British Politics

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 181–206 | Cite as

Labour's lost grassroots: The rise and fall of party membership

  • Hugh Pemberton
  • Mark Wickham-JonesEmail author
Original Article


After years of declining membership, and in the wake of a general election in which it recorded its lowest share of the popular vote since 1983, the Labour party is again attempting to attract new members. This is not, of course, the first time that Labour has attempted to re-create a mass-membership. New Labour deployed many of the same techniques between 1994 and 1997. This article both assesses the extent of the current membership crisis and explores that earlier experience. We outline the basis of Tony Blair's initiative in recruiting new members during the 1990s and detail the extent of the decline in membership after 1997. We examine the state of the party's membership currently and go on to consider the lessons for the party today both of New Labour's initial success in attracting new members and of its ultimate failure to retain them.


Labour party grassroots membership New Labour 



We are extremely grateful to the journal's anonymous referees and to Steve Kettell for their helpful comments and assistance with this article. Responsibility is ours.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Historical StudiesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of BristolBristolUK

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