In March, Tories claimed membership ‘soared’ to 124k. Member subs suggest it almost halved

b lewis
Tory chair Brandon Lewis

In March, the Conservative Party mystified observers when Tory chair Brandon Lewis claimed its membership had ‘soared’ to 124,000.

That mystification was shot through with a good deal of suspicion, not least because the Tories’ were claiming membership of almost 150,000 in 2014:

tory memb 2014.png

Many people considered the claim to be little more than empty ‘PR’ – and now the party has itself published information, without pointing it out of course, that suggests such an assessment was entirely justified.

The Tories have published their ‘Consolidated Income and Expenditure’ for the last financial year – and its income from member subscriptions doesn’t fit with a ‘soaring’ membership:

tory cie.png

Member subscriptions in the party fell by forty-three percent compared to the preceding year – hard to reconcile with a claim of ‘soaring’.

Could the party have suddenly given discounts to existing as well as new members? It seems unlikely, as it appears the Tories only give discounted membership to ex-forces and youth members.

The fall has other embarrassing aspects, too. Business Insider‘s Adam Bienkov pointed out that the party now makes far more money from dead ex-members than from live current ones:

But all of its other income combined is dwarfed by the ‘donation income’ from its small number of hugely rich donors. What a story that tells.

The SKWAWKBOX contacted Tory HQ press office to ask how the party explained such a huge fall in subscriptions when numbers are supposed to have taken flight. No response has been received so far. None was received when this blog queried the ‘soared’ claim five months ago either.

Tory MP James Cleverly did try to explain away the huge fall on Twitter – but that didn’t go well:

Of course, even if James’ claim is true and most member subs never appear in the Tories’ accounts, it still doesn’t do anything at all to explain why the number fell by almost half in just a year when the party has claimed an increase.

Twitter wags were quick to have fun:


The Labour Party, by contrast, raised over £16 million from individual member subscriptions, with large numbers of small individual donations helped raise its income to almost £56 million.

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  1. Having been an activist for 40 years I think we have to try to politicise the general conservative middle class more who despite our compassion and humanity seem to flood out to vote Tory locally for low council taxes and Tory nationally for low taxes.
    My area is an interesting case study, further up from where I live is a posh countryside area and because of The Tory (and Lib Dem) Housing & Planning Bill the Labour Council and the local community couldn’t stop an awful housing development there (if councils and local people had had a say there would have still been a development but it would have been smaller but much better) and Labour opposed it.
    But of course the Lib Dem opportunists opposed it too but the people there flooded out to vote Tory despite the fact that theTories had undermined the quality of their local environment!
    Of course the general conservative middle class are socialised to vote Tory and taught what to think by the Mail etc. and I also think status has a part to play, some may feel special and a bit above the working class (although they have to sell their labour to live too or inherit a business to run or wealth but have to work too) and although they may criticise the working class welfare state, as Chakraboty argues there are over 2,000 tax reliefs for the rich and better off so is it working class welfare bad, upper class welfare good?
    But whilst the conservative middle class may also reinforce their conservatism to each other perhaps the general conservative middle class are conned too with the greatest beneficiaries of the Tories being the 1% at the top!
    Of course you should never assume someone in a big house is a Tory, (we found plenty of Labour voters in the poshest areas) and I once knocked on the door of a mansion and the owner was a hospital consultant, he was Labour and argued for a global maximum wage!
    Yes we need to continue to try to politicise the working class and progressive middle class (who are generally with us) but we should not be afraid of being political with the general conservative middle class too (to try to win them to the progressive middle class).
    As I once posted on the BBC Comments Page during the last General Election, in my city going to work on the bus I pass through a predominantly affluent academic area and most of the people on the bus I see look so healthy, but in my job I also go into poor communities and I feel like Charles Dickens; and the people I see at bus stops have poverty etched on their faces.
    So people in the more affluent areas have done well and have generally been a success in life and I wish them continued success but if we could eliminate poverty, give everyone a decent home, and job with good pay, and end homelessness etc. etc. how much sweeter would that success taste!

  2. LOL @cleverly: ‘Don’t show up on these figures’

    A bit like the hotel expenses for shipped-in canvassers in elections, eh, jim lad?

    Another gormless twunt what thinks it’s cleverer than everyone else.

  3. Sounds like an article the BBC gruesome twosome Laura Kuenessberg & John Pinaar or Channel 4’s gruesome twosome, Cathy Newman & John Snow, would bite your hand off to investigate.(sic)

    1. More like an article kuenssberg & pienaar’d bite your hand off to prevent you from writing/typing.

  4. Going by a gander at some tory constituency association accounts filed at the Electoral Commission, I think James Cleverly is correct that many memberships don’t go through CCHQ. If some hero (not I) were to analyse all the available tory constituency association accounts (maybe 600-ish?), looks like they could come up with a reasonable membership estimate!

    The five tory constituency associations in greater Bristol handily do shared accounts, so analysing just this one gives a bit of a clue:

    From 2016 to 2017 their membership income fell by 8%, suggesting rapidly falling membership. Only 22% of their membership income came in via CCHQ, the rest “received directly”, supporting Cleverly’s contention.

    Assuming £25 annual membership, the five greater Bristol associations had just 721 members (£18040/£25), on average 144 per constituency.

    Extrapolating greater Bristol membership to the whole GB suggests the tories would have 91,250 nationally (excluding NI), but I suspect big city constituencies are more active than average, making the generally accepted 75k estimate quite plausible.

    1. … Duh, maths error – lucky I wasn’t getting a GCSE result today!

      There are 6 constituencies in the tory greater Bristol group, not 5, so I should have written above:

      Assuming £25 annual membership, the five greater Bristol associations had just 721 members (£18040/£25), on average 120 per constituency.

      Extrapolating greater Bristol membership to the whole GB suggests the tories would have 76,000 nationally (excluding NI), but I suspect big city constituencies are more active than average, suggesting a significant fall in 2017 from the previously generally accepted 75k estimate is quite plausible. If it were a 8% fall nationally, maybe to 69k.

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