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Sunday, 26 April 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Posted by Jake on Sunday, April 26, 2015 with No comments | Labels: , , , , ,

A report by the House of Commons Library, "Membership of UK Political Parties", published in January 2015 provides an insight. The report uses data from before the 2010 election. The graphs below show how a particular demographic is represented in a party compared to the UK population of eligible voters as a whole.

It is important to note this House of Commons Library report states "less than 1% of the UK electorate is now a member of the Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat Party". So while the data tells us something about the parties, it tells us nothing about the electorate. Except that the overwhelming majority have declined to join any political party.

To explain the way the graphs work: For example, people who left education at the age of 21 plus make up:
  • 34.7% of all eligible voters
but make up
  • 49.6% of all party members
Therefore, with a greater proportion (49.6%) of party members being over 21 than the proportion (34.7%) of over 21s in the population, over 21s are over-represented as a percentage of the political party's membership.

For this example, the graph below shows the "21 Plus" category as 1.4 =  49.6% ÷ 34.7%

Where a column is greater than 1.0 the demographic is over-represented, and where the column is less than 1.0 the demographic is under-represented.

Splitting this down further, to show representations in each of the three largest parties from the 2010 election:

1) Education: Those who were in education to the age of 21 and over, likely to hold graduate degrees, are significantly more over-represented in the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties than in the Conservative Party.
2) Employment
The Conservatives have an excess of people who are not working: volunteers and the retired.
3) Occupation: Other than Managers and Professionals, all other occupations are under-represented in the political party memberships. The Liberal Democrats are particularly over-heavy with Professionals.
4) Income: The trend shows a positive correlation between higher income and higher party presence.
5) Ethnicity: Non-whites are over-represented, except for a startlingly low presence in the Liberal Democrat party (which, including its predecessor Liberal Party, has only ever had two ethnic minority MPs, one in 1892-95 and the other in 2004-05).
6) Gender: Men are over-represented in all three parties, as they are in Parliament.
Do party memberships actually have very much influence? Some at Conservative Central Office are reported as having referred to party members dismissively as 'swivel eyed loons'. But Sir Humphrey Appleby, of the satire "Yes Minister" where truth was spoken as comedy, said: “MPs are not chosen by 'the people' - they are chosen by their local constituency parties: thirty-five men in grubby raincoats or thirty-five women in silly hats.” 

While the party High Commands parachute favoured individuals into the very safest seats, most backbench voting-fodder would not have arrived in Parliament without the blessing of their local constituency party members.

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