Lib Dem party membership: the occasional ups and mostly downs since 1988

by Stephen Tall on August 3, 2014

The Lib Dems published the party’s 2013 accounts this week. The report included the latest membership figures, which showed for the first time since 2010 an increase on the previous year’s: up 2% to 43,451. Here are the Lib Dem membership figures since the modern party’s formation as the successor to the Liberal Party and SDP in 1988:

lib dem membership figs since 1988 - as at july 2014

For interest’s sake, here’s the increase/decrease in party membership under each leader:

  • Paddy Ashdown (11 years) +3%
  • Charles Kennedy (7 years) -13%
  • Ming Campbell (2 years) -10%
  • Nick Clegg (6 years) -33%
  • As you can see the general trajectory since the mid-1990s has been down, a slump of some 60% since 1994. Lib Dem membership is now roughly half what it was in 1988.

    However, the drop in party membership we’ve seen since 2010, down by one-third, isn’t unprecedented. Lib Dem membership also fell by more than 30% between 1996 and 2000 before stabilising.

    Both the Tories and Labour have also suffered similar reductions over longer timescales:

    con & lab membership figures

    For more on party membership figures — including comparisons with other European countries and with other campaigning/charitable organisations — it’s worth reading my 2012 post, The Lib Dem membership slump: how it compares and how we can respond, not least for the interesting comments discussion which followed.

    * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.