Labour vs the SDP: 31 years on – who was right?

26th March, 2012 12:26 pm

Today, 26th March, is the 31st anniversary of the foundation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) by Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams.

I remember what I saw as a nine year old at the time – my Labour-supporting parents’ reaction to this was one of feeling utterly betrayed by people who had been popular Cabinet Ministers in the Labour governments of the 1960s and 1970s. “Traitors” was as the mild end of the language I heard used about the SDP.

The passage of 31 years has dampened some of that feeling of betrayal, and many of the SDP’s activists have ended up back in the Labour Party where they belong.

But 31 years has also comprehensively answered the question about who was right amongst the Labour moderates in 1981, those who stayed and fought or those who joined the SDP.

At the time in 1981 many people faced a genuinely agonising decision which split friendships and political alliances that had existed for lifetimes.

The Labour Party seemed by any reasonable analysis to be heading for electoral hell in a handcart. Successive party conferences had seen rule changes that made it easier for MPs to be removed by their local activists, weakened the leadership’s say over the manifesto, and removed the exclusive right of MPs to pick the leader. This last one now sounds uncontroversial as our Electoral College enfranchises ordinary members of the Party and of unions, but in those days there were no One Member One Vote ballots so the MPs were losing out not to hundreds of thousands of members but to General Secretaries wielding block votes and to small cliques of activists casting CLP mini-block votes.

At the same time the Party was reacting to defeat by moving away from the electorate on policy, not towards it, adopting unpopular policies on nationalisation of key industries, unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from the Common Market and an Alternative Economic Strategy premised on a protectionist siege economy and autarky. This culminated in a 1983 manifesto characterised as the “longest suicide note in history”.

And the atmosphere inside the Party was foul, uncomradely, bitter and in some CLPs intimidatory. Long-standing councillors and MPs were being subjected to orchestrated witch-hunts to deselect them for the crime of having obeyed the whip, or the thought crime of being insufficiently leftwing on a range of key issues. Many of the victims were themselves from the traditional Bevanite left of the party but had failed to keep pace with the acceleration to the left of Tony Benn and his supporters. Annual Conference had seen almost ritualised denunciations of the “selling out” of the Callaghan Government, with very personalised attacks on ex-Ministers. Militant Tendency, also known as the Trotskyist Revolutionary Socialist League, was in control of the youth section of the Labour Party and of a number of CLPs.

Michael Foot, an honourable man of the traditional democratic left, had beaten the more publicly popular Denis Healey to become Leader in November 1980 and whatever his intellectual and oratorical qualities seemed totally unsuited to leading a bitterly divided party in a TV age.

In these circumstances it is perhaps unsurprising that 28 Labour MPs thought Labour was doomed or just too unpleasant a party to stay in, and walked to the SDP.

What is more surprising and admirable, and only with the benefit of 31 years of historical hindsight showed better judgement, is that so many more equally moderate Labour MPs stayed put.

John Smith, Roy Hattersley, Denis Healey, George Robertson, Giles Radice, to name but a few, could have joined the SDP, and shared the views on all the key issues like CND, Europe, the economy, of its founders.

That they didn’t is as much down to tribal loyalty as to rational thinking. They probably had as pessimistic an analysis of Labour’s future as the SDP defectors did but ties of loyalty to their CLPs, their unions, their friends, and sentimental attachment to Labour kept them in the Party. The authoritative book on the SDP, “SDP: The Birth,
Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party” by Ivor Crewe and Anthony King, analyses the decisions to defect or not in detail.

As well as these leadership figures, a core of moderate backroom organisers stayed and kept up the fight, key among them being the late John Golding and current MPs John Spellar and Roger Godsiff. They started a long process, using the more moderate trade unions as a starting base, of winning back the party to sanity and electability, starting with Healey’s 0.8% win over Benn for Deputy Leader, where the abstention of “soft left” MPs like Neil Kinnock heralded a coming to terms with reality by the less hardline part of the Party’s left.

Those that stayed and fought had their sentimental, tribal, gut-instinct attachment to Labour even in the darkest of days vindicated and in spades.

It was not the SDP that provided Britain with a landslide centre-left victory and 13 years of progressive government, but a renewed and regenerated Labour Party. Labour’s best days were ahead of it, not behind it.

The SDP story which started with such a fanfare and promise of “breaking the mould” on 26th March 1981 has ended in the squalid spectacle of ex-SDP member Andrew Lansley presiding over the assault on the NHS, SDP founder Shirley Williams acting as his chief apologist, ex-SDP members Vince Cable, Chris Huhne and Tom McNally serving as Lib Dem Ministers in a Tory-led Coalition, ex-SDP members Mike Hancock and Bob Russell voting as Lib Dem backbenchers for Tory
policies, and ex-SDP members Greg Clark, Chris Grayling and David Mundell joining Lansley as Tory MPs. Only David Owen salvages some dignity by standing by the NHS and the social democratic principles he espoused then.

Lessons from this:

  • Tribal loyalty to the Labour Party is a much under-rated virtue. Stick with your Party even at the worst of times.
  • Any centre-left party not anchored in the working class and its interests via the union link is about as much long-term use as a chocolate teapot.
  • Good organisation can win through in the most adverse circumstances – the Labour moderates who stayed and fought eventually won because they had better politics but also better organisation than their opponents.
  • Labour is remarkably resilient as a political party. Its core values and core support are such that it can take remarkable punishment and bounce back.
  • Things are not half as bad now as they were then – this time round Labour finally broke with the habit of 1931, 1951, 1970 and 1979 and did not form a circular firing squad after General Election defeat.

So on the anniversary of a day of infamy and betrayal in Labour’s history let’s not remember the SDP’s founders but instead remember the courage of those who stayed and fought so that Labour might have a future.

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  • AlanGiles

    . Successive party conferences had seen rule changes that made it easier for MPs to be removed by their local activists”

    Now it is too hard. There are a few “Labour” MPs who should be deselected. Top of my list would be the Honourable Member for Birkenhead, best mate of Duncan-Smith, (Field) and some of the more repulsive expenses fiddlers – I had best not say who, just in case I am accused of “rocking the boat”.

    • Chilbaldi

      Field, of course, was subject of a failed deselection attempt by Militant in the past.

      • AlanGiles

        True – many years ago, and I beleieve he threatened to sue, so anxious was he to cling on like dirty glue, alas, since those days he has grown ever more right-wing and his obsession with benefit claimants is as Enoch Powell was with immigrants – in fact listen to an old recording of Powell, intoning very deliberately and mournfully and then listen to Field.

        At the next election he will be well past retirement age, and unless we want another Gerald Kaufmann situation (who staggers on past 80, despite the problems he admits to with OCD) he should be taken to one side and told he has served his time. If he won’t go voluntarily, then he should be sent on his way.

        • treborc

           OCD is that Old Conservative dementia

          • Its even harder for the Tories to dislodge a sitting MP. I recall the late Sir Alan Glyn, who Windsor and Maidenhead Tories were desperate to shift as he had gone out to lunch many years before and never returned. Interestingly. Tam Dalyell wrote his obituary as they shared an interest in foreign affairs and said that :
            “IT IS a great mistake to haunt the corridors of the Commons and of the Palace of Westminster too long. I fear that most current members of the House will remember Alan Glyn as a creaky, occasionally cantankerous old buffer. This is a pity. 

          • Chilbaldi

            ha! very good.

      • AlanGiles

        I think Mr Field has another job to go to: From the “They Work For You” website under Members Interests:

        “1. Remunerated directorships
        Medicash Health Benefits Ltd (non –executive). Address: Merchants Court, 2-12 Lord Street, Liverpool, L2 1TS. In my capacity as non-executive director I attend meetings and offer advice. I was appointed non-executive Chairman of the Board on 20 June 2011.”
        Unless he is a doctor, I fail to understand what “advice” he could offer that the company couldn’t obtain from a source other than a serving M.P.

        Strange how many right-wing Labourites have interests in the private health industry!

        • treborc

          Labour of course nearly allowed the private sector in, with UNUM Provident having a special advisor to labour who brought in Welfare reforms. UNUM Provident took over the department he worked at in Cardiff, so had personal contact with a special advisor.

          Why would anyone pay Blair millions, well of course Blair has contact with ministers ,MPs and the leader of the Tory party.

          If you become a minister in a department like planning and you want to open up retail units, then once a minister steps down his contact are worth millions to the retailer.

          Hence the two year rule, which has been totally ignored.

    • ThePurpleBooker

      Go away!

      • AlanGiles

        How grown up your arguments are Book!

        I bet you are a real wow down the youth club’s debating society with your incisive wit 🙂

    • Robert_Crosby

      Can I add Graham Allen to Field’s name?  Pomposity personified, he never looks happier than when Duncan-Smith is praising him for his own little piece of collaboration.  Also, never to be forgotten for being the idiot who went on the 10 O’ Clock News to stick the boot into Brown as Purnell resigned.

      • AlanGiles

        Yes Robert there are quite a few who should have been put out to grass in 2010, and I honestly think that many more should have been charged with fraud over expenses, and if found guilty, a mandatory six month prison sentence – I don’t just mean Labour of course, but all of them. Give them a chance to reflect on their dishonesty.

        • Robert_Crosby

          I completely agree with you, Alan.

  • Duncan Hall

    Tribal loyalty to the Labour Party is a much under-rated virtue. Stick with your Party even at the worst of times.

    Well I agreed with this statement, Luke, even if I found your characterisation of Labour in the early 80s completely inaccurate.

    Without naming names, I think there were different levels of “admirable” “moderate” amongst the party right who stayed.  There were those who should be admired, and there were those who were – at least for a period of time – a self-conscious enemy within, serving the SDP (or perhaps even Thatcher) while still holding membership cards.

    I assume you will doubt this, although you level equally harsh allegations against many of the “hard left” who stayed despite the bitter and unpleasant attacks that we faced at the hands of “New Labour”.

    • Luke Akehurst

      I’ve never heard that viewpoint before (despite hanging out in a CLP with a lot of people from the left). Can you drop me an email to expand a bit? Genuinely interested.

  • treborc

    So on the anniversary of a day of infamy and betrayal in Labour’s
    history let’s not remember the SDP’s founders but instead remember the
    courage of those who stayed and fought so that Labour might have a

    Infamy, Infamy, they have it “in for me”.

    lets just see where labour end up in 2015 then we will know if labour can get enough of the middle class to vote for it.

    It’s going to be interesting.

    For me I will be voting Labour at the next election, the Welsh Assembly elections.

    The English election well that’s for England

    • Johnmartin

      I remained with the rump SDP. In the end politics is about policy.There were several issues preventing me from re-joining the Labour Party (I had been a member for 20 years): the legal  position of the trade union movement; unilateral nuclear disarmament; anti- Europeanism; internal policy making dominated by the centre – and, yes,  Michael Foot. None of these issues dominate politics today. I vote Labour. 

      • Duncan

         “internal policy making dominated by the centre”?  Funny, decentralisation of policy-making seemed to be what the SDP opposed!

      • AlanGiles

        Something needs to be said about Michael Foot: Whether you agreed with him or not, he was a very sincere man, who had principles and strong beliefs: he did not change his viewpoint every month based on what focus groups or opinion polls said, to ingratiate himself with readers of the Sun.

        Like Ed Miliband and to some extent Neil Kinnock he was the victim of vicious press campaigns (the infamous “Cenotaph Donkey Jacket” casus beli): it was NOT a “donkey jacket” it was another press invention (in the same way Jim Callaghan never said “Crisis, what crisis”?). That again was one of the spiteful inventions of the “Sun” – they repeated it so often people believed it was true. “Red Ed” is the modern equivalent – of course EM is no more “red” in the pejorative News International sense than his brother, but what does the Sun care out truth? – as long as there is a tarty topless model  on page three and yet more news about the vacuous life on Simon Cowell, that is all they and their readers care about.

        Michael Foot was man of great knowledge and integrity, and a reminder of the days when politics was about ideas,  not about looks and being tarted up like a matinee idol.

  • “Successive party conferences had seen rule changes that made it easier for MPs to be removed by their local activists, weakened the leadership’s say over the manifesto, and removed the exclusive right of MPs to pick the leader.”We should do this again.

  • I take a rather different lesson from the years 1979-83.
    1979 like 2010 marked the end of a long period when the labour movement  dominated politics, even under Heath the tories seemed under siege. The result of the 1979 election wasnt that different from 1974, the big shift came at the next election when labour lost 10% in vote share & the alliance gained 11%.
    Labour survived in 1983 because they came from a high base, you cant afford to lose even a third of that this time.
    Lets see the results in  5 weeks, that should give us some clues about 2015.

  • Chris Edgerton

    31 years on, SDP’s founded by a bunch of political geeks to see if they could manufacture a new political party at the expense of the voter

    • treborc

      Talk about manufacturing a New Party, New labour.

  • Davdgant

    Luke, what are Labour’s core values? When were they first and finally etched in stone? Did they manage to survive the Blair years? What core values was Labour following when it invaded Iraq; began to privatise the NHS; launched PFI; sold out to Murdoch; abolished the 10p tax rate; failed to regulate the banks; supported the property bubble…?

    The truth is thus: the Labour party will do and say whatever it needs to to win and then remain in power. 

  • Chris Edgerton

    Who makes an MP? A notable conservative before the Blear administration said he would willingly exchange half of his conservatives MPs in exchange for Labour MPs

  • Politique

    15 years on from New Labour. Blairite versus Brownite. Who was right Luke.

    Answers on a post card to Progressonline.

    To understand the SDP you have to understand the history of Social Democracy. It does not start on 1981.

    Not sure you fully grasp the concept behind social democracy as their is little reference to Roy Hattersley, Tony Crosland and our German counterparts including Eduard Bernstein.

    Have you read the SDP core values. They are more in line with the English Democrats, particularly the bit about an English Parliament.

    Perhaps that is why there is a English Democrat Mayor in the heartland of Labour territory in Doncaster. Has somebody told Ed Miliband that the SDP is making a comeback in his own constituency…and he cannot stop it

    On the point of the Mayoral System, the Labour Leader is for a Mayoral System and against a referendum, 44 of his own Labour District Councillors are against a Mayoral system and for a referendum. Labour Party members are for a referendum, the public support a referendum.

    No lets revisit MPs that are parachuted into communities from London and are in touch with their own constituency.

    This does not appear to be the case here does it Luke

    You at least recognise that a 1981 moment is upon us, that is………

    • AlanGiles

      15 years on from New Labour. Blairite versus Brownite.   ”

      In the end, there was little difference: It started with Blair and Mandelson and at the end Brown bought Mandy back. The signs were already there for the peering at: Brown dug in to insist on PPP for London Underground, which was a very “Blair” concept, and in the dog days, after Peter Hain resigned as Welfare Secretary, Brown allowed the inexperienced and jejune James Purnell to implement the Freud Report in full – just as Freud was jumping ship to join the Tories.

      I think the real difference was Brown felt it was his turn, he felt that he had been cheated, and Blair, his majority slashed by 100 in 2005 knew the jig was almost up for him, but as for the philosophy of the two, if I may just this once borrow a very crude expression I heard once about the pair of them – “they were two cheeks of the same arse”. Not a very nice expression, but very apposite.

      I think the Americans have it right – a PM should, like a President only be allowed to stand for two terms in office, after that they get stale and complacent – and the same goes for MPs – unless he/she is very good, two terms, if he/she is very bad – one term. For the really exceptional MP perhaps a maximum of three or four terms. They should definately not be allowed to stumble on into senility though

  • Ryan Kendall

    Labour was right, didn’t read.

  • ThePurpleBooker

    I somehow disagree with some of what Luke Akeshurt just said. I think the SDP was formed partially because of the lack of organization on the right of the party.  What Healy should have done is to work with the SDP in order to oust Michael Foot and the leftwingers, instead of forming a new party. Denis Healy would have been a great Prime Minister and he would have certainly have defeated Thatcher in 1983. I think what Tony Benn and some of his acolytes did in the 1980s was profoundly sickening, stupid and wicked, by splitting up the party in order to save his own career which hurt Labour. I also think David Owen would have also been a great Prime Minister if he remained in the party.

    • AlanGiles

      Denis Healy would never have left Labour to join or collaborate with the SDP. I was around at the time and well remember his views on the SDP expressed forcibly on radio.  It was very much a question of burning your boats and leaving labour for the  SDP, and enduring the wrath of Labour, or staying with Labour and seeing the SDP as an enemy like the Conservatives. 

      I stayed with Labour, though I had admired Roy Jenkins as a truly reforming Home Secretary in the Wilson government, but I always found Dr Owen too full of his own self-importance and pomposity.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        In the book that Luke refers to there is passing mention by 5 defecting to SDP ex-Labour MPs that they all voted against Denis Healey in the 1980 leadership election because they wanted to leave Labour with an unelectable leader so to help the new SDP look normal and gain popular support.  I cannot recall if it was the first or second ballot – if the second they probably sealed the victory for Michael Foot.  Dirty back room politics!

        • Chilbaldi

           wow, I had no idea that was the case. How awfully cynical and sneaky.

        • Duncan

           I’m sure Foot would have won without them.  But yes, the SDP people were (for the most part) disgraceful unscrupulous.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            I’ve looked up the figures.  Assuming it was the second ballot, the real results of the PLP vote were Foot 139, Healey 129.  So if the five soon to be departing had voted for Healey, the result would have been a draw.  I don’t know what the PLP rules were then to decide who won in the event of a draw.  Casting vote by someone, and did either Healey or Foot have some form of PLP establishment position that would have drawn the automatic support of a casting vote?

            It is like one of those history series “what would have happened if…”

          • derek

            They could have asked the ex-chagos Islanders to cast a final vote but Healey wouldn’t have got the vote there.

      • treborc

         Poor old Dr Owen, he was hoping to be a Prime minster and ended up a nobody.

      • Robert_Crosby

        I think Owen would always rather have been the leader of a gang of one than remain in anything more effective and substantial without him leading it, Alan?  Perhaps he has answered Luke’s question… he seems to be making more and more noises about coming back to Labour?

        • AlanGiles

          I know there was always a lot of tension between Owen and Roy Jenkins. RJ felt he was the elder statesman and DO thought he was the star. I think he was an early prototype for a certain Mr. Blair!

          • Robert_Crosby

            I think DO has shown over the years that he is difficult for others to work with.  He came on our local radio (BBC Nottingham) during the summer of 1984 to pillory the NUM for not balloting before the strike.  I might well think it was a tactical error on Scargill’s part not to do it, but I hardly think he needed any lectures from someone who scarpered and refused to fight a by-election in Devonport in 1981??

    • Duncan

       I always find this sort of thing quite ridiculous.  However “sickening, stupid and wicked” you might find it, Tony Benn did not split up the party, the Gang of Four did that.  If Benn was motivated by careerism then he was an idiot (which he very clearly wasn’t) – if he had “played the game” more and ingratiated himself to Tribune and the union barons he would have succeeded Foot as party leader.  But Benn wasn’t interested in being leader, he was interested in winning the argument.

      But I do think it rich to accuse Benn of these things and then heap praise on David Owen who really did split up the party in order to save his own career.

  • SR819

    I don’t see what’s the problem with a protectionist, siege economy that protects workers’ rights and stops the offshoring of industry from the UK. It’s not as if there isn’t any public support for such policies. Look at the outrage expressed by Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury, or the proposed closing down of the Corus steelworks in Redcar,  or the awarding of the rolling stock contract to Siemens etc, and all this just in the last 2 years. There is significant support for a form of economic patriotism in this country, with a lot of concern that many well known domestic industries have been sold to foreign investors (e.g. Rover, Jaguar, Cadbury, etc) with the result that less output is being produced here. Free market economics has been completely discredited, why should we keep banging that drum? Moreover, such a policy could once and for all destroy the far right, who look to profit from communities destroyed by “free trade” and economic competition and who have seen their industries decimated (look at the strong BNP support in former mining villages in Yorkshire for example)  The BNP were the only party promoting protectionism (mixed with repugnant racism), and if we reclaim the protectionist mantle, these working class communities will realise we’re on their side.

    Tony Benn’s ideas may have been considered “non mainstream”, but we’ve seen where mainstream economic ideas have taken us, so perhaps it’s time for a rethink.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      “I don’t see what’s the problem with a protectionist, siege economy that protects workers’ rights and stops the offshoring of industry from the UK.”

      See Cuba and North Korea for examples.

      We may be living on an island, but we do not exist in a vacuum.

      Apart from anything, your idea would kill exports through both retaliatory measures, and through price with our UK goods being significantly more expensive at the factory gate due to wages.

      We operate some resuscitation equipment that was patented in Taiwan, and is now marketed by Philips which is a Dutch company.  It is without exaggeration about 10 times better than the previous equipment we had.  It is really astonishing.  It measures dynamically 8 physical parameters that previously took 8 separate measurements by around 3 people, and took around 7-9 minutes to have a full set of data.  It does this in less than 30 seconds.  You will appreciate that resuscitation is time critical.

      Should you need it, would you prefer to be monitored using this Dutch / Taiwanese equipment, or to have the older equipment in use? You will understand that the impact of retaliatory measures would be to drive up the price of this equipment, which may have made it unaffordable.

      It would probably also be illegal under EU to operate a protectionist economy, which may not be an issue for those who wish the UK to leave the EU.

      Something can only be invented somewhere once.  In this case it was Taiwan.

      • Duncan

        The “protectionist” elements of the Alternative Economic Strategy were not proposals for permanent reform but a crisis management strategy.  The alternative was a combination of deep cuts and structural unemployment (we are seeing it’s like again!)

        We need a new Alternative Economic Strategy today, though it would be of a different sort, as we have little to protect!

    • Me neither – give it 10-20 years and its going to happen anyway

  • Politique

    Luke Akehurst could you reply to my earlier comment

  • robertcp

    Luke, this is a good article and brings back memories.  I was 14 when the SDP was formed and seriously considered supporting it rather than Labour, which went mad after 1979.  I was convinced to support the Labour Party by the moderates that you mentioned and soft left MPs like Kinnock and Cook.
    I was a strong supporter of Kinnock and Smith as they made the Labour Party electable again, but it was a strange experience to witness Labour’s rapid shift to the right under New Labour.  By 2005, I was seriously thinking of leaving the Labour Party and voted for the Lib Dems in that year’s General Election.  Fortunately, Labour has gradually returned to sanity since 2007 and the Lib Dems are in the process of committing political suicide.  It has taken 31 years but Labour Party is once again the party of the centre-left in British politics.


  • SR819

    I’m not saying we can suddenly adopt a “siege” economy just like that. The running down of UK manufacturing means that any such drastic change would be disastrous, because we’ve become dependent on imports. However, the loss of industry from the UK has taken with it skills and expertise as well, which is very difficult to get back. We need a long term project to protect and support British industries that are showing most promise. Such “infant industry” strategies worked for developing countries like South Korea for example. I am not suggesting we simply stop imports getting into the country, without a complementary strategy of developing our own industries to develop high quality products.

    Of course, if in areas such as health related equipment and instruments there are products that need to be imported, they will of course be imported, given the importance of the goods in question from a social POV.

    However, solitary examples doesn’t detract from the overall argument (we can always make exceptions) We have had over 30 years of free trade policies that we’ve been told is meant to be good for us. The destruction of industries like Steel, automotives, fisheries, coal, etc has seriously damaged communities in areas such as the North-East, South Wales, the West Midlands etc. Many of the these communities depended on a sole employer, and once that employer decided to relocate (or became unprofitable because of a lack of government support) unemployment skyrocketed, bringing with a whole host of social, economic and health related problems.

    If we want to reconnect with our core vote, we need to start talking their language. For years we’ve told these people that free trade is good, because although you’ve lost your job due to foreign competition all you need to do is train in new skills and there will be vast opportunities available for you. People aren’t going to believe that old lie anymore.

  • Politique

    This is a very dangerous conversation to be having at this present time. Space has now opened up to discuss social democratic renewal of the Labour Party. It is rather poignant that you raise this at time when the Labour Party is suffering an identity crisis. Indeed your personal leaning towards the Blairite agenda and also those in the shadow cabinet that still believe that the party is best placed at the centre may create the impression that New Labour is still alive. Couple that with the left wing rhetoric that is pouring out from Compass along with its supporters in the PLP, we really do have a problem in the party.

    Tony Blair once coined that diversity and choice produces excellence. This philosophy has destroyed education, that is comprehensive education, fragmented and individualised communities, brought more competition and inequality to public services, brought chaos to the welfare state and bankrupted the economy.

    Let me be quite clear there is no place left in a Modern Labour Party for Blairite ideology. It is now become defunct. Quite happy to engage or debate with you on social democracy

  • The fact that one in four voters voted SDP in 1983 suggests that they were voicing a legitimate body of opinion in the country. It’s incredibly arrogant to assume that any party has a right to demand loyalty no matter how hair brained it had become. Labour may have won in 1997, but it was a Labour party that looked more like the SDP in 1983 than its own previous 1983 incarnation.

  • I suggest you look at the voting records of Bob Russell and Mike Hancock – both of them have better voting records in parliament than the entire Labour party.

  • john Reid

    Can’t fault your comments luke, But I would say the SDP ex emebers chris grayling Danny finklestien, Andy cooper, And Hunter and the Libdems of Danny alexander  shirley silliams(all of whom are Ex sdp) have prevented us from Having A thatcherite party running the country now.

    My other point Luke is that People like Us, and Hopi sen, peter watt adnSunder katwala who joijed laobur after the ’87 election went to out local parties, argued that Labour must have multilateral Nuke disarnmet, not support the Closed shop ,support the temporary measures prevention of terrorism act, and that Ken livingstone had destroyed the GLC and tried to get him off the NEC, we were all mocked at our PLP.s and that as we the first election we were old enough to vote in was the 92′ we were to young to realsie that the public hadn’t forgot the self inflicted injuries of the early 80’s and that the Pulbic weren’t ready to trust us, Baring in Mind there was A view of the labour party in 1987 that we didn’t have a media freindly campaing in 83 and even after that election we had hardly done better than in 83′ and the milliuons of voters who went from labour after 79 to the SDP in 83 werent’ just going to come back as Militant had been explelled When the SDP collapsed it still wasn’t enough to win us the 92 election as Lot’s of their voters went to the tories.


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