The Corbyn surge: Labour’s members tend to be older, middle class, and gender balanced

Leaked figures from Hornsey and Wood Green Labour Party in north London also suggest the Corbyn recruitment drive may have stalled

John Rentoul
Monday 22 January 2018 21:39
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Catherine West, the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, who has 4,425 Labour members in her local party
Catherine West, the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, who has 4,425 Labour members in her local party

Figures for the Hornsey and Wood Green Labour Party in north London, obtained by The Independent, show that it has 4,425 members, probably the most in the country. This is five times as many as the average Constituency Labour Party in Great Britain, which has 870 members – based on the most recent national membership figure, which was 552,000 in June last year.

The leaked figures provide a snapshot of the membership surge that followed Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015. Contrary to the impression often given that his supporters are young, only 15 per cent of members in Hornsey and Wood Green are under the age of 27.

The party’s members are concentrated in the middle-class wards of the constituency. One ward, Stroud Green, has 662 members, which is about 6 per cent of the entire 16+ population of the area. The wards with the smallest memberships are the working-class wards of Woodside, Noel Park and Bounds Green, and the wealthiest ward, Highgate.

One feature of the party’s membership is that just over 50 per cent (50.8) are women, while membership of parties nationally tends to be skewed towards men.

The constituency is represented in Parliament by Catherine West, a Labour MP who was sacked from the front bench in June last year when she voted for Britain to stay in the EU single market.

The figures bear out the findings of a YouGov poll of Labour members nationally after the election, carried out for Professor Tim Bale at Queen Mary, University of London. It found their average age was 53, not much lower than the average age of Conservative Party members, 57. It found that 77 per cent of Labour members were in the higher ABC1 social grades, and that 53 per cent were men.

The leaked figures show that membership numbers in Hornsey and Wood Green have declined by 113 over the three months from 1 October and 1 January, and that a further 246, or 6 per cent, were in arrears with their subscriptions.

At a time when the Conservative Party, which hasn’t reported national membership figures for three years, is believed to be down to a total of about 70,000, Labour’s huge membership remains one of Corbyn’s strongest cards as he seeks to lead his party to government.

But the figures for the local party with the biggest membership suggest that Labour’s growth continues to stall. Sixteen months ago, when the national membership figure was 551,000, Corbyn’s advisers considered launching a recruitment drive called “Make It a Million”, but decided against it because it was a hostage to fortune. Since then the national figure has hardly changed, and now these figures show that in Hornsey and Wood Green the numbers are falling slightly.

The Corbyn surge means the Labour membership is significantly higher than the 405,000 peak reached under Tony Blair’s leadership in 1997, but can the numbers be sustained until the next election if it is four and a half years away in 2022?

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