp contrast, however, in 1962 the UUP won 48.8% of the vote and that translated as 147,629 votes. For this, the UUP won 34 seats. That's an extraordinary difference.

Can it all be put down to the UUP abandoning PR-STV for First Past the Post, or what other things in the election system did the UUP change to ensure there was such a disparity between votes and seats?

All statistics from: Northern Ireland general election, 1962



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10-11-2018, 23:39   #2
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More specifically at the moment, I have for a long time wondered how if house ownership carried a vote with it for elections (to the local authority and Stormont?), why was it so important for the UUP to remain in control of social housing? Or more specifically, surely all those social houses were not being sold/given to people who would be property owners and they were just rented?

What, precisely, was the voting qualification in terms of house ownership; could a home renter have a right to vote? Is it also true that if you paid rates you could have up to 6 votes in a local (and Stormont?) election?
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11-11-2018, 08:23   #3
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Control of social housing meant that they could gerrymander with greater efficiency, keeping all Catholic/Nationalist estates in certain areas and Protestant/Unionist ones in others. And of course it was easy to allocate families to particular estates based purely on local knowledge etc.
First Past the Post is entirely responsible for the large number of UUP MPs. Any party with a share in the 40%+ and a 20% lead over others is going to clean up in such a system. Look at some results for UKIP and the Liberal Democrats in recent GB elections where millions of votes resulted in handfuls of seats.
In elections to Westminster a lot of seats weren't even contested - there was no point. This produced odd results in terms of party share and turnout generally.
Gerrymandering was used with clinical effect in places such as Derry and produced very artificial results.
Some people had multiple votes as property owners, rate payers etc, as well as the ordinary right to vote held by everyone.
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12-11-2018, 02:09   #4
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As lottpaul says, many seats were uncontested. One consequence of this is to overstate apparent support for minority parties. In this case the NILP got 25% of the vote in the contested seats. But nearly half the seats in the election were uncontested, and presumably the support in those seats was overwhelmingly for parties other than the NILP. So NILP support across NI as a whole was presumably well below 25%.

The UUP, which was in government continuously from 1922 to the abolition of Stormont in 1972, did not have to take much trouble to gerrymander constituencies. The very existence of NI was basically a gerrymander, after all; it was constructed so as to have a permanent substantial unionist majority. That, plus the adoption of the FPTP system, meant that there was nothing to be gained from gerrymandering at the constituency level.

Bear in mind that in 1962 the party that came second, the Nationalist Party, had a policy of not taking seats as Stormont. The result was that although the NILP had only 4 seats, they became the official opposition at Stormont, agains a UUP government with 34 seats. It's hard to see that they could have improved their situation any further by engaging in gerrymandering.
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12-11-2018, 13:45   #5
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True, there would always have been a UUP majority, even with PR voting, but, as often happens, leaders of a ruling class that realised their very state was an artificial construct possibly weren't content with just a majority. To justify the creation of Northern Ireland it had to be an overwhelming one. Perception was very important.
As an example - the City of Londonderry constituency was just a few bits of the city centre and the Waterside+rural areas to the east and returned a Unionist MP. The rest of the city was overwhelmingly nationalist and packed into the Foyle constituency - never even contested by the UUP. But the name of the city symbolised much of their culture and history and it was really important that any area bearing that name should be represented by a Unionist. Petty, and fooling no one, but perception....
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