Is Lib Dem membership also increasing?

Labour boasts of 30,000 new recruits but there are signs Lib Dem membership is also on the up.

Labour has made much since the election of an apparent surge in party membership, with up to a third of the 30,000 new recruits former Lib Dems angered by the formation of coalition.

But could Lib Dem membership also be on the up? Here's a letter from Gareth Epps, a party councillor and former PPC, in today's Guardian:

Your report (7 July) of a "surge" in Labour membership makes claims about recruits from the Liberal Democrats. Labour's claims are Walter Mittyish. My local Lib Dem party has had its most sustained membership boost since the 1988 merger. Since the election, we have had ten members joining for each departure. As Labour's crocodile tears continue over cuts they know they would have had to make, Lib Dems on the ground are doing rather well.

Cllr Gareth Epps
Reading, Berkshire

It's always wise to treat claims about party membership with a heavy dose of scepticism (and incidentally, Epps is wrong to imply that there is anything contradictory about Labour winning recruits from the Lib Dems and Lib Dem membership increasing at the same time).

Yet it seems perfectly plausible, not least because of the party's increased exposure, that Lib Dem membership is increasing. At Liberal Democrat Voice, Stephen Tall says that anecdotal evidence suggests this pattern has been replicated across the country.

Either way, if you believe that political parties are essential to democracy (as I do), then increased party membership can only be a good thing.

No word yet from the Tories, who, as I learned from several futile phone calls to CCHQ, are pathologically secretive about party membership.

Hat-tip: Liberal Democrat Voice.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tony Blair won't endorse the Labour leader - Jeremy Corbyn's fans are celebrating

The thrice-elected Prime Minister is no fan of the new Labour leader. 

Labour heavyweights usually support each other - at least in public. But the former Prime Minister Tony Blair couldn't bring himself to do so when asked on Sky News.

He dodged the question of whether the current Labour leader was the best person to lead the country, instead urging voters not to give Theresa May a "blank cheque". 

If this seems shocking, it's worth remembering that Corbyn refused to say whether he would pick "Trotskyism or Blairism" during the Labour leadership campaign. Corbyn was after all behind the Stop the War Coalition, which opposed Blair's decision to join the invasion of Iraq. 

For some Corbyn supporters, it seems that there couldn't be a greater boon than the thrice-elected PM witholding his endorsement in a critical general election. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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