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:
— Will Rayner (@WillRayner__) October 1, 2017
‘Where is everyone?’
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:
Even 4 @RuthDavidsonMSP one of the great Tory stars the conference hall is half empty. Where is everyone
— Andrew Pierce (@toryboypierce) October 1, 2017
— aʟi Hendrick (@The45Storm) October 1, 2017
Step away from the main hall, and the conference looks a bit like a ghost town:
I repeat… where the hell is everyone? pic.twitter.com/Kn1c7JCJRY
— Chris Rumfitt (@chrisrumfitt) October 1, 2017
Even Telegraph journalist Michael Deacon was taking the mick:
If you're arriving late for the speeches at Tory conference, don't worry, still one or two seats left pic.twitter.com/Qf6UIBXAei
— Michael Deacon (@MichaelPDeacon) October 1, 2017
And Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, didn’t hold back:
The Conservative announcements on education policy today in Manchester were as empty as the conference hall itself #CPC17
— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) October 1, 2017
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:
— Stephen Paton 🍂 (@stephenpaton134) October 2, 2017
The Canary approached the Conservative Party for comment, but had received none at the time of publication.
‘Smell of decay’
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.
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?
Last week, the packed Labour conference seemed to reflect the swelling grassroots support for the party:
— Labour Left (@LabourLeft) October 2, 2017
— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) September 27, 2017
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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