The Liberal Democrats claimed yesterday to be the first governing party in recent history to have increased its membership while in power.
Figures released by the party showed that in the last three months of the year membership grew by more than 2,000 – wiping out reductions seen in the first two quarters of 2013. Overall the party will go into 2014 with over 200 new members – which is an achievement not matched by their Conservative coalition partners who have seen steep falls in paid membership since 2010.
Much of the success, party sources said, was down to a new incentive scheme for local Lib Dem associations to recruit new members. Under the policy, if they can prove that their membership has grown over a three-month period, they get back 20 per cent of their subscriptions in that time to spend on local campaigning. If it has grown by more than 10 per cent, the amount they get back rises to 40 per cent. The incentive is expected to be especially valuable in marginal constituencies.
The Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron suggested the figures showed the “feel-good factor” had returned. “You can sense a change in the mood on the doorsteps too. People are starting to give the Liberal Democrats credit for some of the good things the Coalition has done,” he said. “They are also noticing the difference we have made in stopping the worst excesses of the Conservatives.”
Recent years have seen a steady decline in party membership for all mainstream parties. Conservative membership dropped dramatically from around 400,000 in 2000 to around 130,000 now. Labour membership has dropped from a peak of around 400,000 in 1997 to less than 200,000 today.
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