Lib Dem membership: who will reverse the decline?

by Stephen Tall on November 25, 2007

Mark Littlewood’s latest ‘diary’ for the BBC’s Politics Show highlights one of the less welcome stats exposed by the current leadership contest:

The number of ballot papers issued – less than 65,000 – shows the party has lost more than 10% of its members since Ming Campbell was elected last Spring and now has less than 100 members per Parliamentary constituency.

Protestations from the Liberal Democrats that all political parties are witnessing declining membership and that last year’s total was artificially boosted – because it came so soon after a General Election – are not wholly convincing.

Back in 1999, when Charles Kennedy was elected leader, membership stood at over 82,000.

For a party that prides itself on its grassroots support, the new leader will need to reverse this alarming drop-off in fee-paying members.

It is not simply a challenge to the leader, of course (though whoever we choose next month will be the most visible face of the party) – the Party President will also play a key part in addressing this big fall-off in membership.

Next year’s presidential election – and at least three candidates seem likely to stand – will attract even less media attention than the current leadership battle. But for the party in the country at large, it will be important all the same. The 20% drop in membership since ’99 highlights quite what a task faces us.