Who we are…

An academic study produced by the Mile End Institute, Queen Mary University of London, has appeared today that reveals the character of the main political parties.

Unsurprisingly we are overwhelmingly, up to 96%, anti-Brexit, in favour of the Single Market and Customs Union, and would strongly support a referendum on the outcome of negotiations.  Significantly, Labour’s membership are not far behind us on Brexit, indicating a disjunction with the Labour leadership that is likely to prove contentious, if Labour continue to tergiversate over Brexit.

By contrast the Tory membership not only favour Brexit, but favour an extreme Brexit, out of the Single Market and Customs Union, very much cut off from the EU.  It will be difficult to reconcile these views with the agreed accommodation over the Northern Ireland border in phase 1 of the Brexit negotiation.

As a white middle class older man, I am typical of the membership of all parties.  Our average age is 52, Labour, despite perceptions of Corbyn’s appeal is not much different at 53 and the Conservatives are not as aged as often presumed at 57.  Only 37% of our membership are female; only the Tories are more imbalanced at 29%.  Labour are the most balanced with male membership at 54%. (Guardian)

SNP were most similar to us, though significantly more authoritarian, with more backing for retributional punishment.  However, it is the Tory membership who stand out as authoritarian and regressive on social issues, with 54% in favour of capital punishment; on same sex marriage only 42% of Conservative members could give even moderate support, less than half the support of the membership of other parties. (Independent)

Professor Bale is quoted as concluding:

Time has moved on and the country has become more socially liberal in all sorts of ways, but many Tory members continue to stick to their guns – especially on gay marriage and capital punishment.

And not only do they want us to leave the EU, the majority favours a hard rather than a soft Brexit.

Britain’s party members are the lifeblood and the footsoldiers of our democracy. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they look like or think like their parties’ voters – or, indeed, look or think like each other. The Tory grassroots in particular are something of a breed apart from their Labour, Lib Dem and SNP counterparts.

* Martin Bennett first campaigned in Cheltenham in 1974, was the Bermondsey Party press officer from 1981-3 but is presently resident in Luxembourg. He is Deputy Chair of Liberal Democrats Luxembourg.

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  • What does the light / dark bit of the bar charts represent?

    I assume that the dark bit is raw, and the light bit is excluding don’t knows?

  • I found the structure of the survey and some of the questions very peculiar.

    Interesting to note that the Tories are the only party that is in tune with the majority of the voters on Brexit.

  • Peter Watson 4th Jan '18 - 6:06pm

    The report throws up some interesting demographic quirks about party membership.
    Some of this was referred to on this site a month or so back and summarised (in a Labour context) on a table here: https://labourlist.org/2017/10/tim-bale-inside-labours-massive-membership-base/
    There is an impression that, perhaps more than any other party, Lib Dem membership is associated with a particular type, in particular a white, middle-aged, middle-class, male graduate from the south of England.
    I find some of this a bit amusing (e.g. a Lib Dem member is 3x more likely to be a member of the National Trust than a trade union, which about as likely as being a member of English Heritage or the RSPB). On the other hand, if the party is unrepresentative of wider society, then there are possibly some very important implications for the way it develops and communicates policy.

  • What I found interesting is how many of our members agree with me – 77% think the government should redistribute income from the better off to the less well off; 79% think ordinary working people don’t get their fair share of the nation’s wealth.

  • Wealth redistribution already takes place in a large number of ways. On the collection side there is income tax, VAT, IHT, stamp duty and so on. The distribution side includes benefits, pensions, credits, regional subsidies and investments, and all sorts of grants.

    Taxpayers in poorly paid jobs may not be keen to hand more of their income away. If you feel a burning need to contribute more, you could consider giving to charities of which there are thousands.

  • I think a more appropriate name for the Conservative party would be the Reactionary party.

    A reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which they believe possessed characteristics (discipline, respect for authority, etc.) that are negatively absent from the contemporary status quo of a society. As an adjective, the word reactionary describes points of view and policies meant to restore the status quo ante.


    They certainly seem to be wedded to the idea of returning to a gold age circa 1950’s or in some case much earlier.


    The taxes you mention are not in the main re-distributive as they hit the poor much harder than the rich ( the exception is Income tax but that seems to be the tax of last resort, as the government would rather put up VAT, Council tax or any other tax rather than change Income Tax rates ).

  • Party members are by nature tribal and usually conform to the central tribal belief systems of the political tribe they belong to. The mistake is to think that voters believe the same things to anything like the same degree.

  • Ian,

    I’m sure you are correct but then neither of us are wearing the sepia tinted glasses that seem to be de rigueur for Conservative party members. To them the past was better and we should do our best to return to those happier simpler times, where PC Blogs gave the rapscallions a good kicking and they where grateful for it. We all knew our place and wasn’t the world a happier place for it, back to the happy past really is their battle cry.

  • Teresa Wilson 9th Jan '18 - 9:04pm

    “Interesting to note that the Tories are the only party that is in tune with the majority of the voters on Brexit.” Peter, how do you know what the majority of the voters think about immigration after post-Brexit, the Single Market or the Customs Union? The referendum was almost two years ago and attitudes change, even if these issues had be specifically included on the ballot paper, which they weren’t.

  • @Peter Watson

    As was noted in the Labour List article “demographically-speaking, the members of different parties may have more in common than they might care to admit.”

    And membership of political parties is skewed by those demographic types who are more likely to join (any) political party in the first place.

    I doubt whether the Labour or Conservative parties would suffer much angst over the fact that their core voters are the working class and the better off respectively or the SNP – independence supporters. Clearly a “core vote” does not mean you do not want your voters to encompass more than just your core.

    A problem (and an advantage) that we have is that our vote is spread demographically more evenly than those of other parties.

    In looking at the 2010 and 2017 voting figures. It is clear that in 2010 we did best among what might now be described as “middle class remainers” which we have now lost. Gaining (some of) them back is a first step.


    It does not mean that we should have policies that have a wide appeal. And as I outlined 1p on income tax for a better NHS and remaining in the EU have widespread support (certainly much much greater than our 7% in the polls) – are popular with our “potential core voters” and popular more widely.

    Obviously any political party aims to maximise its appeal but one that tries to please everyone ends up pleasing no-one.

    Corbyn and Thatcher did not set out to please everyone but they were electorally successful. As a third party we have to be distinctive (but not unpopular) to gain coverage and attract people.

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