Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May would have won poll majority without DUP under plans to revise boundaries

Theresa May would not have needed DUP support in the House of Commons if the snap general election in June had taken place using revised plans for new constituency boundaries, leading polling experts have estimated.

And the DUP - which has hit out at the plan - would be playing second fiddle to Sinn Fein in terms of MPs, the experts indicated, if the number of Northern Ireland constituencies went down from 18 to 17.

The review of boundaries is aimed at reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600, representing broadly similar-sized electorates.

The calculations were based on revised recommendations by the three boundary commissions in Great Britain, as well as the initial proposals from the NI Boundary Commission which has not yet published revised plans.

The panel of experts calculated that under the revised boundaries, the DUP would have gone down from 10 seats to seven.

But they also suggest that Sinn Fein would have gone up from seven seats to nine.

North Down's Lady Sylvia Hermon would remain unaffected.

Mrs May's failure to secure a majority in June makes it highly unlikely that the reforms will now take place, with MPs - including the DUP - expected to vote them down.

A DUP spokesman said: "These are projections and estimates, not actual votes cast by the people of Northern Ireland.

"The DUP has been a consistent critic of the proposals to reduce the number of constituencies in the UK in general and Northern Ireland in particular.

"We want to see the greatest level of representation for Northern Ireland in Parliament."

In its submission to the Boundary Commission, the DUP had said it did not accept the body's initial recommendations.

"The DUP has consistently criticised the present legislation as much more likely to produce poor boundaries and the Commission's proposals appear to have gone out of their way to fulfil our concerns," the party stated.

"The end result of this flawed approach is an unnecessary level of change and constituencies that make statistical sense but very little else."

It added that the proposals "would produce an unrepresentative political result that would have the potential to have far-reaching and negative political consequences for the constitutional stability of Northern Ireland".

The calculations may provide ammunition for critics who argue the changes, if implemented, will have the impact of making it easier for Tories to win power.

The PM would have won a Commons majority of about 16 for the Conservatives under new rules, the experts reckoned.

The analysis was carried out by Professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, emeritus professors of politics at the University of Plymouth and Associate Members of Nuffield College, Oxford. They were assisted by respected Northern Ireland elections pundit Nicholas Whyte.

The academics calculate that if the revised plans had been in place for the snap general election in June, the Conservatives could well have won an overall majority in the Commons, which is due to see a reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600 under the proposals.

Prof Rallings and Prof Thrasher said: "This suggests a Conservative majority of 16 - or effectively 25 if Sinn Fein are assumed not to take their seats."

They cautioned that these can only be estimates and that precise figures, such as on the swing needed to win a seat, would take longer to calculate and check.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Alistair Carmichael urged the Government to pull the plug on the plan, claiming it would take a "miracle" for the proposals to be approved by Parliament.

Mr Carmichael said: "The DUP will not wear this review. Nor will many Tory backbenchers. The Government should stop wasting public funds and bow to the inevitable."

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