Membership figures prove Tories really are a minority party and neo-liberalism has failed

Land of disillusion: Another former Conservative burns his membership card. [Picture: Daily Mail!]

Land of disillusion: Another former Conservative burns his membership card. [Picture: Daily Mail!]

The Conservative Party has released details of its membership, after it was claimed that people were leaving the party in droves.

It had been suggested that membership had dropped below 100,000 and, while the figure quoted is in fact 134,000, it is still pathetically low for a party that claims to speak for a nation of 60 million.

Worse than that, it seems membership has halved under the leadership of David Cameron; in 2005, 253,600 members voted in the leadership contest between him and David Davis.

The party itself claims 174,000 members – but this includes ‘friends, non-member donors and others’ in the numbers. In other words, people who are not members of the Conservative Party – and that figure is another dumb Tory lie.

Let’s hope this puts to rest once and for all any argument against Vox Political‘s long-held position that the Conservative Party is an ever-more rightward-leaning minority interest organisation, upholding the interests of the very wealthy and working to undermine anybody from other sections of society.

Unless you are very wealthy, they cannot represent you. They do not even understand you or your concerns. They just want you to think they do.

This revelation further demonstrates the failure of the neo-liberal philosophy that has been spouted by conservatives (in all the major political parties) ever since Margaret Thatcher held up a copy of Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty and said “This is what we believe now”.

Neo-liberalism has divested the Conservative Party of its popular membership. How could it have done otherwise? Its other achievements were to change this country from one that was being held to ransom by the trade unions into one that was held to ransom by the bankers and financiers, and later the collapse of the British economy.

Strangely enough, at the time of Thatcher, neo-liberalism’s only foothold was in Chile – where the economy also crashed.

Neo-liberalism is over. As Michael Meacher put it in a recent blog article “That world is now broken beyond repair. Yet that hasn’t stopped the political and economic establishments of all parties from striving mightily to restore it. But that is not only impossible, it’s also irrational.

“The world economy was growing at about 3% a year per capita in the ‘bad old days’ of widespread regulation and ‘punitive’ taxation for the rich in the 1960-70s, but in the last 30 years when unfettered markets dominated it has grown at only half that rate. In Britain the average annual per capita income growth in the 1960-70s was 2.4% when the country was allegedly suffering from the ‘British disease’, but since 1990 after Thatcher had supposedly cured the country of the disease and fought heroic struggles in the 1980s, income growth even before the crash has fallen to just 1.7% a year. The decade and a half of uninterrupted growth, low and stable inflation, and falling unemployment after 1992 was not, we now know, a sign of the magic of neoliberal doctrines, but rather of their deeply flawed dependence on consumption-driven boom and bust. On every other key criterion too – competitiveness, inequalities of wealth, economic imbalances, and social and environmental standards – Britain fared much worse in the 30 years following the Thatcherite counter-insurgency after 1980 than in the 30 years of managed capitalism that preceded it.”

Now, you won’t see any of the mainstream media agreeing with this viewpoint – they’ll adhere to the outdated 1980s Gordon Gecko “Greed is good” mentality just as long as they can – but the longer any of us holds onto this mentality, the worse it will be for us all.

Let’s bear that in mind while the news is full of the major party conferences.

18 thoughts on “Membership figures prove Tories really are a minority party and neo-liberalism has failed

  1. Pingback: Membership figures prove Tories really are a mi...

  2. Freezemonkey

    Sadly Mike, I will have to state that political party membership has been in a huge decline since the postwar era. It’s unsurprising that the numbers are continually dropping. Labour was the only party to buck this trend in which Blair was “Join the party” then suffered a similar decrease in membership, over a similar time.

    I dont believe the drop is a significant indicator in the views of the public. Sadly, I believe that it’s just politcal apathy in which the majority of the nation only care about what people are doing 1 day every 5 years.

  3. psychjim

    Great post, as ever. But here’s my concern. There are many terrific blogs and sites dedicated to exposing the deleterious effects of neoliberalism, or, as it was once known libertarianism. Many of these people, like your good self, take the time to address many single issues and place them in the context of neoliberal policies. (Bedroom tax, fracking, unemployment, ageism, racism, immigration, MPs expenses and salaries, tax evasion, etc. The list is endless!) My fear is that with such diverse problems raising peoples’ temperatures we’re still being seriously divided. It’s this fragmentation which creates the environment for these libertarians to continue, unabated. There are differences of opinion on many of these issues, but I genuinely believe they could be tackled in a more democratic society. Which should leave us with one single, unifying issue – get this government out! End neoliberalism and create a more supportive environment for proper debate! Ensure that the next government HAS to listen to the concerns of the people it serves. Not just ride ‘rough-shod’ over us all in favour of an ideological myth.

    Any way, thanks for the post. I love reading Vox, along with ‘Another Angry Voice’, ‘UKUncut’, ‘False Economy’, ‘Respect for the Unemployed’, et al! You’re all great, despit my rant!

  4. Gavin MacMillan

    Not so sure that your claim that the members deserting in droves is a sign of the failure of neo-lib economics – though neo-lib economics is surely historically doomed to failure due to the absolute impossibility of it ever actually having worked in the first place. Much more, I suspect, is the possible hordes who have switched to the even more loony-right, also neo-lib UKIP.

    Nick Clegg is busy prattling on as to how the LibDems should look to being the party of coalition after the next election. The real danger is that they will be thrown on the scrap heap and the next coalition will be Tory UKIP. In that case, Gawd ‘elp us all…

  5. Leggy Mountbatten

    As far as membership numbers go in respect to the Tory Party, shouldn’t you have included the 50,000 or so Liberal Democrat members in that figure. I mean they have become semi-detached, card carrying, Tories haven’t they?

    1. Mike Sivier

      If you look at the article I wrote about them this week, you’ll see that grassroots Lib Dems are not happy with what their Parliamentary Party has been doing – hence the reversal of policy over the bedroom tax which, notably, Nick Clegg seems determined to ignore, in order to stay in favour with his Blue Masters. There are tensions in that party, and I can foresee another split, unless Clegg pulls his act together.

  6. welshalterego

    I cannot say that I am surprised at these figures. If I had of been a supporter I certainly wouldn’t be now. Sadly though, many people still follow the misguided ideals set out by our governments and still believe they hype and propaganda, it saddens me greatly that people don’t do the research for themselves. Having a conversation with someone yesterday I happened to pass on some genuine statistics regarding the country and the state of affairs and the response I got was “I don’t care.”. I have also frequently posted statistical results obtained from official sources that reveal the lies told by the Conservative party and still most people will argue the toss, even when it’s in black and white. Keep up the good work 🙂

  7. roo inns

    …what is She doing at Buck Palace ?…Absolutely nowt !…So much for a monarch of the people,for the people…

  8. beastrabban

    Very interesting article, especially when linked to your recent blogpost, which mentions Tory grassroots members tearing up their membership cards.

  9. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    Mike here provides the statistics to show just how unpopular David Cameron’s leadership has been amongst grass roots Tories. Although Tory membership has not fallen below 100,000, as has been claimed, it is no longer the mass political party that once boasted a quarter of a million members. This is almost entirely due to modern politicians preference for obtaining funding from rich donors, rather than party membership fees and subscriptions. There was a piece in Lobster a little while ago that discussed this issue, and which cited America has an example of the state of extreme political apathy and indifference that resulted from it. As the leaders of the political parties turn to wealthy donors and big business to finance their campaigns, so their grass roots membership of ordinary citizens has collapsed. In many states, there are only one or two party activists. If you consider that many American states are larger in land area than Britain, this shows the extent to which the average American has been disenfranchised from the party political process. The same thing is occurring here. With the decline of Tory party’s mass membership goes the legacy of Disraeli’s ‘One Nation’ Conservatism. Historians have remarked that Disraeli’s achievement lay not in developing or advancing Tory ideology, but by establishing it as a modern, mass political party with a solid working-class base through founding Conservative clubs and societies, like the Primrose League. One of the ways he drew the working-class into the party was through setting up football clubs. This achievement is being swept away as Cameron alienates the Tories’ working class ‘angels in marble’. And I don’t believe for a single minute Cameron really cares. Cameron, Osborne, Iain Duncan Smith and their coterie are all public school boys from an elite, aristocratic background. What comes across most powerfully about them is their sheer lack of concern or any interest in the working or lower middle classes, except in so far as these groups provide the labour and services, which support their grandiose ambitions and lifestyle. Cameron and Clegg appear to look for their political inspiration not to the late 19th century development of the modern party system, but to the 18th and early 19th century. This was the age when the franchise was limited to a miniscule membership and the Tory party represented the interests of the aristocracy and the Anglican church. They seem far more impressed by the nature of political parties in the 18th century, when they acted as patronage groups, than their 20th century character as mass societies, which represented the wider political views and aspirations of the electorate, and where the political nations comprised every adult citizen, rather than just the upper classes. I’ve compared the Tories several times with the Nazi party. Cameron’s disinterest in establishing a mass, working class membership is another point of similarity between them. In both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany the Fascists saw themselves as an elite governing group. They therefore expressly limited formal membership of the Fascist and Nazi party to 100,000 members. To control effectively all aspects of society in the ‘total state’ to which Fascism aimed, the Fascists and Nazis established a network of mass political organisations, clubs and societies, so that, in the words of adult Hitler, the German citizen could never be alone, and the party should even extend into the local whist club. Cameron and Clegg have rejected this form of totalitarian mass control, while taking over the Fascists’ elitism and contempt for the masses.

  10. Bring back immediately women's state pension at 60 / Against loss age related tax allowance at 65

    The big parties are not big in membership because the population no longer have any interest in politics or in voting. People do not read newspaper nor watch the TV news. Certain income levels in society have never cared about the poor, as Engels found when he was wandering about during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century. We are each only concerned about our own narrow interests.

    As Gandhi observed, People’s Politics Are Their Daily Bread.

    We had a welfare state in the UK during the most successful economic times betwen 1945 and the 1970s.

    Austerity done in a recession and the huge rise in national debt of it and welfare reform admin, has made an economic crisis worse. Greece is 40 per cent poorer than in 2008 yet with even more cuts to a nation with nil welfare state left and pensions being cut even to current claimants.

    80 per cent of Austerity is yet to hit the UK.

    Currently received pensions are not safe, as the state pension withers away.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Oh Labour still has a large party membership (that’s the party itself, before union affiliation comes in); it’s just the Tories and Tory Democrats who are suffering from this.

      People do pay attention to the news media – that’s part of the problem because they are being fed misinformation on a daily basis.

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