Political party affiliation in the United Kingdom

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Membership and supporter status within political parties in the United Kingdom typically contain restrictions including:

  • Age restrictions
  • Citizenship restrictions
  • A commitment to the party's principles
  • Limiting holding membership of other political parties
  • Limiting standing against officially endorsed candidates
  • Membership of specifically prohibited political parties
  • Personal conduct expectations and party rule compliance

Practically, involvement in a political party without membership may limit an individual's involvement. Parties that offer a lower level of affiliation, such as supporter status tend to have looser constraints.

History[edit]

Membership of political parties has been in decline in the UK since the 1950s, falling by over 65% from 1983 (4 per cent of the electorate) to 2005 (1.3 per cent).[1] Typically party affiliation allows an individual to support only a single party. However a notable exception to this is the Co-operative Party which supports only Labour and the SDLP.

Current membership[edit]

Some political parties in the UK disclose their membership, some do not, there is no legal or electoral obligation to give figures let alone accurate figures.

Party Total current Membership Full members (if applicable) Registered supporters (if applicable) Date Comments
Labour 552,000 [2][3] 515,000 (July 2016)[4] 183,541 (July 2016)[5] January 2018
SNP 125,482 [3][6] 116,000 N/A September 2018 There was a huge surge in membership after the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, prior to which the SNP had just over 25,000 members.[7]
Conservatives 124,000 [8][9] N/A N/A March 2018 Membership figures were announced for the first time in many years by Chairman of the Conservative Party Brandon Lewis in March 2018
Liberal Democrats 100,500 [3][10] 101,832 [10] N/A April 2018 Membership increased sharply after the confirmation on 18 April 2017 of the 8 June 2017 general election.[10]
Green Party of England and Wales 41,073 [3][11] 41,073 N/A April 2018
UKIP 21,200 [3][12] 21,200 N/A April 2018
Co-operative Party 10,528 members plus subscribing co-operative societies.[13] 10,528 N/A 2017 Though the Co-operative Party stands joint candidates with the Labour Party, their membership bases are independent (members have the option of joining both parties).
Plaid Cymru 8,000 [3][14] 8,000 N/A April 2018

Enforcement[edit]

There are few high-profile cases of membership criteria enforcement and as such tend to happen under exceptional circumstances.

2015 Labour Leadership Election[edit]

During the 2015 Labour party leadership election it emerged that 260 former candidates from the Green Party, Left Unity and the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition had attempted to become registered supporters, but were subsequently blocked from voting.[15] Shortly before this, it was revealed that Conservative MP and former junior minister Tim Loughton had been caught applying to become a registered Labour supporter, subsequently claiming that his intention was to "blow the gaff on what a complete farce the whole thing is".[16] Veteran Labour MP Barry Sheerman also joined calls for the election to be "paused" over the fears of infiltration by other parties.[17] The Labour Party told representatives of the four candidates at a meeting on 11 August that 1,200 members and supporters of other parties had been excluded and a further 800 were under investigation.[18] Harriet Harman at the time admitted that as many as 100,000 people may be blocked from voting.[19]

The number of those rejected eventually reached 56,000,[20] around 9.1% of the 610,753 considered eligible to vote at the start of the contest.[21] According to the party, 45,000 of those were rejected for not being on the electoral register.[22]

Labour also confirmed that it would cancel supporters' votes after they had been cast, if it was found that they were members of other parties.[23] A number of high-profile individuals have been blocked from voting, including Marcus Chown,[24] Jeremy Hardy, Douglas Henshall,[25] Ken Loach,[24] Francesca Martinez,[25] Mark Serwotka,[26] Pete Sinclair,[27] Mark Steel,[28] Luke Wright[29] and Toby Young.

Andrew MacKinlay, a former Labour MP, further alleged that Labour was attempting to rig its own leadership election against Corbyn;[30] a view shared by Jeremy Hardy.[31] Such allegations became known to the media – and particularly Corbyn supporters – as the "Labour Purge", with #LabourPurge trending on Twitter.[32][33] Claims of such a "purge" of Corbyn supporters were rejected by Harman who insisted that the exclusion processes were impartial to candidates.[34] Scottish newspaper The National printed a page-long satirical cartoon speculating further vote-rigging by Labour's leadership.[35]

Criteria for membership[edit]

Party Membership Restrictions
Conservatives "open to all who share its objects and values and who undertake to be bound by this Constitution"

"Membership of the Conservative Party is not compatible with Membership of or association with any other registered political party"[36]

Labour Party "are not members of political parties or organisations ... declared ... ineligible for affiliation to the party."

"[Must not stand in] opposition to a Labour candidate"
"[Must not support] a political organisation ... who stands against an official Labour candidate"[37]

Liberal Democrats "Open to all persons who agree with its fundamental values and objectives without discrimination as to age, ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation."

"Membership may be revoked [due to] standing against the candidate of the Party"
"Membership may be refused [due to] membership of another political party in Great Britain"[38]

Democratic Unionist Party
Scottish National Party "I endorse the aims of the Party"

"A member may not contest or be a member of any organisation [deemed to be a Political Party] contesting elections in opposition to the Party"[39]

Sinn Féin "only residents of Ireland are eligible for membership"[40]
Plaid Cymru - Party of Wales "I endorse the aims of the Party and agree to abide by its constitution. I am not a member of any other political party active in Wales"[41]
Social Democratic and Labour Party
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
Green Party of England and Wales
"I/we accept the party’s aims and do not belong to any other political party."[42]
Scottish Green Party "I accept and will further the aims of the Scottish Green Party, and am not a member of any other political party except a sister Green party"[43]
Green Party in Northern Ireland "not a member of any other political party." [44]
Ulster Unionist Party
Traditional Unionist Voice Support for the principles of Unionism, Independence from the Republic of Ireland and Family values[45]
UK Independence Party "open to any natural person who shares the objectives and core beliefs of the Party"

"[Membership shall be revoked if a member] joins another political party ... or any organisation membership of which the NEC has declared to be incompatible"
"[Membership shall be revoked if a member]has set up or has aided and abetted the setting up of another political party"
"[Membership shall be revoked if a member]stands against a UKIP candidate in any election"[46]
"I am not and have never been a member of the British National Party, National Front, British Freedom Party, British People's Party, English Defence League, Britain First or the UK First Party."[47]

Pirate Party UK "Membership is open to citizens of the United Kingdom, resident foreign nationals ... who share the Party's Aims.[48]
The Socialist Party of Great Britain "Anyone who agrees with the object and principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain can apply for membership. The reason we ask new applicants to complete a questionnaire is in order to satisfy themselves and the Socialist Party that they are in agreement with our ideas. Only in this way does membership serve a useful purpose both for applicants and for the Party." [49]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ John Marshall: Membership of UK political parties; House of Commons, SN/SG/5125; 2009, page 6. www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snsg-05125.pdf Retrieved 5 January 2012
  2. ^ https://labourlist.org/2017/12/a-snap-election-a-new-leader-in-scotland-and-a-staggering-rise-in-membership-alice-perrys-latest-nec-report/
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Membership of UK political parties". www.parliament.uk. 1 May 2018. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  4. ^ "Brexit bounce means Labour now has over half a million members". LabourList.org/.
  5. ^ "Labour leadership: More than 180,000 people register in 48 hours". bbc.co.uk.
  6. ^ Twitter https://twitter.com/thesnp/status/1036557191648604160?s=12. Retrieved 3/9/18. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ "Scottish referendum: 'Yes' parties see surge in members". BBC News. 22 September 2014.
  8. ^ Tominey, Camilla (18 March 2018). "Tories swoop on 'unpatriotic' Jeremy Corbyn as membership SWELLS in Conservative Party". Express.co.uk. Express. Daily Express. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  9. ^ Yorke, Harry (17 March 2018). "Conservative Party nearly twice the size originally thought, new figures show". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  10. ^ a b c "Lib Dem Membership tops 100,000 after snap election call". BBC News. 24 April 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Electoral Commission 2016". 31 December 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  12. ^ Paul Nuttall elected as UKIP leader, BBC News, 28 November 2016
  13. ^ Figure in footer of https://party.coop/
  14. ^ [1]. House of Commons Library - Membership of UK Political Parties 2018. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  15. ^ Patrick Wintour and Frances Perraudin (7 August 2015). "Labour leadership election: 260 members of rival parties ask to vote". The Guardian.
  16. ^ Perraudin, Frances (5 August 2015). "Tory caught signing up as Labour supporter wanted to expose vote 'farce'". theguardian.com. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  17. ^ Carole Walker (10 August 2015). "Labour contest should be 'paused', MP Barry Sheerman says". BBC News. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  18. ^ Mason, Rowena (11 August 2015). "Labour leadership contest: campaign teams summoned over ballot concerns". The Guardian.
  19. ^ Nickerson, James (25 August 2015). "Labour leadership race: Acting leader Harriet Harman admits up to 100,000 members could be purged from vote". City A.M.
  20. ^ Jack Blanchard (26 August 2015). "Labour Party rejects 56k bids to vote in leadership contest to calm fears of Tory infiltration". Daily Mirror.
  21. ^ "Over 600,000 people will be able to vote in the Labour leadership contest". LabourList – Labour's biggest independent grassroots e-network.
  22. ^ "Number of voters in leadership contest revised down to 550,000". LabourList – Labour's biggest independent grassroots e-network.
  23. ^ "Labour is going to cancel some supporters' leadership votes after they've been cast". The Independent. London.
  24. ^ a b "The Labour Purge Is Underway, And They've Banned Me From Voting Corbyn (IMAGE)". Scriptonite Daily.
  25. ^ a b Ben Glaze (20 August 2015). "Genuine Labour supporters barred from voting for leader due to 'robust' checks". mirror.
  26. ^ "Labour leadership: Mark Serwotka of PCS union has vote rejected". BBC News. 26 August 2015.
  27. ^ "Labour supporters claim leadership vote 'purge'". Channel 4 News.
  28. ^ Aubrey Allegretti (13 August 2015). "Mark Steel's Ban From Vote in Labour Leadership Election Prompts Raging 'Entryism' Debate". Huffington Post.
  29. ^ "Labour leadership race: Now Labour is blocking genuine party members from leadership vote". cityam.com.
  30. ^ Riley-Smith, Ben (21 August 2015). "'Labour purge' is deliberate attempt by party to stop Jeremy Corbyn winning, former MP claims". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  31. ^ "Jeremy Hardy: 'Labour trying to rig leadership election'". BBC News. 21 August 2015.
  32. ^ Riley-Smith, Ben (21 August 2015). "'Labour purge' is deliberate attempt by party to stop Jeremy Corbyn winning, former MP claims". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  33. ^ "#LabourPurge: Supporter's fury as they are stopped from voting for next Labour leader". Metro. 20 August 2015.
  34. ^ Sebastian Payne (25 August 2015). "Harriet Harman: we are not purging Corbyn supporters". The Spectator.
  35. ^ "Not Waving But Purging". thenational.scot. Archived from the original on 2015-09-25.
  36. ^ "Constitution of the Conservative Party (Page 10)" (PDF). Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  37. ^ "Labour Party Rule Book (Page 9)" (PDF). Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  38. ^ "The Constitutions of the Liberal Democrats" (PDF). www.libdems.org.uk. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  39. ^ "CONSTITUTION OF THE SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY" (PDF). www.snp.org. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  40. ^ "Join Sinn Féin". www.sinnfein.ie. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  41. ^ "Join Plaid Cymru -The Party of Wales today". partyofwales.org. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  42. ^ "Membership". www.greenparty.org.uk. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  43. ^ "Join the Scottish Green Party" (PDF). www.scottishgreens.org.uk. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  44. ^ "Membership Form". www.greenpartyni.org. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  45. ^ "Application for membership" (PDF). www.tuv.org.uk. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  46. ^ "The Constitution". www.ukip.org. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  47. ^ "Join Online". join.ukip.org. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  48. ^ "CONSTITUTION OF THE PIRATE PARTY UK". pirateparty.org.uk.
  49. ^ "Membership Application". worldsocialism.org.