ABSTRACT

Introduction The study of party membership and activism in Britain is well established and genuinely pioneering. Seyd and Whiteley (1992) prepared the way for the modern party membership survey in the early 1990s, with their examination of Labour members, and since the publication of Labour’s Grassroots a series of other studies have added to our knowledge of party members and what ‘makes them tick’ (Rüdig et al. 1991; Seyd and Whiteley 2002; Whiteley et al. 1994; 2006; Bennie 2004; Mitchell et al. 2012; Childs and Webb 2011). The dominant message to emerge from this research is that while membership is in long-term decline, and while parties have been subject to signifi cant organizational change over the last half-century (broadly becoming more professionalized over time), party members remain crucial to the functioning of modern parties. It is therefore paradoxical that recent coverage of party membership emphasizes the unremitting decline in numbers of people joining (Clark 2014; The Economist 2012). It seems that the act of joining a political party is now passé .