Friday, 29 October 2010

The Conservative Party is Dead

A few weeks ago, Conservative Home revealed that Conservative membership has fallen by around a third in the last four to five years.

That is a shocking figure.

Particularly when you consider that this ‘falling off the edge of a cliff’ statistic was during a period when the Conservatives, in electoral terms, were in the most meteoric period of ascendancy for an entire generation, or more.

Why was there this massive exodus of party membership? Why have the numbers of people who are no longer members of the Conservative party not been replaced by a new generation?

Because the Conservative party, in the last 5 years, has quite literally died.

The vast majority of Conservative members are old age pensioners. Not just pensioners but old, age, pensioners. The majority of those people who form the active Conservative membership of today are, in the overwhelming majority, well beyond retirement and they too, inevitably, will die in the next few years.

Many of this group would romanticise that they, this last generation of old age pensioners, are a valiant ‘forlorn-hope’ still planning to charge the barricades as they prepare for the next battle in the form of next year’s local elections.

But why are these last battered regiments of what is in reality the last rearguard not being replaced by new battalions of fresh, youthful, eager, replacements?

Because party politics is discredited. The rising generations, in the overwhelming majority, don’t believe in it. They think politics itself is discredited. They think that political participation, in terms of joining a political party, is pointless or irrelevant or unpalatable.

It’s not simply that the Conservative brand is ‘tarnished’. The colours, whilst still being held aloft, are in reality in complete tatters. Why would anyone new rally to their cause..?

But a few do. And when these young, energetic, idealists do engage with their local party organisation they don’t find many other young and enthusiastic volunteers. Instead they encounter the last reserves of an old age army of volunteers in disarray. And after an initial burst of activity and effort, they realise they are only helping to fight a losing battle, and quietly slink away.

Last night I attended a meeting of my local Conservative association – historically, and still today, comparatively one of the most successful associations in the country.

The room was full (it’s not a big room) of pensioners. I was the youngest in the room (41). Two of the attendees, in their mid 80’s were again putting themselves forward to ‘enter the breach’ and run as candidates to be Councillors next year. Their ages already exceed average life expectancy in the country but this is not exceptional.

Still they battle on. But why?

Some need the money, a few quid for being a Councillor is a valuable addition to a shrinking, inflation-busted pension. But for most, to a large extent, they do it because they feel that someone has to try and make a difference and they know that if they don’t do it, the chances are, no-one else will.

Anyway. That’s that. Just thought I would cheer you up!


Helen Catterall said...

The main political parties (not just the Conservative party) need to be much more pro-active to sell the benefits of party membership to the general public, who no longer feel the need to express their political involvement in this way in the same volumes as they once did.

Techno said...

You have described my experience there. I tried for a while but gave up.

People just think "somebody else will look after it". It is worrying because it creates a power vacuum that is then filled either with well motivated nutters or a faceless bureacracy like the EU.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, but I suspect your experience is slightly exceptional. Our association numbers have remained roughly steady over 5 years, and the majority of our candidates for next years council elections will be in their 40's or 50's, with a few (myself included) younger than that.

It's also worth noting that members who joined before the increase in membership fees (to £25 - still easily the cheapest of the 3 main parties) are still mostly allowed to pay their original price, BUT these days central office doesn't count people who pay less than £25 as 'members', but as 'friends'. Their associations however still count them as members. This is likely to be where most of the 'freefall' in numbers comes from - a change in the way 'members' are counted.

Libertarian said...

It is not because people won't join organisations its because the 3 main parties are well past their sell by dates, tribal and all centrally controlled.

In a social media dominated, bottom up, long tail world what people want is control over their own lives and activities.

Imposed A lists, parachuted candidates, whipped voting and adherence to a centrally dictated party line are now discredited 19th/early 20th century tactics.

I will not join and won't vote in my constituency because I do not get to choose the candidate and the one that we had imposed on us years ago ( Green) has nothing in common with me, we agree on virtually nothing and I cant get rid of him.

So open primaries would also encourage fresh blood

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