Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Redbridge Council needs YOU!

Prior to the ‘Modernisation of Local Government Act 2000’, such unpaid volunteer scrutineers were elected and called “councillors”.

click on image to enlarge
However, political parties now seem to be having some difficulty in attracting enough members to put forward a “full slate” at the local elections next year, opening up the possibility of entryism by lobby groups to put forward their own candidates. Hmmmm!

See Andrew Rawnsley’s article in the Guardian here. I have produced a graph to illustrate the scale of the reduction. Membership of the Conservative Party is now at 6% of what it was in the mid 1950s and for Labour it is 17%. The other key figure is that the average age of Conservative Party members is 74 – repeat Seventy Four, repeat AVERAGE!

The question for me is what happened in between? Has this reduction been a gradual linear decline or was there a sharp decrease at a specific moment in time that can be associated with a specific event, and during that period have the figures been lower than they are today? Viz General election turnouts since 1945 show a big drop in 2001 and a slight recovery since.

Of course back in the 1950s we didn’t have the soporific Parliament channel, the Internet or social media, Sky News and Sport, paperless offices, the European Union, and a whole host of other “social improvements” enacted by our political masters, not to mention competition from the Liberal Democrats, Greens and UKIP. Maybe our "Big Two" political parties have just run out of ideas and things to do and there really is no such thing as society with everybody now being neo-Liberal individuals doing our own thing and acting in our own self-interest?

Note: Just think about that reduction in members/customers/voters for a moment and how a business (Tescos), company (Barclays), charity (National Trust), NGO (RSPB) or even a community group like B21 might respond.


  1. There are lies, damned lies and political party membership statistics. I take reports of the decline in party memberships with a hefty pinch of salt.

    Maybe an old Conservative hand will correct me if I am wrong but I understood that local Conservative Associations controlled their memberships, decided the level of fees, etc. Some I believe didn't even collect memership fees. So the membership figures were always based on an element of guesswork by local Conservative Associations. Don't know what happens now.

    Labour was set up as a national party but for some reason expected every Constituency Labour Party to affiliate on the basis of 1000 paid up members. Also the Labour Party had payment by instalments and quite a few never kept up the payments. Very few constituencies had as many as a 1000 though a few like Woolwich had over 2000 paid up and had an extra delegate to Party Conference as a reward! So Labour membership figures from the 1950's and 1960's are decidedly imaginative. Now the party collects memberships nationally and the figures are near accurate.

    I don't doubt membership of political parties has fallen, and probably substantially but the "golden age" of party memberships wasn't as golden as all that.

    Although political parties generally hold their memberships in some contempt when it comes to making policy there was a feeling in the Labour Party during the 1970's that there was some accountability. That's now been replaced - for all parties I fear- with government by Think Tank, probably the least accountable system ever devised apart perhaps from Theocracy.

    Roger Backhouse

  2. We have replaced the divine right of kings with the divine right of experts. I think I might prefer the former!