To recap: political party membership isn’t for everyone. In particular, the research evidence shows that it is disproportionately attractive to those who do best out of how our society works. That gives a powerful principled reason to want to find new ways of involving more people in a party – to add to the self-interest, of course, that comes from more people bringing more resources and so more success to a party.Which is where a registered supporters scheme, created by the Liberal Democrats earlier this year, comes in. It’s a cause I’ve long championed as part of a core votes strategy, especially the need for it to be a scheme that serves the whole party – so that not only can a member of the public, for example, sign up on the national party website but also that their local party then is able to know who they are and get in touch in person. Too often in the past we’ve built up different pools of information here or there in the party, kept locked away from others who could also benefit from it.
More notably too, new party leader Jo Swinson was a strong supporter of the scheme’s introduction, and it fits well with her leadership campaign talk of building a liberal movement.
I previously covered how a week in, the supporter scheme had got off to a promising start. Now that it’s over three months old, how are things looking?
Here are some of the key statistics:
- Number signed up: over 10,500 – growth has been steady rather than seeing the sort of surges membership has. On balance, that’s no bad thing – having a slow and steady grower helps give long-term sustainability.
- They are spread around the country: all but three local parties have at least one person signed up.
- 10% have gone on to become members and in addition over £30,000 has been raised in donations.
- Registered supporters are happy to be contacted – around 95% have opted-in to at least one form of contact from the party (such as email or telephone).
- Where local parties have been active in contacting registered supporters in person, around half have got involved offline, such as by becoming regular leaflet deliverers.
- Members are not downgrading – this was an argument often made against having a registered supporter scheme, but the arguments from people like me that this was a misplaced fear have turned out to be right. Less than one in ten thousand members have downgraded.
But perhaps the best sign of its success is the way it has morphed from a fringe, controversial idea into one where now people say it’s obviously the right thing to have and the only wonder is why we didn’t do it sooner.
Or in short: the new scheme is working, growing and will have an important part to play in our future successes.
Advice and resources are available to help local parties make the most of the registered supporters scheme: details here.