Tuesday, 2 June 2015

351,300 members in England and Wales, now that is what I call a surge.......

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From more that half a century ago comes news of membership surge. I know the world was different then. These were the days before lettraset  and spray glue, well before DTP and yes it was an age when all the political parties had much greater memberships. The factors which caused that surge can be analysed and adapted to meet today's world.

There was community campaigning but in addition there was an excitement over political ideas. Page 4 of this newsletter laid out the key Liberal messages.

How often do we bemoan the lack of clear political identity that our party has achieved. Back in the day when we truly had a mass, membership 351,300 in 1964, member knew what they stood for.

I think we can identify the author of this statement on a Southport Liberal Newsletter of April 1964 as Jack Coleman. Jack fought Southport in the General Elections of 1964 and 66. The emphasis on Industrial Partnership was typical of Liberals of the period. This was a much more radical policy that the 'lite' version preached occasionally today. It comprised of compelling by law companies to share their profits and give workers an equal say with shareholders. How far we have travelled that a Liberal Dem Business Secretary of State merely proposes giving shareholder all the decision making powers and just suggests the work force is consulted.

Do have a look at point 9. The internationalist case. It is not made just so businesses can be more successful. It asserts the desirability of breaking down barriers between nation and confronting what the then Party constitution called the 'warping influence of nationalism'


  1. Is it because (the watering down of radical ideas), the Liberals Lib Dems want to appeal to a wider share of electors? I think so. We should be holding onto those ideas we (as Liberals) really believe in & then try and convince people. I would much rather faced the wipe out in May after standing on radical Liberal platform rather than the liberal lite (IMO) one.

  2. I have my doubts that those figures were accurate. I am not aware that central membership records were ever kept by the Liberal Party and presumably they relied on constituency Associations who might have exaggerated their figures. I remember finding a card index system dating from around 1964 at the old Victoria Baths premises which suggested that Southport LA’s membership was approximately 500.

    Meanwhile the Tories would almost certainly had a membership in the constituency of around 10,000 at that time. The employed a very effective system of street captains whose job it was to enrol any new comers to the area. My mother told me that a woman resplendent in twin set and pearls visited her shortly after we moved in to Birkdale West in 1951 and she took a very dim view when my mother explained that both she and my father went out to work and didn’t have time to support the Tories .Needless to say my parents were shunned by the neighbours for a number of years after that ! I can remember the Birkdale West Ward Chairman telling me in 1971 that more than 50% of the ward electors were paid up members of the Tory party.

    The local TORIES had an incredible organisation. I have a copy of their constituency year book for 1963-64 which shows they had 15 active Ward associations sending delegates to the Council of the Women’s Association, to the Municipal Consultative committee and the General Purposes Committee. Then there were 16 Women’s Conservative Association branches and three Young Conservative branches and five Conservative Clubs.


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