POLITICS

Conservative Party Membership Almost Halved Under David Cameron

18/09/2013 09:33 BST | Updated 18/09/2013 17:08 BST
PA
Prime Minister David Cameron, makes a speech, during an enterprise reception at Downing Street in London.

Conservative Party membership has almost halved since David Cameron became leader, it was confirmed as party chiefs bowed to pressure to reveal the latest figure.

There are now 134,000 constituency members, down from the 253,600 who voted in the 2005 leadership contest, the ConservativeHome website was told.

The party's previous refusal to publish the number fuelled speculation that it had fallen below 100,000 amid serious concerns over its ability to campaign in key seats in 2015.

Mr Cameron has been making efforts to reassure grassroots Tories about his leadership, which has been marked by significant dissent over issues such as Europe and gay marriage.

Senior constituency figures have warned of an exodus of members to the benefit of the eurosceptic UK Independence Party, which has been performing strongly in elections and opinion polls.

Ex-MP Paul Goodman, who spearheaded the ConservativeHome campaign for the figure to be published, suggested it was part of a move towards more openness on the issue.

Party chairman Grant Shapps wanted to revise it regularly and send MPs a league table of their own constituency's standing - which would "concentrate a few minds", he said.

Labour called the dramatic drop "a damning indictment of Cameron's out-of-touch and weak leadership" and said its membership had risen under Ed Miliband.

Vice-chairman Michael Dugher said: "The Tories are deserting Cameron in their droves. Under Cameron, the Tories are becoming an endangered species. They are getting fewer and fewer in number by the day - no wonder they stand up for the few and not the many.

"Labour has increased our membership under Ed Miliband's leadership. And now Ed Miliband is absolutely determined to keep changing Labour, to open up politics more to the public, and to ensure that Labour is a genuinely One Nation party that is rooted in every community."

The Conservatives boasted as many as three million paid members in the early 1950s but there has been a dramatic reduction across all parties in subsequent decades.