Double the number, half the age

Talking to people around the country in the last few days, there is a common pattern with party membership: around double the number of people have been joining the party as were leaving the party, and the typical age of those joining is (close to) half that of those leaving.

There are probably two factors behind this striking age difference. First, Nick Clegg and the party more generally did particularly well at appealing to younger voters during the election. Second, amongst those leaving perhaps the most common explanation is that, regardless of circumstance or detail of the deal, simply doing a deal with the Conservatives is unthinkable. That is based on memories of Mrs Thatcher – and it is now twenty years since she left office.

The challenge for the party – and it’s far more one for local parties than one for someone from Cowley Street – is to turn that youthful energy and enthusiasm into long-term commitment and activity.

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16 Comments

  • Grammar Police 19th May '10 - 12:29pm

    The ratio we’re experiencing is about 6-1 in favour of joining.

  • That’s good news… though i’ve twice contacted my constituency office and not heard anything back… though at least i got my posters in the end!

  • paul barker 19th May '10 - 1:22pm

    I must admit that I expected our poll ratings to go up after we entered Govt not down. I think I underestimated how confusing & scary a lot of people find the New Politics, we are messing with their heads & they dont like it.
    Alan Johnson gave a good example this morning, commenting on Nick Cleggs speech. “This is the sort of speech Clegg made to Libdem conferences but he is in government now.” Johnson cant get his head round the idea that a politician would say one thing in opposition & then the same thing in power.

  • Please, please, anyone in a position to do so, give Membership Services a hand in helping to get out membership cards and packs if there’s a backlog. I also joined the Lib Dems at a time of great demand (spring 2003, in the middle of the Iraq War) and I remember the wait being frustratingly long.

  • Ruth Bright 19th May '10 - 1:50pm

    Briefly in my patch we ran a bursary scheme for a new, young member to be helped to go to conference. It would be wonderful if all constituencies tried to do this. I am fearful that a young idealistic intake will just be given 500 thank leaflets each to deliver when they should be assisted to participate in some politics.

  • Kehaar, do you mind just shutting up about what a good idea the Iraq war was. We are not going to agree with you.

  • @Kehaar… that’s quite a derogatory view of young people’s views… by experience, you mean acquired even more self-interest and responsibilities that make older people vote with their wallets? Almost no-one votes altruistically (most lib dems are an exception – monetarily i’d be better of voting Tory…), most vote according to their perceived interests – either purely on a monetary basis or on issues they’ve identified as making a key difference to their lives. Democracy is therefore an inherently selfish system… sorry.

    More often young people can be guilty either follow or react against their parents views. I’ve voted lib dem since i was 20 – my first election, in 2001. My parents are Labour voters – mostly due to what was a very good constituency MP, rather than a love for the party, but also cos of their perceived interests…

    @Huw, got my card, was offering to help with constituency stuff – Cowley St were quite efficient, had my card in a week, even though it was a peak time… was a returning member after letting it lapse, so that probably helped…

  • As a ‘young(ish) person’ it took me 2 or 3 years of political soul searching to realise I was a Liberal Democrat. I could’ve joined any of the big 3 parties when I was about 16-17 for various different reasons but it took me until I was 20 before I actually felt I have finally discovered that Liberalism was at the core of all my beliefs and felt I could start carrying the membership card. I can almost certainly say I’ll be a member for life now.

    A few loud-mouthed dissenters have joined the greens recently from the Lib Dems as a reaction to the coalition, and I can only imagine in time that they realise just how controlling, authoritarian, illiberal, unrealistic and anti-science the Green party are. Those who join a party as a reaction to another party, or because of a single event are more likely not to renew once that issue or event is out of the news.

  • I’m really glad if lots of young people are joining but please don’t underestimate us oldies, who apart from anything else may have more time to spare to help. Could I just point out that having just joined, if someone twice my age were to leave they would be only 120!

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