Panic within Labour as membership falls
LABOUR has dropped to its lowest membership north of the Border in modern times, with just 18,800 members in Scotland.
The figures have been revealed just weeks after the party slumped to a disastrous defeat in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, where a previously safe seat was won by the Liberal Democrats despite a high-profile Labour campaign led by Chancellor Gordon Brown.
Party insiders have admitted to a growing sense of panic within the party as the 2007 Scottish Parliament election looms. They confess that party members are still disillusioned over the Iraq war and lack of momentum in Jack McConnell's Scottish Executive.
The new membership figures have been published in the Scottish Labour annual report, which was given to party members at their Scottish conference in Aviemore last week. They show that the party has lost a fifth of its Scottish membership in four years, with the membership falling to just 18,800.
Labour can console itself by reflecting that it is still the biggest party in Scotland. Although the Scottish Tories have never produced official membership figures, they are reckoned to have about 16,500 members, with the SNP on around 10,000. The Scottish Liberal Democrats have about 5,000.
In the run-up to the 1997 election, Scottish Labour membership peaked at 30,000 as large numbers joined amid the wave of enthusiasm to oust the Tories from office and establish a Scottish Parliament.
One Labour insider admitted: "It's not a very good figure, is it? Being below 20,000 is not where we want to be. It's not the point that we are bigger than the rest. We need a good organisation and membership on the ground if we want to win next year."
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