(c) Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire/PA Images
In some ways, it would matter little if the Tories had no members at all, as long as they had the support of their corporate and rich donors and as long as the Tory press peddled their nasty ideas. However, even they need some troops on the streets canvassing door-to-door and encouraging their increasingly elderly voters to turn-out if they are to keep winning elections in the future
So, the recent calm admission by new party leader, Brandon Lewis, that membership may have fallen to 70 000 as Labour membership reaches half a million must be a worry to them.
The Conservative Home website seemed more than a little anxious:
‘In 2013, the Conservative Party declared a membership figure: 134,000. A year later, it said that it had risen to 2014. Conservative Home was first with the figures. Since then, radio silence from CCHQ. The site is told that whatever the figure was in 2016, it has fallen over the last year or so by about a quarter. The calculation is based on an assessment of four large areas, three of them in the so-called Tory heartlands. It may be that the drop is bigger, since it could be bigger where membership is less established. Furthermore, some 80 per cent of the rush of new members who joined the party after the EU referendum have apparently not renewed. That no national attempt was made to find them, enthuse them and keep them is scandalous.’
Reading this, the 70 000 begins to look optimistic and the real figure is probably lower still. Also, within the overall figure there are further signs of looming problems. According to the Guardian, 71% are male and 44% are 65 or over.
Moving now to Scotland. The Scotsman headlined gleefully in September 2017:
‘The Scottish National Party have been hit with a drop, in membership, new figures have revealed.’
but then had to admit that the fall was only from 120 000 to 118 000 and that they remained larger than all the other Scottish parties put together.
As for the Scottish Labour branch, they had only 13 500 in 2014 but claim to have added 15 500 since Corbyn’s rise. Being kind, let’s agree they have around 29 000 before their new leadership lets them down just like the others have.
As for the Lib Dems, it looks like around 3 000
One more, before we get to the Scottish Tories, the Scottish Greens claim 9 000 members.
Now, the Scottish Tories, at best will have 8% of the UK total. Scotland has 8% of the UK population but do we have 8% of those likely to join the Tory party? I doubt it and suspect that the shires and suburban parts of England will have more than their share. However, let’s be kind and give them the 8% and kind again to say 8% of 70 000. That would give them around 5 600 members. Pathetic if correct? The 70 000 members figure led the guardian’s Owen jones to ask:
‘A question: do the Tories meaningfully exist anymore beyond Westminster and the closed circles of power and influence highlighted by the Toby Young fiasco? Corporate donations and hired help might just about get them through election campaigns. But while Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party can justifiably claim to be a mass movement, the Conservatives have not released any membership figures since 2013, and are reckoned to have as few as 70,000 members.’
Can we ask a similar question? Do the Scottish Tories exist meaningfully as a political party within a democratic system where voters might expect their views to be reflected in the actions of that party or do they expect to be able to keep fooling them into voting for corporate and elite interests?
Footnote: The Scottish Socialists have around 3 500 members.