The Conservative Conference Looks Like a Ghost Town As Barely Anyone’s Turned Up

The Conservative conference looks a bit awkward, because barely anyone has turned up. The main conference hall was noticeably empty when Conference Chairman Andrew Sharpe took the stage:

Even Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson couldn’t come close to filling the hall on 1 October. Daily Mail journalist Andrew Pierce was left wondering where everyone was:

Step away from the main hall, and the conference looks a bit like a ghost town:

Even Telegraph journalist Michael Deacon was taking the mick:

And Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, didn’t hold back:

Unfortunately for the Conservatives, the conference wasn’t just having a slow first day. Before midday on 2 October, the main hall looked even emptier:

The Conservative Party’s falling membership corresponds with its lack of grassroots attendance. On top of losing a parliamentary majority, Conservative membership has dropped to around 100,000, according to Conservative Home. When put into historical context, such a low membership figure is even more striking. At its peak in 1953, the Conservative Party reportedly boasted about 2.8 million [pdf, section 2.2, p8] members. Labour peaked around the same time, enjoying over 1 million [pdf, section 2.2, p8] members.

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Today, it’s all changed. The Conservative Party has refused to publish membership figures since 2013, when the figure stood at 134,000. This led Conservative Home to say:

Any organisation that won’t declare a figure has the smell of decay about it. Will 2018 be the year when Tory membership drops to below six figures?

By contrast, Labour Party membership had reportedly skyrocketed to 552,000 by June this year. That’s an increase of around 380,000 since Labour supporters elected Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

Last week, the packed Labour conference seemed to reflect the swelling grassroots support for the party:

It doesn’t seem so promising for the ruling party. This week, the Conservative conference looks embarrassingly empty. In order to galvanise grassroots support, the party needs an inspiring vision. But even a Telegraph editorial recently conceded that the “momentum in British politics is with Jeremy Corbyn”.

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