Gender balance amongst Liberal Democrat party members

Sex Lies and the Ballot Box - book coverWhen reviewing Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box my comments were very positive – and if you’ve not yet read the book, go buy it now.

There is however one small factual error in it I’ve spotted. It’s for the gender balance of Liberal Democrat party membership which is reported in the book as being 29% female.

This rather surprised me as the data I’ve seen and quoted in the past puts it in the 40-50% range, i.e. close to equity with the wider population’s gender balance. If the true figure was really as low as 29% then that would put many of the party’s debates about gender balance amongst MPs or its local government record in a very different light – and also point to a currently neglected area to address.

The 29% figure is quoted in the chapter by Liz Evans and comes from an online survey conducted by Paul Whiteley which was reported in “Where have all the members gone? The dynamics of party membership in Britain”, Parliamentary Affairs, Vol.62 No.2, 2009.

However, that 29% figure is lower than the 40% figure which Liz Evans has quoted previously based on internal party sources pre-2009. Moreover, Paul Whiteley in his 2006 book Third Force Politics, which was based on an extensive postal survey of members, found the figure to be 46% female.

That matches the latest figure which Lib Dem HQ supplied to me, in May 2015, which also gives the membership as 46% female.


Thanks to both Liz Evans and Paul Whiteley for helping me tracking down the origins of their various numbers.

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