Unless you are part of some Unite-esque scheme to join up as part of a grand revolutionary plan, why would you bother shelling out for a membership card?
Annual conferences are an expensive joke; when it comes to policy, the people at the top are usually a law unto themselves. That only leaves the election of leaders, a ritual that periodically creates small membership surges, before they quickly fall away. Primaries involving registered supporters might be part of the answer, if only as a means of pulling people into parties’ orbits – but unless they fit into a bigger project of collective empowerment, they could just as easily feed the power of the current elites.
Parties, then, need to somehow be both looser and more democratic. But to be loosely organised is often to be dominated by shifting elites, who simply expect members to stuff envelopes and wave flags (witness the US). Democracy necessarily entails a defined body of people. Can all of this be resolved?