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Membership of UK political parties

Published Friday, August 5, 2016

As of July 2016, Labour has 515,000 members, the SNP 120,000, the Liberal Democrats 76,000, the Green Party (England and Wales) 55,500, UKIP 39,000 and Plaid Cymru 8,300. As of December 2013 (latest published figure) the Conservative Party had 149,800 members. Party membership (and income from membership) has risen notably since 2013, both in total and as a percentage of the electorate.

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Latest Party membership figures

According to the latest available estimates from political parties’ head offices, press releases and media estimates:

  • The Labour Party has around 515,000 members, as of July 2016.
  • The Conservative Party had 149,800 members as of December 2013, the latest available estimate published by CCHQ.
  • The Scottish National Party has around 120,000 members, as of July 2016.
  • The Liberal Democrat Party has 76,000 members, as of July 2016.
  • The Green Party (England and Wales) has 55,500 members, as of July 2016.
  • UKIP has around 39,000 members, as of July 2016.
  • The Plaid Cymru has 8,273 members, as of July 2016.

Membership of UK political parties, July 2016

Membership of UK political Parties

Note: Conservative figures are as of 1 December 2013 (Latest available estimate)

Source: latest available figures provided by party head offices

 

Historic analysis of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties membership is available in the section 2.2 (pages 6-8)

Analysis of party membership since 2002 is available in the section 2.4 (pages 9-13)

Party membership is on the rise

Membership of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats has increased to around 1.6% of the electorate in 2016, compared to a historic low of 0.8% in 2013. Across the UK, Labour Party membership increased from 0.6% in 2013 to 1.1% in 2016.

Membership of ‘‘other’’ parties has changed markedly in recent years. In July 2016 SNP membership was around 120,000, compared to 25,000 in December 2013. In July 2016 Green Party (England and Wales) membership was around 55,000, compared to 13,800 in December 2013. UKIP’s membership increased from 32,000 in December 2013 to around 47,000 in May 2015, though has since fallen to 39,000 in July 2016.

 

Membership is growing as a proportion of the electorate

Membership of the Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrat Parties has increased to around 1.6% of the electorate in 2016, compared to a historic low point of 0.8 % in 2013. In the UK, Labour Party membership increased from 0.6% in 2013 to 1.1% in 2016.

Across Scotland, assuming all Scottish National Party members are in Scotland, SNP membership increased from 0.6% of the electorate in 2013 to 2.9% in 2016.

Figure 2 (on page 8) illustrates data on party membership as percentage electorate from 1970 - 2016

 

Income from membership is growing as a percentage of total party income

In 2015 income from membership fees comprise 46% of the SNP’s income, 35% of the Green Party’s (England and Wales), 21% of Plaid Cymru’s, 19% of Labour’s, 18% of UKIP’s, 11% of the Liberal Democrat’s and 2% of the Conservative’s.

Figure 5b (on page 15) shows party income from membership revenues for the years 2002 – 2014.

 

Identification with political parties is rising

Identification with political parties fell to a historic low in 2012, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, but has since risen to its highest level since 1987. Academic surveys suggest people of professional/managerial occupations are disproportionately represented among the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green Parties, while UKIP party members were more likely than their counterparts to have left school at 16.

Section 4 (on pages 17-20) provides detailed analysis of social characteristics of party members and supporters.

 

Trade Union membership remains many times higher

Trade Union membership (6.5 million in 2015, Labour Force Survey) remains many times higher than party memberships. Multiple non-party political campaigns and organisations, like Countryside Alliance and CND, claim memberships rivalling those of political parties.

Section 5 (on pages 21-24) analyses non-party political activity and engagement.

 

About this briefing

This note uses a range of sources to examine party membership and support in the UK, specifically membership levels, the income membership fees generate and the social characteristics of party members. For context, it also provides data on membership to non-party political organisations including trade unions, charities and campaigns.

Section 2.1 (on page 5) provides information about data sources used to produce this paper.

Commons Briefing papers SN05125

Authors: Richard Keen; Lukas Audickas

Topic: Political parties

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