Liberal versus SDP

One of the things that saddens me is that there is still a mentality of some within the Liberal Democrats that is suspicious of those who started their politcal careers in the SDP. This year is the 25th anninversary of the inception of the SDP – and we in the Liberal Democrats should be celebrating the contribution that the SDP made to the shape of our party today – and the successes it has enjoyed.

One could argue that the Liberal Party would have come back on it’s own – and perhaps it would. But the SDP caused the biggest shake up of the British political scene imaginable. The British people were crying out for an alternative to Thatcherism, and a Labour Party in the grip of Militant was not it. Had the Liberal Party of the day been in good enough shape at the time, there would have been no need for the SDP.

Alliance and eventual merger between the Liberals and the SDP could never have happened had it not been for the fact that so many of our core values were essentially the same. If the marriage had not been so appropriate, many more leading SDP figures would have returned to Labour once Kinnock had weeded out the hard left. As it is, many leading SDP figures are now leading Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats, and the British political scene, are richer for the contibutions of the SDP. We are not just Liberals – we are Liberal Democrats. We should focus more on the things that unite us.

For anyone who diagrees with this – there is always the continuation Liberal Party. I believe they have a handful of councillors somewhere…

3 thoughts on “Liberal versus SDP”

  1. Analysis pretty well spot-on.

    Labour partisans never tire of maintaining that the SDP kept the Tories in power for 18 years. Not so. There was a poll conducted after the 1983 general election which showed that Alliance voters were equally divided in their 2nd preferences: the truth is, without the Alliance, Labour would have suffered an even bigger hammering.

    The SDP brought 1,000s of people into politics who had never before been politically committed. Yes, there were one or two discredited Labour Party hacks trying to salvage their careers, but the majority were perfectly genuine in wanting to build a modern, progressive left-of-centre movement.

    The SDP was ruined, of course. But that was the work of Owen and his followers, not the people who are now in the Liberal Democrats (like Charles Kennedy and Chris Huhne).

    The Liberals who berated the SDP were also out of step with the Liberal Party leadership. Most were oppositionist one-man-bands who feared the imposition of a rule-book. Others were sectarian romanticists nostalgic for some golden era that never was.

    Until today, I thought the latter group had died out while the former had grown up. Obviously, one or two are still intent on fighting yesterday’s battles.

  2. I can see why people were suspicious of the SDP, it was a socialist party, something which is anathema to liberals.
    However, as has been said, above, those who have stayed can definitely be called liberals.

    It is certainly not a reason to shun Chris Huhne, he left Labour after Gordon Brown started talking about nationalising all the multinationals in Scotland or something similarly stupid.
    I suspect he joined the SDP because they were a new radical voice.

    The Liberal Party was so sidelined, people just wouldn’t have thought of joining them, even if they were liberals in many cases.

    That’s my take on it from someone who can only look back on it.

    If Polly Toynbee had continued in the LibDems I’d be very worried, but her and her ilk went back to Labour, because the LibDems are a liberal party.

  3. Just came across this post while searching for another reference to SDP. As someone who came into politics because of the SDP, in an area where the SDP became quite good at winning (local) elections, just thought I would say “hear, hear” to the original post.

    As to Tristan’s comment: socialist? I think not.

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