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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Exclusive: Shami Chakrabarti set to become shadow attorney general

The Labour peer and former Liberty director is expected to join Jeremy Corbyn's team next week. 

With the conclusion of Labour conference (here are five lessons from it), Jeremy Corbyn's attention will turn to assembling a new shadow cabinet. The leadership is expected to agree to allow MPs to elect a proportion of the frontbench. But Corbyn intends to begin appointments next week in advance of a deal.

Shami Chakrabarti, who recently became a Labour peer and chaired the party's anti-Semitism inquiry, is set to become shadow attorney general, I can reveal. The barrister and former Liberty director "wants to do more" and the "gig is a no brainer," a source said. Her slated brief has been unfilled since Karl Turner's resignation in June. 

Others expected to join the shadow cabinet include Keir Starmer (who could become shadow home secretary following Andy Burnham's departure), former shadow housing minister John Healey and former shadow Wales secretary Nia Griffith. Stephen Pound is said to have turned down the post of shadow leader of the House, currently filled by 81-year-old Paul Flynn, who doubles up as shadow Wales secretary. In his conference speech, he praised Corbyn's "job creation scheme for geriatrics". 

The Labour reshuffle is expected to begin next Wednesday, the day the Conservative conference ends. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.