Monday, 24 March 2014

The SDP refers. Although the party was officially wound up in 1988, its banner is still borne 33 years after its foundation by Cllr Tony Taylor in Aberavon ward.

It is interesting to quote from Dr Peter Joyce's history of the Liberal Democrats, "Towards the Sound of Gunfire!" (1997):

The SDP was founded against the background of the criticisms by its leading members that Labour governments in the 1970s appeared to follow no discernible principles but tended to fudge and compromise their way from one problem to another. 

The SDP endorsed a market oriented [sic] mixed economy and rejected the view that class warfare was indispensable to the attainment of a socialist society. In common with social democratic principles, it did not seek to transform society but to ameliorate its most pressing social problems. However, it was antagonistic to the statist approach with which Croslandite social democracy had been identified. SDP theorists condemned centralism and the corporate state.

[David] Owen recorded his belief that a true democracy 'will mean a progressive shift of power from Westminster to the regions, to the county and town halls, to communities, neighbourhoods, patients, tenants and parents'.

One wonders whether Lord Owen, who has recently made a substantial donation to the Labour Party (while remaining on the crossbenches in the Lords) after Ed Miliband's moves to reduce trade union influence within the party, feels the same way today.

Many would say that today's Labour Party appears to follow no discernible principles, but there is no breakaway group in evidence. There are voices - authoritarian in the Conservatives, socially liberal in the LDP - objecting to fudges and compromises in the coalition government. Disaffected Tories do not need to form a new party since a vehicle for defection already exists in the form of UKIP. The Social Liberal Forum is a pressure group, rather than a nascent party, rather like the Bow Group within the Conservatives - though with a different philosophy, of course.

So I don't see another SDP arising in the near future, though what happens after the next general election when at least one party is going to see its hopes dashed is another matter.

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