Tag Archives: bill rodgers

“It was a tough battle” – Shirley Williams on the birth of the SDP

Shirley Williams tells the story of the 1981 Gang of Four breakaway, which eventually led to the formation of the Liberal Democrats, in the first issue of AD LIB magazine, out next week.

“…we said, if we haven’t got anywhere else to go, we’ll create one.”

Those nascent views crystallised after the party’s 1981 Wembley conference which committed it to unilateral nuclear disarmament and withdrawal from the EEC and NATO. Within hours Williams, Owen and Rodgers were drawing up the plans which would lead to the creation of the SDP.

“The three of us met – not Roy, at that point –

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YouTube ‘cos we want to: an SDP special

If the SDP had lived on*, 2009 would have marked its 18th** 28th birthday – which spurious segue is all the excuse we need to dust off three video clips tracing its rise and fall.

Let’s begin at the beginning, with the explosion of the ‘Gang of Four’ – Roy, David, Shirley and Bill – onto the scene, here holding their first press conference in March 1981:

For a year or more it really did seem as if the SDP might truly break the mould of British politics. But the party was shattered by the results of the June 1983 general election, winning only six seats. Here’s the start of the BBC’s election night results programme.

Posted in YouTube | Also tagged , , , , , , , and | 4 Comments



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  • User AvatarMartin Pierce 22nd Aug - 4:37pm
    Good article folks!
  • User AvatarCaractatus 22nd Aug - 4:31pm
    The deficit is not going down at the moment, it is up on this time last year and while one set of figures is not...
  • User Avatarkeaton 22nd Aug - 4:26pm
    A very reasonable assessment of the situation by John Barrett. I agree that it's much more measured and honest than either of the official campaigns,...
  • User AvatarJoe Otten 22nd Aug - 4:25pm
    I would be totally against any "vengeful anti-Scottish measures", and I've not heard anybody call for them. What is likely though, is that Scotland's interests...
  • User AvatarTerry 22nd Aug - 4:24pm
    I agree with the OP. SEFS is a hideously bland slogan that Labour and even the Tories might credibly use. (Not to mention the objection...
  • User AvatarDavid Evershed 22nd Aug - 4:16pm
    Few people know what the Lib Dems stand for so I agree this needs addressing. It isn't good enough to have beliefs and values which...