ConservativeHome ran a campaign last year to persuade the Party to declare its membership figures.  In the course of doing so, we had a look at the records of the Electoral Commission for 2012. As we noted at the time, returns are submitted not by individual Associations, but by “accounting units”.  We found that 139 units out of 674 declared 58,884 full members between them.  We did not count associate members, friends and club members in that estimate.

We have now examined the Electoral Commission’s records for for 2013 and have found as follows:

  • There are now 685 Conservative accounting units registered in the UK.
  • Of the 292 accounting units that have so far filed account returns for 2013, 112 filed concrete membership figures. (That compares to 139 units for 2012.)
  • The total full membership across these 112 accounting units was 43,635 (which compares to the 58,884 members recorded last year).

As we pointed out then, “the real full time membership figure will be higher than 59,000 or so” – because only a minority of local Associations declare their figures.  The same applies this year. Readers will remember that CCHQ eventually responded to our campaign and declared Party membership to be 134,000.

I would be very wary indeed of concluding that that number has fallen this year simply because the number registered with the Electoral Commission has done. We published the Electoral Commission figure last year on August 14, and the Party disclosed its figure on September 17.  We went through the detail of the 134,000 figure and it looked robust.

CCHQ ought simply to declare an annual figure at roughly the same time as last year – since, having let the original figure be known (the right decision, for which Grant Shapps deserves credit) a yearly update would be in order.   P.S: It may well be that the Electoral Commission figure for last year eventually comes in higher as more Associations file returns.