Who exactly are the 160,000 Tory members who will choose the next Prime Minister?

Who exactly are the 160,000 Tory members who will choose the next Prime Minister?

    (Rex/PA)

(Rex/PA)

Tory MPs have now voted five times to narrow their lead race to just two candidates. Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will face off, and the winner will replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

Unlike the previous rounds, however, this one has a broader electorate: Tory members can vote on who of the two becomes party leader.

We can expect to see the tenor of race change as candidates seek to appeal beyond the parliamentary party and to membership in general. But who are these people?

How many?

We don’t know how many Conservative party members there are because the party has stopped publishing official figures.

But we do know that when Boris Johnson became prime minister there were at least 160,000 people in the party. Because so many people were eligible to participate in the last leadership competition in 2019. According to the party, the number is likely to be higher this time.

Delegates at the Tory conference (Getty Images)

Delegates at the Tory conference (Getty Images)

Where do you live?

A useful resource for understanding party membership is the Economic and Social Research Council’s Party Members Project, led by academics Tim Bale, Paul Webb, and Monica Poletti.

The latest figures available to the project on Conservative party membership suggest the member is largely elected by people living in London and the South East.

As of January 2020, the project found that a full 56 per cent of Tory members live in London and the South East. Only 18 per cent live in the Midlands, 20 per cent in the north of England and 6 per cent in Scotland.

Many Tories live in London and the South East (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Many Tories live in London and the South East (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

To some extent, this may explain why leadership candidates have not spoken much about the government’s alleged flagship “leveling” policy. That’s aimed at voters in marginal seats who need to win them in general elections, not people competing in leadership contests.

what is her background

One thing that is striking about Conservative Party members, according to Party Members’ Project data, is that they are predominantly male. 63 percent of Tory members are male, compared to 37 percent female.

They’re older, too: just 6 percent of members are under the age of 24, while 36 are between the ages of 25 and 49. The majority after 50 and older: 19 percent between 50 and 64 years and 39 percent over 65.

The members also tend to belong to the middle class. 80 percent belong to the highest socioeconomic group, ABC1, which is used by marketers to denote diverse backgrounds. This should be taken as a rough guide as the NRS social grade system has been the subject of criticism in recent years.

    (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Perhaps more interesting is the fact that 40 per cent of Conservative members earn more than the national average and one in 20 earns over £100,000. This is particularly notable given that around 4 in 10 are entitled to their pensions.

Data released by the same scientists found that 97 percent of Tory members are white, slightly outside of the general population where 87 percent of the population is white.

It should be noted that all political parties have a reasonably middle class, white and older membership – although by these numbers the Conservative Party is the most middle class, the whitest, the oldest and most importantly the male.

What are your political beliefs?

This is the subject of some debate and difficult to quantify. In general, however, the data seems clear that Tory members’ views are a little closer to the rest of the British public than at least the most outspoken Conservative MPs.

Take your stand on climate change: An Opinium poll earlier this month found just 37 per cent of Conservative Members believe the UK government is “overreacting” on climate change, with 22 per cent saying it is underreacting and 30 per cent saying they are it’s getting politics right.

Boris Johnson and Brexit items for sale at the Tory conference

A Boris Johnson doll for sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (PA)

A Boris Johnson doll for sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (PA)

Mugs with Boris Johnson's portrait on sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (AP)

Mugs with Boris Johnson’s portrait on sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (AP)

A Boris Johnson-themed T-shirt for sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (AFP/Getty)

A Boris Johnson-themed T-shirt for sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (AFP/Getty)

Boris Johnson and other Conservative issue cards for sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (AP)

Boris Johnson and other Conservative issue cards for sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (AP)

Boris Johnson posters on sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (EPA)

Boris Johnson posters on sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (EPA)

Copies of The Conservative newspaper to be distributed during Conservative Convention on Sept. 30 (Getty)

Copies of The Conservative newspaper to be distributed during Conservative Convention on Sept. 30 (Getty)

Various Conservative goods for sale at the party conference in Manchester on September 29 (PA)

Various Conservative goods for sale at the party conference in Manchester on September 29 (PA)

Books about Jacob Rees-Mogg and Jeremy Corbyn for sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (Getty)

Books about Jacob Rees-Mogg and Jeremy Corbyn for sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (Getty)

A variety of books for sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (Getty)

A variety of books for sale at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on September 29 (Getty)

This is in contrast to market uproar among some Tory MPs who are pushing for Net Zero to be scrapped. While other polls have shown that climate protection is low on members’ list of priorities, there is little to prevent active antipathy to climate action.

A similar picture emerges when it comes to the size of the state – a question Tory MPs seem to be concerned with. In the early rounds of leadership contests, candidates tried to highlight the huge tax cuts they would make to win votes.

But again, that’s something the members don’t think nearly as ideologically about. Opinium found that just 29 per cent of Tory members want less tax or spending, while 20 per cent say they want more. 38 percent say the balance should remain as it is now.

On the issue of Brexit, however, members are where you might expect them to be: only 24 percent supported staying in the EU referendum, while 76 percent spoke in favor of leaving.

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