A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Fabian Fact for the Day

Fabian Society national membership is at an all-time high: 6,340.

This is 20% higher than when Labour came to office in May 1997.

It is double what it was when Clement Attlee left office in 1951.

But Labour membership is half what is was in 1997. Obviously most of that decline is caused by political factors. But I think the contrasting Fabian membership increase points to another factor: you actually get something from being a Fabian member - a steady flow of magazines and pamphlets, at least some of which are an interesting read. Whereas party membership gets you invited to do stuff - canvassing or attending meetings; some democratic rights to select candidates and vote in national ballots; but hardly any information or publications compared to almost any other membership-based organisation. You can't imagine a trade union, or the RSPB, or the National Trust, not sending at least a quarterly magazine to members, yet Labour now only publishes a national magazine for members when there is a major ballot being mailed out at the same time. No wonder we have trouble hanging on to members after their first year, when if they didn't become activists they would have received no benefit from their membership other than a feeling of altruism and a set of ward meeting agendas.


Anonymous tim f said...

No-one would join for the kind of magazines we put out - always outdated by the time they come out, safe vapid stuff. So if we're looking at adding value to membership I think we need another way other than an expensive useless publication.

We used to be good at communicating with members and terrible at communicating with voters. Now it's the other way round - which is better but not adequate.

10:17 am, March 05, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

My own feeling is that people join a group like the Fabians, or Compass,or Progress, or the LRC, because they offer opportunities for discussion and some interesting publications or events for like minded people.

The party itself - well, I think that in general, more people have become sceptical about parties. But I think it is also because the reason one joins a political party is to feel that one has a say. I strongly supported the changes in policy-making within the party and still think that there was a limitation to 'resolution' approaches - but I think that the policy forum approach has been a disaster. It is regarded with utter contempt by party members and many who have left.

I think Labour must be serious about involving their membership, even if that means that the party leadership may not always be supported. Otherwise, a small and passive party is the likely future because there will be no incentive for people to join.

3:29 pm, March 05, 2009

Anonymous Olly said...

Excellent post Luke.

One of the reasons we have good membership where I live is we are lucky enough to have members who take the social side of the party quite seriously.

Hence alongside canvassing there are frequent parties, pub trips, quizz nights etc.

4:58 pm, March 05, 2009

Blogger jdc said...

Membership of the French Socialist Party costs a lot more (well, usually, it's means-tested!) but you get a weekly magazine which covers various news, book reviews, feature articles, and political comment from all wings of the party.

On the other hand, their track record in winning elections recently...

9:13 pm, March 05, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

The New Worker is a good paper and would be ideal if it came out as a daily!

9:49 pm, March 05, 2009


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