We have historically reserved the term “political cult” for far-left or right grouplets. They have tiny memberships and thus inevitably have limited interaction with or knowledge of wider society.They are closed-off worlds in which the activists increasingly resemble each other, and where ideology has replaced ideas and debate. The RoadTrip debacle is evidence that the mass parties, the key institutions in our mother of democracies, are becoming so small that they are starting to develop cult-like tendencies.
In 2015 it is easy to assume that the Conservative party has always been an organisation for the few. Not so. In the early 50s, 2.8 million Britons were paid-up Tory members; until well into John Major’s premiership it was the largest party in the UK. Now its base is shrinking fast and ageing: the “party of workers” is in reality the party of OAPs. For most of the past two decades, a similarly sharp decline has set in with the Lib Dems and (until the last few months) Labour.
Combine that with the rapid decline in party allegiance among voters, and you have a democracy in which the three main parties pose as representatives of the popular will even while commanding less popular enthusiasm than at any point in postwar history.