The figures for membership are a useful of the Parties strength. UKIP have been able to point to a growth in membership – the Green Party claim their membership has risen to over 50,000. That compares with the Lib Dems on 44,576 and UKIP and on 44,576. Conservative Party membership has risen to 149,800. Labour claim to still be ahead with 189,531 according to their annual report. However on a like for like basis the Conservatives have 224,000 members as announced at conference. This uses the same methodology as Labour – i.e. includes discounts for students, armed forces, etc. So that is the correct comparative number.
Then there are the figures for donations which attract considerable attention. Labour have had a good week in that respect with a £1.5 million election booster from Unite the Union. But generally the Conservatives have been well ahead in the quarterly returns published by the Electoral Commission.
Rather harder to measure is the campaigning strength. Douglas Alexander has claimed earlier this month that Labour will win the “ground war” – to compensate for the Conservatives having advantage over spending.
We can’t really expect to have figures for campaigning hours from political parties – but there are some clues that Mr Alexander’s claims are overblown.
When Grant Shapps became Conservative Party Chairman he founded Team2015 and based it on the voluntary network that he built to win his own seat of Welwyn Hatfield – which he gained from Labour on his second attempt in 2005.
Mr Shapps is personally involved in the running of it. Jim Messina, from the United States who was earlier President Obama’s campaigning guru, has also been a helpful source of advice. There are now 70,000 volunteers who have signed themselves up to the network, via Conservatives.com.They focus on the “40 40” seats – these are the 40 most marginal Conservative held seats and the top 40 targets the Conservatives are seeking to gain.
That figure of 70,000 is impressive – especially when there will be other members involved in campaigning in their local patch but who have not registered with Team2015. For example my wife has been out campaigning today in Hammersmith for Charlie Dewhirst (leaving me to multi task with the editing of this site and child rearing). Yet Hammersmith is not a “40 40” seat – we are campaigning with great zeal and confidence but it is our 61st target.
Team2015 was tested in Newark, and Rochester, as part of the by-election campaigns. But it is not – and was never intended to be primarily about by-elections. This month it has been quietly ramping things up running 20 action days simultaneously every Saturday.
Then last Saturday there were 50 Team2015 action days simultaneously. Today there have been rather more with over a thousand volunteers are expected to be out on the streets today, purely in the 40:40 seats. The most northerly action day is in Aberdeen the most southerly is on the far tip of Cornwall.
So could it be that the Conservatives have more campaigners?
A good a way as any other to test the strength of competing claims is to look on Twitter at the Team2015 twitter account for photographs of eager activists with their clipboards and piles of leaflets and then look at the #LabourDoorstep hashtag to see what the enemy is up to.
I have posted a few of the Team2015 pictures. The Labour Doorstep don’t seem to me to have as many pictures – or as many people people per picture. At the very least I would suggest that Mr Alexander’s claim is unproven.