A LABOUR MP has dismissed an almost 20% drop in his party’s membership north of the Border as part of the “natural cycle” of politics.

Glasgow North East MP Paul Sweeney spoke out after it emerged 4,674 people have quit Scottish Labour over the last 12 months, with membership falling from 25,836 in January 2018 to 21,162 last month, according to reports.

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

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

Speaking on BBC One’s Sunday Politics Scotland, he 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 Eastwood, a constituency with a sizeable Jewish population, the branch’s membership was down from 621 in January 2018 to 385 last month, a reduction of 38%.

Sources told the paper the party’s handing of anti-Semitism allegations, as well as Leonard’s stance on Brexit – which saw him back the triggering of Article 50 to begin the process of leaving the EU – were reasons for the decline.

Kirsty Blackman MP, the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster, claimed the drop showed Labour were “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.”

Meanwhile, it emerged that Conservatives have grabbed a seven-point poll lead amid rumours the party is mulling whether to call a snap General Election.

In a major blow for Corbyn, Labour support slumped by six points from 40% to 34% in the past fortnight, while backing for the Conservatives grew from 37% to 41%, according to an Opinium poll for The Observer.

It marks the largest poll lead for the Tories since the snap election in June 2017 – in which May lost her Commons majority. The survey also showed that public approval of Corbyn’s handling of Brexit had fallen to a new low of 16%, down from 18% two weeks ago. Meanwhile, only 42% of Labour members said they supported their party leader’s approach.

But reports the Tories were preparing for another snap election were dismissed by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

He said “the last thing we want is a General Election”, emphasising that the government is still hoping to secure a time limit or unilateral exit mechanism for the Irish border backstop from Brussels.

The Home Secretary dismissed newspaper reports that Downing Street strategists were considering holding a snap General Election on June 6 if Theresa May cannot get her Brexit deal through parliament before the March 29 deadline.

“The last thing we want is a General Election, the people will never forgive us for it,” Javid told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show. “They want politicians to get on with the job. They have been given a very clear mandate, now it’s our job to get on with it.”