Labour’s paradox: The huge increase in members hasn’t led to greater electoral success, rather the reverse

Labour’s paradox: The huge increase in members hasn’t led to greater electoral success, rather the reverse

Party membership
Latest party membership totals: Parliament Research Briefing

One of the most extraordinary phenomenon of modern UK political times has been the massive increase in Labour’s membership since GE2015. The figures are just astounding and there is no parallel.

Membership, May 6th 2015: 201,293

Membership, January 10th 2016: 388,407

Membership, August 2016: 515,000

From a political organisational point of view this is amazing because the general view is that more members mean more people ready and able to carry out the grunt work of winning elections.

    More people to organise local fundraising, more people to address and stuff envelopes; more people to deliver leaflets to more homes on a regular basis; more people to knock on doors and more people to make phone calls to potential voters and on election days themselves more people to get the vote out.

The huge SNP membership increase that we saw after the September 2014 IndyRef was the precursor to the party going from 6 Westmnster MPs at GE2010 to taking all but 3 of Scotland 59 seats at GE2015.

On a much lesser scale but still the same trend the Lib Dem membership increase in GE2015 has been the platform on which its recent success in local government have been based. The biggest net increase of any party in the May 2015 locals and a gain a week in the regular local by-elections since the EU referendum.

So what’s happened to Labour? The fact is that the total number of elected positions it holds has actually declined over the past year. Scotland, which was going to be Corbyn’s first priority is a disaster, unprecedented seat losses for the main opposition party in a non-general election year in the May elections and a net increase of just two councillors in local by elections.

One of the reasons PB monitors local by-elections so closely every week is that they are a great barometer of party organisation and morale. Labour’s new members should be giving it an edge that we can see every week. That hasn’t happened yet.

Mike Smithson

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