Labour right has shaved language to give impression of healthy figures and claim influx of new black members
Labour right-wingers have claimed that the party’s membership has increased under Keir Starmer – and that the party’s membership is increasing, in spite of a reported exodus because of Starmer’s appalling reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement, his comments on the toppling of a statue of a slaver and Labour’s record of failures on anti-black racism under his leadership – which included Starmer’s appointment of an all-white ‘diversity panel‘, as well as soft treatment of those involved in racism revealed in the leaked Labour report.
Claims have been put about that the membership has increased to 580,000 and that the party’s black membership is now higher than it was under Jeremy Corbyn. However, both of these are misleading.
A National Executive Committee member told the SKWAWKBOX that the claims use slippery language to hide the reality:
The membership figures were given with a massive health warning, which has just been left out of the right-wing narrative and while a higher proportion of joiners are BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) than those leaving, that’s because the numbers who registered their protected characteristics among current members are so low as to be meaningless.
New joiners now are asked to declare, so you’d expect the figures to be higher – but for most leaving, we don’t know whether they are BAME or not, because the party only started collecting data on it a year ago.
Until very recently, the party did not even ask for ethnicity information – a legacy of the party’s right-wing ‘old guard’ before Jennie Formby took over as general secretary. When Momentum put out a call last year for more BAME, young and working class people to step into leadership roles, right-wing group Labour First dismissed the call as ‘ridiculous‘.
So the proportion of new black members joining is higher than something that wasn’t even measured – and analysis of the party’s membership figures shows that the claim of a total membership of 580,000 is similarly smoke and mirrors.
Labour has not published an official membership figure since the 552,000 revealed in the leadership contest – and analysis of local party membership figures in fact reveals a small trickle of new members and a steady stream of leavers.
In the CLPs for which data could be obtained for analysis, leavers and those on the verge of lapsing – the easiest way to leave the party – outnumber new joiners by between 8:1 and 16:1. Overall, the pattern seems very consistent, with around 3% of membership having formally left the party and 3% about to lapse – and this suggests that in the 17 weeks since Starmer became its leader, Labour’s net membership has fallen by more than 2,000 members a week.
So much for right-wing claims.
But while the right wants us to believe that membership is rising as an endorsement of Starmer’s leadership, in fact they are quite happy for members to leave as this increases the right’s chances of winning and retaining key positions within the party. In fact, many think that some of their actions so far have been designed to increase the rate at which left members leave.
The SKWAWKBOX’s advice to Labour members remains the same: stay in and fight – but do so with eyes open and don’t fall for right-wing flim-flam about a flood of new members supposedly inspired by beige.
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