Labour membership still strong – but you wouldn’t know it from biased right-wing media coverage

Labour is losing 125 members a day due to Brexit and complaints of anti-Semitism, according to right-wing “news” outlets like The Times and the Jewish Chronicle. And is it?

No.

The party’s membership has fallen slightly – figures for December 2018 show numbers at 518,659, down from a high of 564,443 the previous December – but the most likely reason for this is far less dramatic than the right-wing rags are suggesting.

The simple fact is that Labour membership increased massively from 2015 onwards because people wanted to show their support for the politics of then-new leader Jeremy Corbyn. The increase continued beyond the 2017 general election because, far from being a Conservative landslide, Mr Corbyn’s politics ensured that Labour deprived the Tories of their Parliamentary majority.

Now some of those members – people who joined to make a statement – are starting to drift away. Some may find it hard to afford the membership fee, also – we live in a Conservative-run country where working people are being squeezed hard, remember.

Labour’s own literature has described the fall as “in line with previous experience” outside a general election or leadership campaign year (and remember that 2015 and 2016 were leadership campaign years, while 2017 was a general election year).

And the fall did not affect party income – it both raised and spent significantly more than its political opponents. Income stood at £45.6 million and expenditure at £46.3 million.

These details may have been lost on you if you had read the version of the story put out by the right-wing press.

“Tens of thousands quit Labour in first annual membership drop under Jeremy Corbyn” screamed the Sky News headline.

“Labour loses 125 members a day over Brexit and antisemitism complaints” claimed The Times – falsely, it seems.

“Disillusioned Labour members leaving party at rate of 125 a day as antisemitism allegations continue to dominate” alleged the Jewish Chronicle.

But the simple fact is that anti-Semitism allegations have not harmed the party. Perhaps members have seen through the falsehoods.

Also failing to make much of an impact has been the high-publicity departures of prominent MPs who have been critical of Mr Corbyn. They have mostly fallen into obscurity. I mean, who cares what happens to Chuka Umunna now?

And Labour’s policy on Brexit seems not to have been the turn-off that some political rivals hoped, either.

In contrast, Conservative membership was said to be 159,320 when Boris Johnson was elected leader, with income of £34.2 million and expenditure of £36.3 million.

Liberal Democrat membership is at around 105,000. They received £6.2 million and spent 6.5 million.

So the story here is that Labour membership has remained strong while the other parties are struggling to hold on to the few adherents they have left.

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5 thoughts on “Labour membership still strong – but you wouldn’t know it from biased right-wing media coverage

  1. Tom Graham

    When I went to school 45,783 ÷ 365 = 125.4. I read Vox Politics for its honesty. The fact is that Labour did lose that many members during that period. It doesn’t mean it is continuing, indeed I hope not, but to pretend that it hasn’t happened is not in line with your normal standards. If the membership holds up, as I believe it will, then your assertion that Labour membership is still strong will be vindicated, but we don’t have that information yet. 518,000 is still a good strong basis but please don’t extrapolate in a biased way.

  2. Florence

    As an officer in my CLP (since 2015) I can confirm we have had members leaving because they can no longer afford their fees since the roll out of UC in the area. I know adjoining CLPs had the same. Both those leaving and the officers are very upset by the circumstances, Some of the resignation letters have been heartbreaking, people baring their financial circumstances with great strength and dignity, in the face of crushing poverty. I have asked the membership secs to make sure that anyone forced to leave in these circumstances are encouraged to continue to attend meetings and keep up friendships, (although they would not be allowed to vote).

    We know that it is against party rules for anyone to pay membership fees, otherwise we could have easily raised funds. There have been discussions about trying to get through a rule change to have a very reduced rate for benefit claimants, but of course then it starts to sound like means testing, (ie poor-shaming). We need some good ideas on this.

    We have also had a few leave because of Brexit (0.4% of CLP membership, and none have actually joined other parties, I feel they can be coaxed back in the future). None have left due to AS, or Corbyn for that matter.

    But mostly we all love being part of a huge party, with real presence campaigning. We would relish an election, and start rebuilding lives and the economy.

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