A disproportionate number of Labour members who have joined since the 2015 general election are “high-status city dwellers” pursuing well-paid jobs, according to internal party data.
The party is doing less well when it comes to attracting rural dwellers, elderly people and those struggling to make ends meet, leaked documents show.
Labour said: “We don’t comment on leaked documents.” But the figures are part of an official internal analysis of the party’s rising membership covering the period since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. The data was commissioned internally and sent to Labour’s national executive committee last week.
The report portrays a party in transition, attracting a higher proportion of new members from wealthy inner-city areas. While there has been a dramatic rise in members across the entire party, Labour’s traditional supporters from poorer parts of society are now a smaller proportion of the total membership.
The data also shows that2015 saw double the normal number of resignations from the party and a spike in the number of cancelled direct debits since September – an indication of the number of members unhappy with the party’s new leadership.
The figures will be seized upon by critics of the new Labour leader as proof that the party has been taken over by wealthy urban dwellers. Last week, party grandee Lord Watts criticised Labour’s leadership for “eating their croissants” and living in London mansions while failing to appeal to ordinary voters.
But those close to Corbyn claim the party’s membership continuing to rise across all sectors of society since he became leader.
The document shows that at the end of 2015, Labour’s membership stood at 388,103 – up 194,349 on the 2014 figure and the largest number since 1998.
But the report’s summary warns that “groups which are over-represented as Labour party members tend to be long-term homeowners from urban areas (particularly inner city area) who have high levels of disposable income.
“Those who are under-represented tend to be either young singles/families who rent properties on a short-term basis and require financial assistance or those who live in rural communities,” it says.
According to the document, Labour has analysed 80% of its party’s membership using Mosaic, a classification system used to categorise people into different social bands. It points out that “high-status city dwellers living in central locations and pursuing careers with high rewards are highly over-represented”.
“As a group they make up 4% of the general population in contrast to 11.2% of party membership,” it says.
The report says the party has 36,646 members categorised as coming from a category it calls “city prosperity”, and 19,917 of these have joined since the general election - an increase of 119%.
In contrast, the summary also points out that families with limited resources “who have to budget to make ends meet” are under-represented in the party, making up 4% of membership, in comparison with 8.7% of the population. Even in this category, however, since the general election there has been an increase in the number of members from 5,966 to 7,101.
Labour is also attracting 10% of its overall membership from those categorised by Mosaic as being in “prestige positions” – affluent, home-owning married couples enjoying financial security. This category makes up 9% of the general population.
The party appears to have had less success trying to attract elderly voters since the election – a key target group if the party is to win in 2020, according to the report.
The data shows that the party has 11,190 members categorised as “vintage value” – people over 70 who tend to live alone in social or private housing. Around 3,000 of these members have joined since the general election – an increase of 41%.
In an indication of the turmoil within the party since the election, the document also shows that there have been 6,627 resignations from the party this year – twice the usual number – while another 15,284 memberships have lapsed.
“While we have experienced huge growth, we have also experienced some significant losses, with the number of resigners in 2015 around double the normal level,” the report notes.
It also says that there has been a “spike [in] those leaving the party from September onwards” – the month when Corbyn was elected. Figures show that between September and December, more than 7,500 members cancelled their direct debit membership payments. “A spike in direct debits does indicate an active choice to terminate payment,” the report says.
Senior party figures, many of whom have connections to the north of England, claim the party has been taken over by a north London elite and remain concerned about the threat from Ukip in Labour’s working class heartlands.
Lord Watts, the former leader of the parliamentary party, told the House of Lords last week: “My advice to my own party leadership is that they should take less notice of the London-centric, hard-left political class who sit around in their £1m mansions, eating their croissants at breakfast and seeking to lay the foundations for a socialist revolution.
“It is not the job of the parliamentary Labour party to sit around developing ultra-leftwing policies that make it feel good. It is its job and responsibility to come forward with policies that will help us win the next general election.”
John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw and a critic of Corbyn, called last week for the party to introduce a mansion tax for Labour members living in £1m homes.
This article was written by Rajeev Syal, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 20th January 2016 19.38 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010