Are political clubs no longer the home of political discussions?
Once upon a time political club members would come together to share political opinions. Clubs represented a space for like-minded people to socialise. They were great establishments aiming to bring together the next generation of political activists, or to debate the next political change.
Many members now report they don’t actually discuss politics at the club at all. Which leaves many asking this question: what is the future purpose of these social clubs?
Are political club members declining?
It may well be that people are visiting clubs for a drink – but how many are actual bona fide paying members, enjoying the benefit of exclusive club events?
If member numbers are dwindling, political clubs must find another way to attract customers. The ‘political’ aspect of the club might cease to be the main focus, instead becoming a community hub.
That said, with political rivalry fierce and the country showing a renewed interest in political debate, recent years have seen a 15% uplift in club membership for the National Liberal Club. Forward-thinking clubs such as this have evolved to meet the needs of its members. For example, the club announced it was relaxing its dress code in 2018, allowing members to come along to the club tie and jacket free. Steps such as this will help to position these clubs as inclusive.
So how will clubs sell themselves in the future?
Political clubs are facing the challenge of appealing to younger generations, without alienating loyal customers too.
Inexpensive drinks won’t be enough to entice young members to regularly visit their local club. Many already host events such as bingo, pub quizzes or live music – plus providing an hiring option for its members. But is this enough to bring in a regular stream of punters for many years ahead?
Clubs are known for their friendly, welcoming atmosphere and community feel. And this vibe can easily be extended to reach a wide range of people. Social clubs such as Brudenell in Leeds do this particularly well – attracting a huge number of people from across the community to both the bar and live event spaces.
Political clubs could do well to follow suit, offering inclusive events for the whole community from families through to students as well as existing members.
The rise of new clubs
Younger people are still connecting through clubs, though perhaps not necessarily political ones. Makerspaces (also known as hackerspaces) are quickly gaining prominence. There are now around 100 of these clubs in the UK, with this number set to rise. These clubs allow like-minded people to connect, create and share their ideas. Instead of politics being the focus, the focus is on new ideas and innovation.
There is still plenty of room for political clubs to evolve and develop to meet the needs of a wider section of the community. Perhaps providing space for creation and wider discussion as well as politics could attract a wider range of members.
As a specialist insurance broker to political clubs, with partnerships with the top political club associations, we’re proud of their longstanding tradition.
The industry may be at a crossroads, but has two very positive potential routes to choose from. On the one hand, clubs could bring politics right to the top of the agenda. People are showing a revived interest and passion for politics and hubs for debate could be both beneficial and thought-provoking for local communities.
On the other hand, many of these clubs are known and loved not necessarily because of their left or right leaning. People simply love the tradition of labour, liberal and conservative clubs – regardless of their political affiliations.
Whatever the future of these social clubs, we hope they continue to be part of the country’s pub and club scene for many years ahead.