Monday, 11 November 2013

On being a mass membership party again...

The rhetoric from Conservative Campaign HQ is ringing - get more members. The chairman, Grant Shapps MP has written to all his MP colleagues urging them to recruit more members, to get 3% of Conservative voters signed up as members.

I don't object to these injunctions although I suspect that most MPs will adopt the old Spanish colonial adage, obedezco pero no cumplo - I obey but do not comply. And why blame them. After all the number of members isn't the big deal it used to be. Election campaigns are fought out over the airwaves and election funding allows for a generous dollop of postage and paid doorstep delivery, there's no real incentive to persuade people to join the party, however much Grant Shapps may cajole.

Think about it for a second. Assuming you're not ambitious or a politics anorak, why on earth would you pay good money to join a political party? What do you get for your pleasure? Endless appeals for more money, on infrequent occasions you get to vote for the leader of the party and similarly to select a local MP or councillor. You won't be asked about policy (although you can join groups that engage in endless circular discussions about that policy) and you might get asked to buy tickets for dinners and garden parties.

If you join the RSPB they give you stuff, send you a magazine and give you free entry to their nature reserves. The same goes for other organisations - the National Trust, RHS and so forth. Joining a political party doesn't really get you anything.

If Grant Shapps wants more members at £25 he needs to offer something more and to give up on the idea that the overstretched troops on the ground have the time or inclination to respond to his urgings. Back in Campaign HQ they need to find some money to recruit members - do some old fashioned direct marketing. I don't just mean mass mailings but rather the development of an offer that might make it worthwhile for Fred Smith to hand over that £25 in exchange for a membership card.

The sad truth is that those MPs - and the young things at CCHQ - really aren't interested. Either we'll carry on with parties funded by business donations (or in Labour's case by unions) or else the politicians will, as Nick Clegg wants, dip their hands into the public purse and have state funded politics.

1 comment:

Ivan D said...

Which is why nobody cares about any of the main parties. They are rubbish and there is no point in joining any of them. They have no grass roots support and no longer represent anybody apart from their sponsors. It isn't complicated. The people hate modern politics so whoever wins the next election will be the party that is disliked least. What a great way to run a country!