Explaining the pro-Corbyn surge in Labour’s membership

By Monica Poletti, Tim Bale and Paul Webb

In the course of a year and a half, Labour Party membership has increased massively. The number of full members has moved from 190,000 in May 2015 to 515,000 in July 2016 – an influx of 325,000 new members. In this article we explore how we can explain the pro-Corbyn surge in this growth.

As part of our ESRC-funded Party Members Project (PMP), we fielded a first survey with existing Labour members in May 2015 and a second one with post-election members in May 2016.  We now know that at the most recent leadership election those who were members before May 2015 voted predominantly for Owen Smith, whereas the new members opted mainly for Jeremy Corbyn. This prompts a key question: in what respects did the ‘new’ members differ from the ‘old’ members?

In order to find out, we compare these two groups: older members (pre-GE2015) and newer members (who joined after May 2015 but before January 2016 and were therefore eligible to vote in the leadership election).  A number of features stand out: gender; left-wing identity; social liberalism; campaign activism; feelings about the leadership; and the possibility that the ranks of the newer members, and those that support Jeremy Corbyn, may have been swollen by what we call ‘educated left-behinds’ – people who, given their qualifications, might have been expecting to earn more than they currently do.

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From #JezWeCan to #JezWeDid: Why Labour Party members still back Jeremy Corbyn

By  Monica Poletti, Queen Mary University of London

 

Jeremy Corbyn has been reconfirmed as the leader of the Labour Party.

After an intense social media campaign (#JezWeCan and #WeAreHisMedia), he scored a significant win over Owen Smith (61.8% to 38.2%).

Why – even after the turmoil of the past year – do Labour members (and £25 supporters) still want Jeremy Corbyn to be their leader?

Photos taken at the march for refugees on the 12th of September 2015 in London.Leaving aside the fact that the choice of an alternative to Corbyn was mainly framed in terms of somebody who was simply a better communicator than the current leader, could a different type of leader really have appealed to Labour members?

And what is it about Corbyn’s leadership that members value most, particularly those who have joined recently?

We have collected extensive evidence through our party members survey, gathered with the help of YouGov, as part of the Party Members Project (PMP), an ESRC-funded academic project. Continue reading

Here’s what we know about Labour’s £3 supporters – and whether they’ll pay £25 to help Corbyn again

Tim Bale, Queen Mary University of London; Monica Poletti, Queen Mary University of London, and Paul Webb, University of Sussex

Forces on both sides of the Jeremy Corbyn debate are apparently trying to make the most of the 48-hour window within which anyone can register as a supporter of the Labour Party and have a vote in the impending leadership election. Both pro and anti-Corbyn campaigners are hitting the phones and the streets to convince people to pay £25, either to get the current leader out, or keep him in.

The committed Corbynistas of Momentum are apparently doing their best to re-establish contact with people who joined as registered supporters during the last leadership contest at the bargain price of just £3. The aim is to get as many Corbyn backers as possible to pay the increased fee of £25. That way, Momentum hopes, they will deliver another victory for Labour’s sitting leader.

The battle for these £3 supporters is so intense because so little is known about who they are and why they signed up last time. Were they hardline Corbynistas, hard-up party loyalists, or simply troublemakers willing to fork out a few quid to troll Labour? And, just as importantly, what might they do this time?

We surveyed nearly 900 of them a couple of months ago in May 2016, so we thought it would be interesting to take a look at what sort of people they are. Why did they take that cheaper, lower-commitment option rather than going the whole hog and becoming full members of the Labour Party? The answer to this question may, perhaps, tell us something about the £25 supporters who might be clamouring to sign up for a vote now – and whether their interest is good or bad news for Corbyn. Continue reading

Middle-class university graduates will decide the future of the Labour Party

Three-quarters of Labour Party members are ABC1 voters

By Tim Bale, Monica Poletti, Paul Webb

 

We don’t yet know whether it will be Angela Eagle or Owen Smith, or maybe both of them, who ends up running against Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership.  But what we do know – because we reckon we now know lot about the people who will vote in that ballot – is that any challenger is going to have their work cut out.

We surveyed Labour members just after the 2015 General Election, and then ran a second survey in May this year so we could capture those who joined the party after the election.

Now, for the first time, we’ve put those two surveys together in order to come up with a pen-portrait of those people who, because they were members before the NEC’s February cut-off date, will therefore be eligible to vote over the summer. You can find the more detailed figures here.

Staggers_labour_Fig1

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A “bloody difficult woman” – What do the Tory grassroots want from Prime Minister Theresa May?

Paul Webb, University of Sussex; Monica Poletti, Queen Mary University of London, and Tim Bale, Queen Mary University of London

Theresa May has secured her place as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives without having to win the direct approval of her party’s membership. The original plan was for her to run against Andrea Leadsom in an election, but the latter pulled out before a vote could take place.

But that doesn’t mean the views of these Tory foot soldiers are irrelevant. Their support is important to the stability and direction of the government that May will lead. They help establish the general mood of the party on issues and set parameters within which the front bench can – or would be wise to – operate.

So while May will be delighted to have easily won the confidence of the majority of her parliamentary colleagues, she will also be aware of the need to keep in touch with the party’s grassroots supporters. She will be particularly aware of this as a former party chairman. But who are the grassroots, what do they believe in, and what qualities do they want from their leaders?

Thanks to the Party Members Project, we are able to shed some light on the matter. In June 2015, we surveyed a sample of 1,193 members of the Tory grassroots, asking a wide variety of questions about their demographic background and their political attitudes.

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Jezza’s Bezzas: Labour’s New Members

By Tim Bale

Labour is in crisis. Whoever stands in the next leadership contest will have to face its grassroots members, large numbers of whom joined the party to help elect Jeremy Corbyn in 2015.

With the help of YouGov and as part of an ESRC-funded project on UK party membership in the twenty-first century, we (Professor Tim Bale and Dr Monica Poletti (Queen Mary University of London) and Professor Paul Webb (University of Sussex)) have conducted a new survey of Labour’s new members, fielded just after the May 2016 local, devolved and mayoral elections.

We have surveyed 2,026 members and registered supporters of the Labour Party who joined it after the May 2015 general election. This includes 876 people who joined as full members, 280 who initially joined as £3 registered supporters but then upgraded their membership (ie 1,156 full members in total) plus 870 people who are just registered supporters. Tables are available on request.

So what do they look like – and how do they compare with those members the team surveyed back in May 2015, the vast majority of whom were members when Ed Miliband was leader?

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Rules matter: why the current Labour crisis is not (only) about ideology

By Dr Javier Sajuria
Research Associate at the University of Strathclyde and the Constitution Unit

The Labour Party’s current crisis is often characterised as an ideological dispute between the Parliamentary Labour Party and a membership that is significantly more left-wing. But, as Javier Sajuria demonstrates, it is hard to stand this up. The ideological distance between Labour members and MPs is in fact smaller than that between Conservative members and MPs. To explain why many are now suggesting that Labour is on the verge of splitting it is necessary to look at party rules as well as ideology.

The situation within the Labour Party has been described by many as a dispute between the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and the membership. The en masse resignations from the shadow cabinet, followed by a vote of no confidence from 81 per cent of MPs, shows that Jeremy Corbyn has lost the trust of his peers (or perhaps he never really managed to obtain it in the first place). Labour activists, particularly those grouped around the Corbyn-supporting Momentum, accuse the PLP of betraying the party and lining up with the right-wing. On the other hand, MPs respond by pointing out that voters, and not members, elected them and that they have a mandate to protect the party from oblivion.

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