Card-carried away: what does it mean to be a member of a political party in Britain today?

Introducing our special themed week about party membership, running from 15– 19 June 2015.

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You are as likely to believe Elvis is still alive as to be a member of a political party in the UK. Party membership here is tiny compared to that of our European counterparts, and has been in freefall for decades.

But sandwiching the general election was a flurry of hysteria about party membership figures. The Greens have overtaken Ukip! What are the Tories hiding? The SNP has amassed as many members as Scottish Labour in just one week! Lib Dem membership is plummeting! Lib Dem membership is surging!

Why such excitement when the card-carrying proportion of the population remains around the 1 per cent mark? And what does it mean to be a member of a political party in Britain today?

This week, the New Statesman web team is looking behind the numbers to discover trends emerging in party membership, and to find out how people benefit from being a member of a party.

Look out for:

Why it would be impossible for Scottish Labour to go it alone.

The ordinary Lib Dem member who wrote the Tory government’s flagship tax policy.

Behind the scenes as a party membership secretary.

How Green members can influence policy, however bizarre, for decades.

What the SNP will use their supersized activist base for now they’ve stormed Westminster.

Demographic profiles of people who support each of Britain’s major political parties.

Just how many members of the Labour party are in London.