Labour membership falls 10% amid unrest over Brexit stance

Labour party membership has declined by more than 10% from a peak of 575,000 in summer 2017 after ’s stronger-than-expected performance in the general election, according to new figures seen by the Guardian.

The figures, shown to the Guardian by a senior party insider, suggest net membership has declined by around 6,000 in each of the past two months, from 524,000 at the start of December, to 512,000.

That number would still make by far the biggest political party in Britain – approximately four times the size of the Conservatives, whose membership was estimated at 124,000 last spring.

A party spokesman said: “Labour is one of the largest political parties in Europe, made up of over half a million members, who are working to transform our society for the many not the few.”

Turning Labour into a mass “social movement”, that is involved in community activism year-round as well as knocking on doors during election campaigns, is a central part of Corbyn’s project to transform his party.

Labour has vehemently denied a series of news stories in recent days, suggesting the party could face financial difficulties as a result of a drop-off in paying members.

Party insiders insist the overwhelming majority of the 6,000-a-month membership decline is accounted for by “lapsers”: members whose payments have been in arrears for six months.

These show up 18 months after they first signed up for a year-long membership. Surges in membership followed Corbyn’s election as leader in 2015 – under new rules that allowed £3-a-head “supporters” to vote, many of whom subsequently joined up – and his re-election in 2016, party sources suggest.

Another peak came in summer of 2017, when a crowd of tens of thousands at Glastonbury chanted “oh, Jeremy Corbyn!” – and the Guardian understands the 575,000 figure was reported to Labour’s national executive committee at that time.

 

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