Labour's membership and electoral system

I don't make any claim that this is unique, but I have taken the data on the Labour leadership election from the Google spreadsheet here, and highlighted/extracted the Welsh data in a spreadsheet here.

This data shows the membership of the Labour Party in Wales; which is the first time I've been able to find figures for it, though that might be down to ignorance on my part. But Labour do publish their total membership in their annual accounts to the Electoral Commission (page 14 of this document). As can be seen in the table below, which I've supplemented with figures from this article in the Guardian in 2007, their figures have been dropping like a stone:

End 2001 ... 272,000
End 2002 ... 248,294
End 2003 ... 214,952
End 2004 ... 201,374
End 2005 ... 198,026
End 2006 ... 182,370
Jun 2007 ... ~180,000 (deputy leadership election)
End 2007 ... 176,891
End 2008 ... 166,247
End 2009 ... 156,205
May 2010 ... ~145,000
Sep 2010 ... 177,559 (leadership election)

If what Harriet Harman said about Labour's membership increasing by 32,000 since the May election is true, it shows that membership must have slumped to about 145,000 when the election was being fought. However 32,000 is a remarkable increase in itself, and this shows that the leadership campaign has been used as a recruiting drive ... and, in the circumstances, quite a successful one. I remember reading that receptions/parties were being hosted with the dual aim of getting people to join the party and at the same time trying to get them to vote for the host's preferred leadership candidate.

But 177,559 is still a very long way short of the 272,000 Labour had in 2001. Labour are nothing like the party they used to be, and we should keep that in mind as we gear up for the Assembly elections next year.


There's one other observation that I'd like to make with regard to the unions, especially in the light of the criticism that Ed Miliband was unfairly elected because he relied more heavily on union support than his brother. The total number of party members that voted was 127,331 out of a total of 177,559 (71.71%) but the total number of people in unions and other affiliated organizations who voted was 247,339 out of 2,747,030 (9.00%). Now I do accept that there are substantial anomalies in the way the vote was organized in the unions, as highlighted by Ian Titherington here, but it is clear that nearly twice as many union members voted as did party members (although I'm sure that a lot of individuals cast a vote in both electoral colleges ... and a few in three) but a union member's vote counted for only half as much.

How Labour organize themselves is up to them, of course. But it goes without saying that I don't think very highly of their electoral college system (one member one vote is much better) because of the way it arbitrarily inflates or deflates the importance of various voters. MPs and MEPs benefit hugely. However if we worked on the premise that each person who was able to vote (whether as party member, affiliated union member or elected representative) had just one equal vote, then it seems that Ed Miliband would have won by a wider margin than he did.

But even though I think their electoral college system is rubbish, I do think that the single transferable vote used within each electoral college is fair ... and it would be the ultimate of double standards if Labour contrived to vote against a referendum on AV, and campaign against AV in that referendum, when they themselves use it for their own elections.

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MH said...

The article about recruitment via drinks parties is here.

Ironically this was a David Miliband initiative, including a 20 minute video presentation. The Independent said:

"The events are loosely based on the successful local campaigns that led to Barack Obama's eventual victory in the US presidential race in 2008."

Out of date tactics. He should have organized tea parties instead.

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