Matt Cardy/Getty Images
You would think the question “how many Conservative Party members are there in the UK?” would be an easy one for Google. The search engine, after all, isn’t fazed when I pose the question “how many hours is it until Christmas 2020?” (28,248) and it has some fascinating insights when I ask it whether cats dream. But enquire about UK Conservative Party membership, and it’s stumped. Why? Critics claim it is because Conservative Campaign Headquarters is too embarrassed to release statistics. The last number published by CCHQ was 134,000 back in 2013 – and now, that figure is estimated by pollsters to have dropped by around a quarter.
To put that in perspective, Sturgeon’s waning Scottish National Party, which operates in only one tenth of Britain, has 120,000 members, and Corbyn’s Labour crossed the half a million line some time ago.
The easy explanation is that Conservative-minded voters believe in a small state so will always be less effusive in their support for political parties. If, like Corbyn and his band of followers, you believe that more state intervention is the answer to all the world’s ills, then taking to the streets and social media to cheer-lead for the fashionable party which you believe would intervene most effectively is the most natural thing in the world. If, like a traditional free-marketeer, you believe that the role of the state should be limited to keeping half an eye on the market, then you probably find it more difficult to stump up the sort of enthusiasm needed to become a member of a political party. It may be empowering to march for more funding for hospitals, but it’s plain weird to trudge around with a placard advocating fewer regulations in the asset management industry.
For unlimited access to Reaction subscribe for £1 per week.