134,000. That’s how many members the Conservative Party now has, according to Paul Goodman at ConservativeHome. Despite months of campaigning from the site, the only figure Conservative HQ would release is that 253,600 people voted for David Cameron as leader in 2005. Today's number means that membership has nearly halved throughout Cameron’s eight-year term as party leader.
Tracking the memberships of political parties is difficult, as they are under no obligation to release any details. The House of Commons Library released a paper in December last year, compiling all the figures they could find. From this, this is how memberships of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties has dropped since the 1997 election:
Of course, the decline above goes beyond the last decide. Aside from a few bumps during the Thatcher and Blair premierships, the slide has continued for the 50 years. Compared to the 134k and 193k today, the Conservative party had 2.9 million members and the Labour party one million in 1951. I’ve cobbled the figures from the last dozen general elections, compared to the 2013 figures:
As Paul describes, getting the 134k number was not easy. ConHome's valiant campaign began when Tim Montgomerie noticed the MEP selection results didn't include how many people had voted. When asked, CCHQ declined to release anything new. In this vacuum of information, speculation mounted on Fleet Street Tory membership had dropped below 100,000. Thanks to the decision to release the number, Tory spinners can now at least state this is not true.
It's still not entirely clear how the Conservative party's membership is split on a constituency level but the headline 134k figure is better than most were expecting. It's still the lowest membership they've had in at least 70 years and the rapid fall in recently demonstrates the continued decline of parties in Britain. This isn't unique to the Tories by any means, as Ross Clarke said in last week's magazine.