Labour sources deny significant drop in membership
PUBLISHED: 14:56 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 18:45 21 January 2019
Senior Labour Party figures have been forced to deny that the party's position on Brexit has sparked an exodus of around 150,000 members.
According to a party source in the national newspapers Labour is struggling to reach levels of party membership that brought Jeremy Corbyn to power back in 2015.
The Mail on Sunday reports that paid-up activists now stands at around 385,000 down from 500,000 in 2017 costing the party £6 million.
A source in the Sunday Times blamed the party’s position on Brexit for the drop-off in membership.
It said: “The party is skint. There have already been some recriminations about the amount spent on last summer’s botched music festival Labour Live.
“Although there is always some drop-off in membership after big events like general elections, or a leadership contest, this is more than you would ordinarily expect and has led many of us to think it’s linked to Jeremy’s unpopular stance on Brexit.”
However a Labour spokesman denied the claims. It said: “This story is not true. The figures are completely made up.”
Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby also dismissed the numbers as a “total fabrication”. She added that “more people are joining Labour every week than resigning.”
It is clear there is discontent over Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Brexit, which is at odds with the party’s membership.
Polling led by Professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London just before Christmas found that 72% of members think Corbyn should back a second referendum with 88% saying they would back Remain if such a vote was held.
Bale told the Guardian: “If Jeremy Corbyn genuinely believes, as he has repeatedly claimed, that the Labour party’s policy should reflect the wishes of its members rather than just its leaders, then he arguably has a funny way of showing it – at least when it comes to Brexit.”
One of those party members is former Corbynite Peter Hayden, who especially travelled down from the Midlands to spend a week outside the House of Commons, hoping to deliver a message to the leader of his party pon a People’s Vote.
He had a board mocked up that made his position clear: “Keir [Starmer] promised support for a People’s Vote when the other options fail. I will rescind my Labour membership if you don’t honour this.”
He later explained: “He needs to come off the fence because otherwise the initative will be taken by the Tories, so Labour will be sidelined on this whole issue.”