In the 1950s the Tory Party had 3 million members. When Call Me Dave was elected leader it had 258,000 members. These days the Tories won’t say how many members they have but it seems that the number is sub 100,000. And with an average age of almost 70 and each year seeing Councillors (the main local recruiters) lose seats won during the hated Labour Government that number will carry on falling.
Some blame call Me Dave for pissing off traditional Tories by banging on about gay marriage, foreign aid and not standing up to the EU. I sense he is not a great recruiting sergeant. He simply does not inspire traditional core Tories because his values are not theirs – they never have been. But there is also demographics: any party where the average age is 65-70 is going to have a problem.
And there is a wider picture. Labour is picking up a few new members but not clawing back the large number of members it lost under Blair and Brown. Its long term trend is also down. The Lib Dem membership is now probably less than 50,000 and shrinking fast. The fact is that fewer and fewer people care enough to join any party.
The statement “ MPs are a bunch of self-serving, borderline corrupt greedy bastards most of whom have never had a proper job and have no real life experience/understanding of how we all feel” is one most folks would agree with. So as a nation we are all turned off. Fewer folk vote and virtually no-one cares enough to join a party.
You can see why. The views of ordinary party members are totally ignored by the political classes who run the big parties and frankly it seems to make no difference who is in power anyway.
The only party gaining members is UKIP (now heading towards 30,000). A good Euro 2014 campaign could see Nigel Farage’s party have more members than the Lib Dems. An anti-political class party has some appeal when the established political class is so loathsome and despised.
Farage is this weekend banging on about how the Tories should be, but are not, financially supporting families where one parent opts to stay at home and look after the kids. You can see what he is up to. He is espousing a value which appeals to traditional Tory voters.
What he says repels me as a libertarian. Why on earth should one group in society get taxpayers cash simply because the lifestyle they pursue is deemed preferable to the alternative? Why not tax breaks for gay men? Or tax breaks for blokes who choose to shag lots of birds?
The country does not have a money tree to fund handouts to one group or another just because their lifestyle is deemed the one to which the majority feels we should aspire. And even if we did have a UKIP grown money tree no Government should impose its mores on society by using tax taken from all members simply to reward one group.
The only tax breaks a country deep in debt and running a vast deficit should be considering are tax cuts ( not state handouts) for low earners ( accompanied by cuts in welfare) in order to make work more attractive. Second up – not tax breaks but cuts in taxes for small businesses (starting with employers NI) so that they can hire more folks.
That should be what Farage is saying as a responsible “anti-politician”. But he is not. He is simply trying to woo traditional Tory voters and activists into the UKIP tent. So far it is working but it is dishonest. Much more of this and he can start to be regarded as “just like the rest of them.”