Drop in Labour membership part of natural cycle of politics, MP says

An almost 20% drop in Labour members in Scotland is part of the “natural cycle” of politics, one of the party’s MPs said.

Glasgow North East MP Paul Sweeney spoke out after the Herald on Sunday reported 4,674 people have quit Scottish Labour over the last 12 months.

Labour membership in Scotland has fallen from 25,836 in January 2018 to 21,162 last month, according to the paper.

Kirsty Blackman MP, the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster, claimed it showed Labour was “on the path to terminal decline and total irrelevance in Scotland”.

She added: “No-one will be surprised that their toxic support for Tory plans to drag Scotland out of the EU against our will has led to a mass exodus of party members right across the country.”

Labour Party sources insist the number of members it has in Scotland has almost doubled since the time of the independence referendum in 2014.

Mr Sweeney said the fall in membership was part of a “natural cycle” because the party had a leadership election in 2017, which saw Richard Leonard elected as Scottish leader in November of that year, ahead of rival MSP Anas Sarwar.

Mr Sweeney, speaking on BBC One’s Sunday Politics Scotland show, said: “That’s a natural cycle because last year we had a leadership election.

“As many people who are familiar with party political dynamics will know, many people join parties in order to participate in leadership elections.”

According to the Herald on Sunday, the number of Labour members in the party’s former Glasgow heartland has fallen by 1,545 in the last 12 months, with membership over the nine constituency branches in the city dropping from 5,814 to 4,269.

It was also reported that in the Eastwood Constituency Labour Party branch alone, membership was down from 621 in January 2018 to 385 last month, a reduction of 38%.