The cover story of this week’s Listener is headlined regaining the love Labour’s lost.
Among the love it’s lost is that of its members:
. . .Membership is up 20% on a year ago, according to party general secretary Tim Barnett. Many of those new members are young people in new youth branches outside the universities.
A 20% increase in members sounds impressive – but it was from a very low base.
The total party membership is a closely held secret but is somewhere between 5000 and 10,000. . .
Anything I’ve seen and heard suggests the lower figure is more accurate but even if the higher one is right that is still a pitiful number of members for an organisation purporting to be a major party, especially when some aren’t real people but union affiliates.
Even at its nadir National membership was still more than twice the higher figure, all of them real individuals, and a resurgence in membership was reflected in voter support.
Members matter for the party and democracy.
They work for and finance the party’s operation and campaigns, they’re involved in policy formation and they help keep MPs focussed on how their policies affect people.
That a future government could be led by a party which can’t measure its core support in 10s of thousands and would be propped up by several wee parties that would be unlikely to muster more than a very few thousand members between them is very, very frightening.
It’s bad enough under any system, but worse under MMP which gives a lot more power to parties.