HOW MANY MEMBERS does the Labour Party have in its centenary year? According to the veteran political journalist, Richard Harman, the answer is – not a lot.
Writing in his “Politik” blog on Monday, 23 May, Harman noted:
“Politik has learned that the party’s membership is now probably below that of the Greens, which would place it below 5000, possibly less than half that.”
If true, that is shocking news – and it’s only fair to point out that within 24 hours the Labour Party’s new General Secretary, Andrew Kirton, was assuring Harman that it was not true. “We are far, far higher than 5,000 and therefore well above the Greens.”
In spite of reassuring his readers that the contested information came from “a usually reliable source”, Harman was willing – as of Tuesday morning – to take Kirton at his word.
A more cynical person, upon being told by Labour’s General Secretary that the membership figure is “far, far higher than 5,000”, might offer, by way of response, the words of the infamous call-girl, Mandy Rice-Davies, who, when told that an Establishment big-wig had denied all knowledge of her, shot back the immortal line: “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”
Certainly, it would be remarkable if a political party with fewer than 5,000 members entertained any serious hopes of becoming the Government.
I suspect the number of individual members is below 5,000. Labour often muddies the water by including affiliate members as members. But they are not the same thing.
An individual member of a political party is one who every year makes a decision to pay a membership fee to that party. It is a proactive ongoing decision.
Labour’s affiliate members are very different. How they work is like this. Let’s say Union X in 2002 voted to affiliate to Labour. And that 60% of the union members who bothered to vote voted in favour. That union may have 10,000 members yet just 500 may have voted on the decision to affiliate.
Anyway as 60% voted in favour, then 60% of the unions’s members are determined to always be an affiliate member of Labour. So if that union in 2016 has 13,000 then they are deemed to have 7,800 affiliate members. That is despite the fact not a single member of their union pays a sub to Labour (the union just does a block payment at a very low rate).
So if you ever see Labour claim to have X members, ask them how many individual members they have.