“A former Conservative chairman has warned Theresa May that the party’s refusal to admit to its plunging membership rolls is “embarrassing”.
Grant Shapps urged the Prime Minister to “come clean” about how few people are paid up members – after a party campaigner suggested the figure is as low as 70,000.
It is four years since the Tories, under David Cameron, reluctantly revealed their membership total, refusing to respond to requests since for up-to-date information.
Most estimates put the figure at around 100,000, but the head of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy said he believed it had dropped to just 70,000.
In stark contrast, Labour said it had 552,000 members last summer. Both the Scottish National Party (118,000) and the Liberal Democrats (103,000) also reported six-figure totals.
Now Mr Shapps, who was sacked as chairman in 2015, has said “transparency” is vital, even if the membership figure turned out to to be “embarrassing”.
He warned that “coming clean about membership is step number one” in rebuilding the Conservative Party’s campaigning strength for the next general election.
Mr Shapps told the BBC that he had first told Mr Cameron, in 2013, that it was “embarrassing not to publish the figures and it will help us increase the membership – and it did”.
And he said the party needed to follow the lead of Labour and the Lib Dems in allowing members to play a role in policy formation.
The criticism comes after a report by academics at Queen Mary University, suggested at least 44 per cent of Tory members are over 65 and 71 per cent are male. …”