Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – a study by Craig Johnson into the health of Liberal Democrat local organisation in the party’s key Westminster seats.
His overall findings contain some important positive signs for the party:
Local constituency party accounting and membership data [is used to] demonstrate how the Liberal Democrats’ strongest local associations have been affected since their national party’s entry into coalition government in 2010. While a fall in membership is common in most Liberal Democrat associations, it has not been met by a general fall in income and expenditure. So far in the electoral cycle, it would appear that the Liberal Democrats’ strongest local constituency parties will fight the next general election with relatively good financial resources. This would appear especially the case for local constituency parties with incumbent Liberal Democrat MPs, to the extent that they might be able to withstand falls in the national vote elsewhere. In short, this article asserts that targeting incumbent seats in areas of the country where they are organisationally strongest is likely to be the best means the Liberal Democrats have of maintaining their share of seats at the next general election…
Based on the data [of income and expenditure in local party accounts,] those strongest associations without incumbent Liberal Democrat MPs are financially weaker post-2010 than post-2005.
However, a different pattern emerges for local associations with incumbent Liberal Democrat MPs. Although their average income and expenditure has not risen by a great deal, … these associations earned and spent similar amounts post-2010 compared with post-2005…
In associations with incumbent Liberal Democrat MPs, the average [party] membership in 2008 was 349, falling to 246 in 2012. This represents a fall of just over 20 per cent… [But] of the three main parties, the Liberal Democrats were most likely to recruit non-members to campaign.
You can read the other posts in the What do the academics say? series here and here is Craig Johnson’s full piece: