By Matthew Barrett
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Last week we reported on the decline in Lib Dem membership figures, which are down by 20% since the Coalition was formed. Notable amongst those findings was the fact that membership is falling fastest in seats held by Government ministers. ConservativeHome has now seen figures taken from association statements of accounts published by the Electoral Commission - provided by the Independent on Sunday's political correspondent, Matt Chorley – for membership in Conservative seats.
Although we don't have a full picture of all seats, or all Conservative-held seats, there is a sizeable number of seats' data, and some individual constituency figures worth noting.
The Cabinet members with the worst decline in membership are Andrew Lansley (-28%), Philip Hammond (-24%), Andrew Mitchell (-23%), and Theresa May (-20%). These figures are amongst the worst for all seats we have data for, although the five worst declines occurred in Stirling, Welwyn Hatfield, Thornbury and Yate, Bedford, and Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale. The decline of 37% in Welwyn Hatfield – Grant Shapps' seat – is not great for a man tipped as a likely new Party Chairman.
Amongst the 30 worst declines, there are only a further two Scottish seats and one Welsh seat, but there is a notably severe decline in Cornish and West Country seats: St Ives, St Austell and Newquay, South East Cornwall, Chippenham, Wells, South West Wiltshire, and the aforementioned Thornbury and Yate all saw drops of more than 18%. Unsurprisingly (given the concentration of Tory seats there), many of the worst declines came in Home Counties seats, such as Canterbury, Watford, Bracknell, Buckingham (John Bercow's seat), Maidenhead, Runnymede and Weybridge, and Spelthorne, which all saw declines of more than 14%.
Other Cabinet members with big losses include George Osborne, who saw a 13% loss in membership, and Justine Greening, with 19%. The picture is not entirely gloomy, however, as some Cabinet members managed to take only moderate losses: Eric Pickles lost 5% of members, Owen Paterson lost 4%, William Hague lost only 2%, and Iain Duncan Smith lost 1%
Some seats saw increases in Conservative membership. Notably, David Cameron's seat saw a 2% increase.
Incredibly, Bradford East – where we came third, but fewer than 3,000 votes behind the Lib Dem victor, saw a 103% increase in membership. Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, the Lib Dem Scotland Secretary Michael Moore's seat saw an increase of 59%. This is perhaps good news for David Mundell, as a merger of these two borders seats looks to be on the cards under the boundary review.
Braintree, Daventry, South Derbyshire, Christchurch, South Norfolk, Brentford and Isleworth, and Wyre Forest are all Tory seats which saw increases in membership above 10%, and non-Tory seats with 10%+ increases included Taunton, Tooting, and West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine.
There are few easy conclusions to draw other than that, as with Lib Dems, Cabinet members are not immune from being amongst the worst-hit. There is little geographical correlation between those seats which saw an increase, and little ideological correlation either: MPs firmly on the right of the Party saw increases (Priti Patel, Peter Bone), but also big losses (Julian Brazier), while some MPs who could not be accused of being rebels saw increases (Claire Perry), but also big losses (Matthew Hancock). The decline of Tory membership is clearly of great concern to those MPs and associations affected. As we reported last week, Boris Johnson's campaign actually had to pay for election leaflets to be delivered in parts of London where there is a sitting Conservative MP, because of the weakness of local associations.