Who can vote in the Conservative leadership contest?

10 August 2022

Full Fact has received several questions from readers about who can vote in the ongoing Conservative leadership contest, including whether entryists can pay £25 and be eligible to vote, whether foreign nationals living outside the UK can vote, and how many people are eligible to vote in total. 

Details about the Conservative Party’s membership are vague, but we’ve taken a look at the information that is available on how the system works.

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Who is eligible to vote?

Put simply, anyone who has been a member of the Conservative Party for at least three months before the date the ballot closes will be eligible to vote for the new leader. In this contest, the ballot closes at 5pm on 2 September, so you would have to have joined the party on or before 3 June 2022 in order to receive a vote.

As Boris Johnson announced he would resign on 7 July, no one joining the Conservative Party on that date, or later, will be eligible to vote in the upcoming contest. 

It costs £25 a year to be a standard member of the Conservative Party, with reduced rates for those under 26, and serving and veteran members of the Armed Forces. 

How many people can vote?

The Conservative Party does not publicise its exact membership figures. It did however confirm to us that 160,000 members were eligible to vote in the previous leadership contest, which took place in 2019. More are expected to vote this time around.

Estimates of the total number of Conservative Party members range from 150,000 to 200,000, though as we’ve explained, that does not mean all will be eligible to vote in this contest.

For comparison, the Labour Party says it has “over half a million members”, with members of affiliated trade unions also eligible to vote in its leadership contests.

Can non-UK citizens vote in the contest?

The Conservative Party does not require its members to be British citizens, or to live in the UK. Conservative Party supporters who live abroad are able to become party members either by applying for membership through a local Conservative association in the UK, or by becoming a member of Conservatives Abroad by joining the Cities of London and Westminster Conservative Association as an overseas member.

The Conservatives Abroad website states that by doing this “you are entitled to all the benefits of party membership, including participation in the Conservative Policy Forum, attendance at party conferences and a vote in the election of the party leader.”

It also specifies that “you do not have to be a voter or a UK citizen” to join Conservatives Abroad.

This means that it does appear to be possible for people who are not British citizens and do not live in the UK, and so would not be eligible to vote in a UK general election, to be eligible to vote in the upcoming Conservative leadership contest, provided they became a member on or before 3 June. This means it is not possible for non-UK citizens living abroad to influence the outcome of the vote by joining the party after the leadership contest was called.

The Conservative Party confirmed this is the case. We could not confirm how many non-UK citizens are currently registered Conservative Party members. In response to a request to confirm this number, the party told us it does not provide regional breakdowns of members.

Image courtesy of UK Parliament

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