Now with the General Election less than a month away in England, all talk is on how many votes the three main parties will get. The figures I am more interested in, especially long-term, is how many members will each party have? The only talk of party membership in the media has been about the far-right British National Party (BNP). There have been stories about their leaked membership list, the legal challenge to their racist constitution that discriminated again black & Asian people becoming members, and stories of the general rise in people joining their ranks.
What I want to know is, with the BNP membership blatantly on the rise, what are Labour, Conservative, the Lib Dems and other parties doing to raise their membership, especially amongst young people? I wouldn’t be surprised if the BNP now had the youngest membership out of all of them put together! I’m 38 years only and never in my lifetime have I seen a recruitment drive by the three main parties to boost their members. Whilst they are chasing scrabbling around for voters, their membership has been dropping, (apparently between 1997 – 2008 Labour’s membership has dropped from 400,000 to 170,000 – see here for related blog article by Lib Dem Stephen Tall).
Membership of political parties, according to representation in the media, is reserved for grey men in grey suits that attend party conferences, or grey men in grey suits that donate millions of pounds to the party funds. What about me? What about a 38-year-old black British male, where do I sign? No one has asked me, so I’m not signing anywhere. (Or do they only want me as a member if I can offer them millions of pounds? If that is the case, I know where I stand.)
It goes without saying the parties need to use the media to raise the profile of what party membership means, why it is important to British democracy, and what the benefits are to the individual (having your voice heard), and to the country (more voices being heard). Unless it’s no longer actually important to be a member, but if that is the case, then political reform in the UK needs a complete overall!
If party membership still is important to this country’s political system, then the media charm offensive to raise awareness needs to be a combined cross-party initiative, and not partisan. If cross-party fighting and bickering is going to get in the way of raising the awareness about the importance of this important issue, then it is no wonder their membership numbers are dropping so rapidly.
I feel this information needs to get out there, discussed, and acted upon. (It can’t only be me and Stephen Tall that have thought about this, can it??). If the BNP are the only party to see the need to boost their membership numbers, especially amongst young people, then whoever wins the upcoming election on May 6 could merely be paving the way for the far-right to take power next time around. Even if that is a far-fetched scenario, the main political parties cannot become complacent. The grey men in grey suits are dying off. Who will replace them?