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Exclusive: Tories to announce "tens of thousands" increase in membership at party conference

Party claims that total membership is nearing 200,000.

Party claims that total membership is nearing 200,000.
David Cameron speaks at last year's Conservative conference in Manchester. Photograph: Getty Images.

I noted earlier that Labour and the Lib Dems increased their party memberships last year (from 187,537 to 189,531 in the case of the former and 42,501 to 43,451 in the case of the latter), but what of the Tories? The party again failed to release a figure in its annual accounts, but I'm told by a Conservative source that an announcement will be made at the party's conference in September and that "membership is up on last year". 

After much media pressure, the Tories announced last September that they had 134,000 constituency members (down from more than 250,000 when David Cameron became Conservative leader) and 174,000 in total (a figure that includes "friends" and Conservative Future members). Based on this "wider measure", which the Tories say mirrors that used by Labour, party sources claim that they are "coming up fast on 200,000" and that the figure announced at conference will be "tens of thousands" higher. That could potentially leave them with the largest membership of the three main parties, but the key test will be whether the numbers survive scrutiny.