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How long can the Liberal Democrats keep losing members?

August 3rd, 2012

The Henry G Manson column

The news that according to their accounts Liberal Democrats have lost a quarter () of their party membership in just 12 months means it is probably now worth asking how much more can the yellow party can take?

The figures highlighted by Crick show there were 48,934 members at the end of 2011 compared with 65,038 a year before. This is alongside two years of poor local election results taking the party to fewer than 3000 councillors for the first time in their history.

Perhaps Labour with its trade union support or the Conservative Party with its wealthy backers could survive such an onslaught and buy time to recover. The Liberal Democrats is so grassroots-focused that to lose so many foot soldiers risks leading to a serious spiral of decline.

I was struck by this video that is doing the rounds again depicting a Liberal Democrat activist getting very emotional over his party‚Äôs coalition with the Conservatives. I’m sure it’s a spoof but it is a shorthand reminder that the membership figures suggest there’s a lot of unhappy, disillusioned or upset ex-Liberal Democrat members. I’m not sure what will stem the tide.

Even if the two Coalition parties contrive to part company in 2014, what on Earth would be left of the Liberal Democrats in two years time? What can seem like a sensible plan in Westminster could come with a very high price in the areas across Britain which the Lib Dems are defending. At least two more local elections could seriously take their toll unless something drastic happens.

Membership meltdown might not lead to the Coalition to seperate, but it could certainly create a climate for an alternative Liberal Democrat leader such as Vince Cable to take over, lift the party’s spirits and at least give his party a fighting chance.

Henry G Manson