++ Lib Dem membership UP for first quarter in a decade outside elections

That’s the news just in from the party’s HQ:

Congratulations to all involved, especially those local parties who’ve successfully retained and/or recruited members. Full speed ahead to elections in 2014 and 2015!

PS: anyone know how the Tories’ membership figures are looking? Ah yes.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Paul Ankers 4th Oct '13 - 4:29pm

    I am the most loyal of loyal LibDem members but this is a big fat lie.

    I remember all the membership is growing talk in 2010, but the info from this shows thats a lie. It can’t have been going up if it has declined every quarter for 10 years.

    I and other membership officers will have received an email going on about needing 27 renewals in order to grow timestamped at 18.09 last night. I can believe other membership officers put on their sandals and recruited 27 people between them in 5 hours and 51 minutes, but 527? Just under one per constituency?

    There is a simple way to prove me wrong; How many members of the Liberal Democrats are there?

  • How much did they go up by? What is the current membership? What is the trend?

  • David Evans 4th Oct '13 - 6:53pm


    There is no reason I can think of that we would have lost members post General Election, if our leaders had made a success of the opportunity coalition offered them. Sadly the greatest opportunity for a generation has now been lost.

  • paul barker 4th Oct '13 - 7:19pm

    The norm is that Parties lose members in Government & gain during General (& sometimes Leadership) Elections. Labour lost 60% of its membership over its 13 years in Power, most of that in the first term. Its unusual to gain members while in Power unless theres a big internal Election.
    Some people actually dont want to here Good News when it comes & thats hardly surprising, we all invest emotional capital in our opinions & its hard to give them up.

  • Austin Rathe 4th Oct '13 - 9:04pm


    I’m afraid it is true, but we should be clear about what we mean. Membership runs on a quarterly cycle (as you know). The party has more members at the end of this quarter than we did at the start. The only two times this ha happened in the last ten years was the first two quarters in 2005 and 2010. In 2010 our membership increased in the year (quite a bit!) but quickly fell back the year after.

    So what we’re celebrating here is the change of direction. We’re my saying the party’s membership is higher than it was in 2010, or 2005 or 1989 – we’re saying that our direction of travel has changed.

    I think most people would see that as good news!

  • Austin Rathe 4th Oct '13 - 9:06pm

    Oh, and on the subject of the email we sent – you’re right, we didn’t get another 27 in, we got *a lot* more than that.

    We only publish numbers at the end of the year and until someone more senior than me decides otherwise, we’ll carry on that way. I hope that f we carry on this momentum out final year number will provide you with a wasn’t surprise.

  • George Kendall 4th Oct '13 - 10:58pm

    Fantastic! Well done to some real stars at recruitment. For example, Bosworth. At conference, I was deeply impressed to hear how they did it, using organisation, intelligent planning, and determined grit to see a plan through to fruition. These East Midlands guys have a lot to teach us.

  • This could be a double-edged sword.

    Increasing membership but what type of people are they. Most of the lost members will have been on the left of the party (an assumption but a fair one I think) whereas I find it difficult to see it is the same people rejoining or a like for like replacement.

    Is there any geographical bias – are you getting more from the south for example where you have still been doing ok in elections?

    The problem is for someone with my political outlook is that an increase in LD membership at this moment in time may well take the party further way from me rather than it being in any way positive.

    More information would be interesting

  • Paul

    I got an email too and I am not a membership officer. I guess the message had a wider circulation than you assume


  • Poll rating 9%, Clegg (5%) < Farage (9%) so I simply don't believe it sorry.

  • Where can one find the actual number of new members ?

  • Richard Shaw 5th Oct '13 - 10:29am


    LD vs. UKIP poll ratings are irrelevant to our membership numbers. What you ought to be considering is whether the number of LD members is less than the number of LD voters or considerers – if so that would provide lots of scope for us to increase our membership.

  • Good to read that local campaigns are going forward a little but much more needs to be corrected. Can anyone tell us how much time the leader spends with our activists and how much with the general public? If it is mostly with the public, I believe there is a problem of poorly-focused time. Sure, he has to listen and be seen in public places but that is not all he should do outside Westminster.

    Some of us wish that the leader would sit down and listen regularly with one ear to our local activists – the other ear trained on the Tory leader and his party. It must be difficult to steer a Lib Dem course when most of the time you are being dominated by the latter’s chatter. I would find it most wearisome. It still feels as if local Lib Dems are being dismissed because of the pressures from the Tory leadership. I know the leader has good principles and I read them time and time again but he needs to get back to associating regularly with grassroots LD friends, to share and top up his spirits, to be razor-sharp when dealing with issues from all sides, maintaining ‘our principles’ in a way that gives focus to a LD range of views which those principles carry into government, local and national. Actually, all our parliamentarians need regular meetings with activists – for the same reasons.

    So, good that some areas are seeing more LDs added to the membership and from them we will have more activist campaigners in elections, local and national. But I want to hear specifically what is discussed by the leader with activists – not the bland letter from the leader but the detailed points discussed – as we are used to reading and debating on LDVoice.

    Put it this way – modern leadership centres on the leader him or herself, and the LD leader has the required personality and is growing in experience. But as we lack the backroom services in government we can make up for that lack by using our own activists for the advice which the full leadership needs behind them.

  • The biggest factor affecting membership is the desire (or otherwise) of local parties to put effort into recruitment and retention. The really good news about this quarter’s increase is that it reflects a growing confidence on the ground about asking people to join / renew.

  • People’s refusal to believe something good is a little demoralising, have to be honest.

    I look at all the work people like IR Cymru – who *trebled their membership this quarter – put in, recruiting new young people to the party via positive messages & clever campaigns, then I see curmudgeonly old members grumbling it simply can’t be true.

    It may be a blip, sure, but cant we not at least celebrate all those in our party who are still so enthusiastic and optimistic they’ve managed to bring people into the fold?

  • @Stace Well said. Congratulations to everyone whose hard work helped make this happen.

  • Richard Cole 5th Oct '13 - 8:03pm

    We have mirrored the national experience locally. Our membership rose in the run up to 2010 then declined sharply in 2011 , slightly in 2012 and has increased by a NET 30 so far this year. In answer to Paul Ankers we, like many local parties, had an action day on the 28th when we picked up a couple of new members and some renewals. We hadn’t yet put them in to LDHQ but did so when requested. I am sure plenty of other local parties had post conference renewals and action day recruitments sitting on desks.

  • Austin – That is a sad admission from you, that only in three quarters (out of 40 quarters, presumably) has there been a rise in members nationally. I can’t say that it is particularly surprising, but when getting on for 8 years of that time has been under the leadership of Ming Campbell and Nick Clegg, and that while there are other factors than the leader to consider, we have to think this has in comparison to our early years been a spectacularly unsuccessful period of our history. What I fail to get is why our Parliamentary Party considered it in order to remove a leader who was in every respect more successful than later leaders, but still clings obdurately to this one.

    Yes, Stace, it may be good that we may be undergoing a turnaround, but we must also look at what those new members wish to achieve through their membership.

  • Peter Watson 5th Oct '13 - 10:20pm

    @Tim13 “only in three quarters (out of 40 quarters, presumably) has there been a rise in members nationally”
    In many ways, this article reminds me of the way that, all other evidence to the contrary, the pause in the rise of the global mean surface temperature is taken by some as proof that climate change is a myth.
    A couple of expressions spring to mind: “one swallow doesn’t make a summer”, and “even a dead cat can bounce”.
    In the absence of any actual details about the numbers we’re talking about (despite a gloating link to tory party figures), then how do we know if the trumpeted growth is in the tens or the thousands. Were the previous quarter’s figures particularly good or bad? Is the figure flattered by freshers week signups, or will this quarter’s figures benefit from that boost to give a positive year end? Has the slump from 65000 in 2010 to 43000 in 2012 halted?

  • Peter Watson – I think I can answer your Q re-Freshers’ Weeks. No, because most of those are first week in October, and the quarter (should) finish on 30th Sept. I can have a guess at the growth is very small indeed, almost certainly well under a hundred, if they were trying to make up a potential loss of 26 (I assume) at the very end of the quarter. Austin says they “got a lot more than 27”, which could mean anything, but I would punt at between 40 and 100. I would be pretty sure he would inflate his claim somehow if there were in the hundreds! If the first two quarters were negative, then it is most likely that at present the 2013 figure is still negative.

  • @Tim13
    “…. but we must also look at what those new members wish to achieve through their membership.”

    I’m not a 100% certain what you mean by that, but if you mean what direction of travel (left/right) they hope to achieve, then wouldn’t polling data give a clue? To give an example from the polling from YouGov Sunday Times poll on 29 Sep:

    Do you think the coalition government is managing the economy well or badly?
    Intending to vote LD – Well = 55%
    Voted LD in 2010 – Well = 31%

    Which of these would make the best Prime Minister?
    Intending to Vote LD – Nick Clegg = 49%
    Voted LD in 2010 – Nick Clegg = 16%

    There are obviously a lot of other questions in the poll along a similar line. ( http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/zxldrzv2x9/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-270913.pdf )

  • Yes, thanks Chris_sh These results, which I had not researched, give considerable indication of what is happening. I posted a few days ago with my view that it would take a Grimond – style revival to change what you call “direction of travel” now. Unfortunately, Austin and his colleagues at Membership (HQ) are tied, by implication, if they are to achieve their goal of a turnround in membership figures, to a Cleggist view of Lib Dem direction of travel. Does this mean he has achieved his goal, or is well on his way to this?

  • Liberal Neil 6th Oct '13 - 11:06am

    @Peter Watson – it’s fair to question whether this is just a single swallow or the beginnings of summer.

    None of us can know the definite answer to that question until we’ve seen the end of year figures so that a comparison can be made year on year. Austin and his colleagues may have some idea about the direction of travel, based on the figure from previous recent quarters.

    Based on my own local party, where another two people joined yesterday, it certainly feels like we have turned the corner. The number of people we’re losing is now low, and nearly all people moving away or passing away, but we’re now getting a steady trickle of new members so we’re now going steadily upwards overall.

    And most of the people doing the recruiting in my patch in now way see it as part of justifying Clegg’s political positioning, but of recruiting the people we need to win our constituency at the next election.

  • @Liberal Neil

    “And most of the people doing the recruiting in my patch in now way see it as part of justifying Clegg’s political positioning, ”
    I’m sure they wouldn’t, but isn’t it is as Tim13 stated about meeting a goal, they can only recruit those willing to support the LDP – if you’ve lost a lot from the left and picked up voters from the right then surely they’ll be the ones most likely to join the Party (thus meeting the HQ targets)?

  • paul barker 6th Oct '13 - 3:51pm

    Talking of swallows & corners, I had a look at all the local byelections of the last month. The great majority saw UKIP standing where they didnt before thus making any comparisons meaningless.
    I found 7 contests where UKIP stood last time or didnt stand at all. Of those 7 five saw our vote rise & Only two saw it fall, one of those two was last fought in May 2008, obviously a story there but I dont know what it was.
    Ignoring the Odd one which saw a massive fall in our vote we had vote changes ranging from a fall of 2% to a rise of 8%, an average of +4.5%. That looks like a hopeful sign to me.

  • @Peter Watson: There has been a huge boost from Freshers – just yesterday we found out two northern universities signed up 59 party members between them (head-start for this quarter, Austin) – but surely that’s irrelevant in the sense our figures have never increased outside of an election? Besides, Freshers is not a quarter which falls on an election date.

    The confidence of young activists, it seems, is infectious. Let’s help them where we can, they seem to know the right things to do/say.

  • Mick Taylor 7th Oct '13 - 9:30am

    There are far too many posters on Lib Dem voice who would find fault what ever the issue and will never ever be satisfied with what the Lib Dems in or out of government will do and who never ever give credit for anything.

    If we’re serious about the next elections (2014 and 2015) then we have to get out there and make sure membership + activists increase in number again at the end of the December quarter. Less time on line and more time on the doorstep!

  • Paul Ankers’ first post barely makes sense. “I and other membership officers will have received an email going on about needing 27 renewals in order to grow timestamped at 18.09 last night.”. “will have received an email”? Well did you or didn’t you? Do you not read your email? Actually, I was too generous, it doesn’t make sense.

  • Paul Ankers 10th Oct '13 - 2:14pm


    Its either the future perfect tense or present perfect depending on how you look at it. It was intended to admit I couldn’t be certain who received that email. Attack the point not the grammar. It is what you are really angry about after all.


    I have never seen LibDems blindly accept something with no evidence whatsover. Appreciate you can’t publish without somebody higher up saying so, but I don’t exactly think our membership figures are transparent. The source of the Wiki entry is password protected. As you are an Evertonian, you will be believed. Grudgingly.

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