33 years ago today the launch of the SDP was announced

SDP logoThe Guardian has delved into its archives to bring us the announcement, on 18th March 1981, about the launch of the Social Democratic Party.

The Social Democratic Party is to launch itself to the end of the runway next week, and even its most devoted supporters admit that they have not the faintest idea whether it will take off.

But the launching is to be conducted with military efficiency. The big names, including Mr Roy Jenkins and Mrs Shirley Williams, will be deployed across the nation to ensure maximum coverage.

The operation was announced at the Commons yesterday by Mr Mike Thomas, MP for Newcastle East. He made it clear that substantial sums of money, including £80,000 in the bank, will be available to finance it.

William Rodgers, Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins & David Owen with funds from SDP supporters, Feb 1981

Rather prophetically, Roy Jenkins was even then talking about coalitions.

Mr Thomas’s announcement coincided with a speech by Mr Roy Jenkins, a potential leader of the party. Addressing an electoral reform group in the City yesterday, he threw his weight behind the campaign for a change in Britain’s electoral law in favour of proportional representation(PR).

He rejected the proposition that PR would lead to weaker governments based on incompatible coalitions. “I know a good deal about incompatible coalitions. I served in one from 1974 to 1976. I suspect that quite a few members of the present Government also have some feelings upon that subject.”

The truth was that all government involved some degree of coalition for the simple reason that any Cabinet was bound to include differences of view and emphasis.

“What is vital is whether those within the coalition are closer to each other, and to the mood of the nation they seek to represent, than they are to those outside their ranks.”

 

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36 Comments

  • I’m in the mood for a glass of claret.

  • Little Jackie Paper 18th Mar '14 - 7:35pm

    Tony Blair was essentially an SDP Prime Minister. Discuss.

  • Mike Cobley 18th Mar '14 - 8:04pm

    “Tony Blair was essentially an SDP Prime Minister” – sorry, but the idea is laughable. The SDP may have been the centre-right of Labour at the time, but if it were alive today it would be to the left of all 3 main parties.

  • Stephen Hesketh 18th Mar '14 - 8:12pm

    In view of recent revelations regarding Roy Jenkins’ private life, this photograph could inspire many a thought and comment Shirley Williams reads a policy proposal from Roy regarding the setting up of an SDP B&B, Bill Rodgers takes his turn with the radio-controlled David Steel while the significantly less liberal Dr Owen, clearly intended to keep the hand of history all to himself right from the start. Apologies to all concerned!

    @Little Jackie Paper, of Blair, Roy Jenkins reportedly observed that he “ranked between Wilson and Baldwin”. What else is there to discuss?

  • Little Jackie Paper 18th Mar '14 - 8:13pm
  • Eddie Sammon 18th Mar '14 - 8:50pm

    In some ways Tony Blair is more conservative than Nigel Farage, sucking up to the establishment and getting paid nicely for it, like a good old feudalist. So no, he was not an SDP prime minister.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Mar '14 - 8:55pm

    I don’t want to attack the personal integrity of Tony Blair, I’m just saying he did some very unpopular things, due to personal beliefs, but quite outside the founding principles of the SDP.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Mar '14 - 9:10pm

    I also don’t want to join in the unintended derailing of the article. My first thoughts were that the Lib Dems should celebrate their SDP roots more because there is a tendency in the party to try to undo the merger with the SDP and go for a radical right or left wing version of liberalism, both of which I think would be bad for the party.

  • Little Jackie Paper 18th Mar '14 - 9:43pm

    Eddie Sammon – It does rather matter though because if we had had an SDP government it is precisely those unpopular decisions that would have had to be made. Inevitably, of course, all things are products of their time. I have long believed that if Clemet Attlee would be a talkboard hate-figure like no other had the internet been around.

    Think of it this way – Thatcher, Reagan, the SDP, Kinnock. How many would have let banks fail had they been in government in 2008?

    As my old Dad says, ‘the good old days – not that good.’ Probably applies to politicians too.

  • Mark Smulian 18th Mar '14 - 10:00pm

    Surprisingly enough, the SDP has a continued existence, though it looks even more vestigial than that of the continuing Liberal party.
    Its website http://www.socialdemocraticparty.co.uk boasts one councillor in each of Aberavon and Bridlington.
    Extraordinarily, it wants the UK to leave the EU, the complete opposite of its founders (who it still cites) who based the party on staying in when Labour was against the EU.

  • Its hard to remember now how close The SDP came to breaking the mould with just 3% between The Alliance & Labour in The 1983 Election. If the Argentine Junta hadnt invaded The Falklands its quite possible that Labour would have come 3rd in Votes, probably leading to further splits & defections. All history now but with echoes in the preset state of The Labour Movement.

  • Without the SDP, there would be no Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Party at the time had been greatly weakened by the Thorpe affair and the Lib Lab Pact and looked as if it was going to return to being a rump. The SDP brought a whole mass of people into politics for the first time and provided cover for the Liberals to build a local government base. What went wrong was having Owen as leader. Some have compared Dr Owen to Mr Clegg, but there is a very important difference. Mr Clegg has always been on the right of the party and has never tried very hard to pretend otherwise (though some have said his leadership campaign wasn’t exactly frank on that point). Dr Owen, by contrast, tried to cast himself as being to the left of Roy Jenkins, and his supporters maintained that he would give the party a “radical cutting edge”. Once in office, however, he moved the party to the right, praised Mrs Thatcher and behaved like an autocrat. He was obsessively militaristic and even tried to get the party to advocate conscription. The merger was a very necessary and welcome development, not just to bring two like-minded parties together, but to rid ourselves of Owen. I don’t have anything like the same feeling about Nick Clegg.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Mar '14 - 10:59pm

    The SDP was itself a coalition of Old Labour, Liberal Labour, and Right-wing New Labour (aka Owenites). Most of he SDP who joined the Liberal Democrats and lasted the course were in the second group. The largest repository of leading members of both parties who are still around 25 years since the merger is probably the House of Lords group. It is not easy in most cases to tell whether a particular member was in the Liberal Party, the SDP, or has joined since the merger (and even I have been known to forget more than twice).

    Tony Greaves

  • George Kendall 19th Mar '14 - 5:57am

    Too many people have bought into the lie, that the SDP lived on in the “Continuing SDP”. It didn’t.

    Probably the most important founding principle of the SDP was one-member-one-vote. The most important example of this was when the SDP had an all-member vote and chose to merge with the Liberal Party.

    The SDP lives on, alive and well in that merged party, the Liberal Democrats.

  • It’s striking how much more left-wing and interventionist the 1983 Liberal/SDP Alliance was than even current Labour party policies.

    http://www.libdemmanifesto.com/1983/1983-liberal-manifesto.shtml

    Sadly lots of jobs on the “to do” list remain undone, including proportional representation, devolution to the English regions, proper investment in vocational training and skill levels generally.

  • This statement may say more about RC than it does about the party in 1983 —-
    RC 19th Mar ’14 – 9:39am
    “…..It’s striking how much more left-wing and interventionist the 1983 Liberal/SDP Alliance was than even current Labour party policies….”

  • This is what I can’t work out.

    Have all the people supporting the current right-wing, non-interventionist leadership line joined the party since the 1980s? And (if they were old enough to take an interest in politics then) did they vote for Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, on the basis that the other two parties were too left-wing?

    Or did they support the Alliance in the 1980s, and have they all had a Damascene conversion since then? Or are they really not that much interested in policy, but supportive of the party on a kind of tribal basis, and therefore ready to defend the leadership whatever policies it happens to be advocating at any given time?

  • @ Eddie Sammon
    You do not need to attack the personal integrity of Tony Blair, his own financial dealings with dictators, his quite obvious failure in his present “job” to be anything other than a frontman for the Israeli illegal occupation, the evidence in court of his offers of help to Brooks and Murdoch are all anyone needs to know on that subject.

    Eddie, you are guilty only of understatement to say that Blair’s beliefs are quite outside the founding principles of the SDP. As far as I remember blatant war crimes did not feature in the aims of the SDP.

    Anyone know when the Chilcott Enquiry is due to reort??? It was started in June 2009. — we are still waiting.

  • @John Tilley

    Sadly, you never stop in your attempts to cast me as a right-winger, do you? The formation of the SDP was the reason I was attracted to the party that became the Lib Dems. I believe in political reform including PR. I support state ownership and intervention where it makes sense and works properly and detest privatisation for its own sake.

    But I accept that there are serious limits to what we can achieve in coalition with a much larger, more powerful right-wing party, especially when the public finances have been left in ruins by the preceding administration. It is much easier to be left-wing and progressive in times of plenty. When times are hard and public money is short, the means to achieve desirable social aims, in particular greater equality, are far more difficult to secure. However, I happen to think the current leadership has done a good job in tremendously difficult circumstances, while you give them no credit whatsoever and claim that someone else (who?) could have achieved miracles (how?).

  • It’s also amazing to think that we didn’t have colour photography in 1981. How much our lives have changed in only a generation and a half …

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Mar '14 - 10:33am

    George Kendall

    The SDP lives on, alive and well in that merged party, the Liberal Democrats.

    Indeed. What happened when the SDP and Liberal Party merged was that most active members got on with it, including people like me who had voted against the merger (from the Liberal side in my case). The real news was just how smoothly it went. The media, however, completely misreported it. As you rightly say, the legal heir to the SDP was the then Social and Liberal Democrats. The party that was set up following the merger under the name “SDP” was a new party, not the SDP founded in 1981. I remember how angry I was that the supposedly neutral BBC reported the first conference of this new party as the “8th conference of the SDP”.

    This misreporting led to the belief that there had been some massive splintering of the “Alliance” and there were now competing parties. The reality was that at that point there was no new party calling itself “The Liberal Party” (it was set up some months later). The new party calling itself the “SDP” mostly consisted of people who, to be honest, those of us involved in both parties at the time were glad to see the back of, i.e. people who were of little practical use in campaigning and had some rather fantasist ideas. Of course, it took a long time for this reality to sink in to anyone outside the party, so this tiny group of fantasists reported wrongly as if they were still the old SDP were made out to be equivalent in strength to the party which was the legal merger of both parties and contained almost all activists from both. It was not until the Bootle by-election that the media finally grasped the reality of the situation.

    However, it was not helped by those at the top of the merged Liberal/SDP party who made the insane decision to present it as if it was an entirely new party that had emerged from nowhere. They went out of their way to hide the fact that it was just a continuation of the two previous parties, to the point where it was frowned upon even to use the word “Liberal” as that was thought to be an indication of divisive sentiments. In doing this rather than using an imagery which made clear the continuation of both parties was with the party that was then “Social and Liberal Democrats” and became “Liberal Democrats”, the leadership of the party enabled this false belief that there were now several competing parties to grow and be believed, resulting in a catastrophic fall in our opinion poll share.

    Just as I later explained in advance how damaging the Rose Garden imagery of 2010 would be, and set out an alternative less damaging way the coalition could have been presented at its formation, I wrote at the time of the merger that I felt it was important to stress continuation, to the point where I felt it would have been a good idea to have kept the Liberal Party and SDP in nominal existence with brief formal conferences under the “Social and Liberal Democrat” umbrella to make it clear to everyone that this party was the SOLE legal heir and continuation of both. I am also on record as having pointed out just how wrong and damaging our leadership was in the way it presented the “Yes to AV” case. I think I should change my middle name to “Cassandra”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Mar '14 - 10:41am

    Sesenco

    Without the SDP, there would be no Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Party at the time had been greatly weakened by the Thorpe affair and the Lib Lab Pact and looked as if it was going to return to being a rump.

    No. I joined the Liberal Party in 1978, and remember being impressed by the vibrancy and energy of the party. Yes, it had been damaged by the Thorpe affair, but the 1970 general election showed where despite that it had maintained the advances made in the big turnaround of the third party vote in 1974. 1974 established the Liberal Party as the main opposition to the Conservatives in many parts of the country, 1979 confirmed it. The Liberal Party was reaching into places that Labour could not reach into, and it was also challenging a complacent and arrogant Labour Party in a few places as well, as shown in the Edge Hill by-election, and the Bermondsey by-election (work building up to that by-election result started several years before, it was NOT, as wrongly reported, just down to a nasty anti-Tatchell campaign).

    It is my firm belief that the party would have done better had the SDP never been founded, as there was a huge waste of time and energy involved with that business.

  • @Sesenco
    You repeat some of the more popular media myths about the SDP and The Loberal Party.
    It is simply not true to say that as you did that — “…The Liberal Party at the time had been greatly weakened by the Thorpe affair and the Lib Lab Pact and looked as if it was going to return to being a rump….”. The main political impact of the Thorpe affair had been felt the mid seventies with the media frenzy, his resignation and subsequent court case. David Steel’s leadership, the Lib-Lab Pac, David Lton’s byelection victory in Feruary 1979 and a growing and confident community politics element in the party are all facts.
    These facts indicate that far from being weakened The Liberal Party in 1980 was on the up. There is evidence of growing Liberal Party membership, activity and electoral success In places such as Liverpool, Richmond, Tower Hamlets, The Isle of Wight (others can write their own list). The growing influence of Tony Greaves and others in what was then The ALC in Hebden Bridge had been spotted by national journalists long before Roy Jenkins started thinking about re-entering domestic oitics after is time n Europe.

    What became the core, the heart of the success of the Liberal Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s had already begun before tha SDP. In fact we wasted some crucial years trying to accommodate people like Dr Owen and some even even more rightwing defectors from Labour (who are now long since forgotten by media commentators). The Liberal Party was probablu held back by The SDP phenomenon so that we had to wait until the 1990s before we started electing MPs in those areas where the community politics base had built the party. It was not a coincidence or because of the SDP that in the 1980s and 1990s we elected MPs in places The Isle of Wight, Yeovil, Leeds, Richmond, Sutton, Kingston, Cheltenham, Bath, etc, etc.

    These are important lessons from our history. We need to be aware of these lessons when we start to climb out of the train wreck that Clegg and his cohort are inflicting on us.

  • @RC
    I was not casting you as a right-winger. Go back and read my one line comment again.

    My actual thoughts were something along the lines that even RC (a persistent Clegg cheerleader) sees the striking difference between the very conservative policies of Clegg and Co when compared to the policies of The Alliance 1983.

    That’s the problem with this sort of forum, people take offence when it is not meant. On this topic I agree with you it is striking how politics has either drifted or been deliberately shifted to the right since 1983.

  • That photo would be a classic for speech bubbles. Rodgers: “And for my next trick…” Williams: “And this is my new grand-daughter.” Owen: “I am a Man of Destiny.”

    I looked up SDP in a list of government-related abbreviations in a book in Waltham Forest’s members’ library. It said: “Social, domestic and pleasure”.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Mar '14 - 11:15am

    John, it’s an interesting topic for another time, I just immediately regretted going personal with the criticism.

  • I totally disagree with those who dismiss the SDP as being a distraction or somehow holding back the Liberal Party in the early 1980s.

    What it actually did was add some major, weighty figures from within the Labour party, with high profiles and cabinet level experience, particularly Roy Jenkins. This was something the Liberals totally lacked. They also brought with them probably around a minimum of another 10% of the centre-left electorate who had hitherto voted Labour. We lost those supporters to some extent at the height of Blairism and have lost them again at present because of the hit we have taken from the need to make cuts. But courting the SDP vote – the moderate, left-of-centre, egalitarian, reformist – public remains a central task of the Liberal Democrats as a political force.

    @ John Tilley
    My apologies if I misconstrued your comment. However, a large part of the “striking difference” between the policies implemented by our party now and its manifesto then has been dictated by only having one eleventh of the MPs in parliament and having to work with a much larger, right-of-centre party. How much of that manifesto would have survived had we been forced into a coalition with the Tories by parliamentary arithmetic in 1983 is a matter of great doubt.

    Clearly, above and beyond that, there has also been the intervening “cultural revolution” of the Thatcher years which has imbued a totally hostile approach to public ownership and intervention. This is now seen as “self evidently” bad even to the extent of ignoring the fact that e.g. in the case of rail operator East Coast, sometimes it’s actually been successful. I wish this were a debate we could re-open within our own party, but it seems that we totally lack the courage to do so at present.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Mar '14 - 1:52pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    but the 1970 general election

    Sorry, that was a typo, should be 1979.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Mar '14 - 2:26pm

    RC

    What it actually did was add some major, weighty figures from within the Labour party, with high profiles and cabinet level experience, particularly Roy Jenkins. This was something the Liberals totally lacked. They also brought with them probably around a minimum of another 10% of the centre-left electorate who had hitherto voted Labour.

    No. All the poll evidence showed that SDP voters divided equally into Labour and Conservative as second preference. If the SDP brought any extra voters, it was not particularly from the left. During the time when the Liberal Party and the SDP co-existed, in almost all the cases where there was a policy difference, it was the Liberal Party to the left of the SDP. It was the right-wing of the Liberal Party which was keenest on working with the SDP and integrating with it, because they saw the SDP as allies who support them in fighting off the left wing activists of the Liberal Party whose ability to win votes while not looking and acting like establishment politicians was embarrassing them.

    In 1981 the Liberal Party was patchy. There were places where it had built up a good strong campaign, often due to those pesky left-wing activists doing their stuff, and places where it was almost non-existent. In places where the Liberal Party had built up a good strong campaign, the sort of person that might have joined the SDP most likely would already have joined the Liberal Party. So where the SDP did well was in those places where there hadn’t been much Liberal Party activity, so people’s view of the Liberal Party was as informed by the seriously biased and ill-informed way it tended to be covered in the national media.

    Note the patchy existence of the Liberal Party was a survival of the fittest thing. While it tended to be based on activists who were to the left in the party, it also succeeded and kept on going through the late 1970s drop in those places where the activists were sensible people with their feet on the ground and a good sense of what works to win votes. That is, the sort of airy-fairy head-in-the-clouds people, which is the stereotype view SDP people had of Liberal Party members, had been squeezed out. This same brutal Darwinian selection also happened to some extent in the SDP after the 1983 general election, when a lot of people who had thought it would be an easy route to power dropped out, and after the hash-up of the merger, when it was those who were sensible campaigners at grass roots who kept the party alive and did not suffer so much from the drop in support caused by media misreporting of the merger.

    So, although I was an anti-merger Liberal, and thought the foundation of the SDP was damaging to the third party cause, and have not changed my view on that, I accept it attracted some good people to the cause, and those who stayed on after they found out the third party game wasn’t as easy as they supposed were the best.

    But the view that the SDP pulled the Liberals to the left is laughably wrong. The fact that it now gets written up as fact by those trying to steal the word “Liberal” and get it to mean what in those days we called “Thatcherite” just indicates how sinister those right-wing infiltrators are. My political views have not changed since those days, but back then in the early 1980s, I was centre-left in the Liberal Party, very comfortable, felt it was my party, had quite a few people who were quite a bit further to the left of me, sometimes to the point of making me feel uncomfortable. I do not recall EVER in the years of the SDP meeting a single SDP member whose politics were to the left of mine.

    Now, of course, I feel I am on the far left fringe of the Liberal Democrats, and the sort of person who was me in the 1980s now probably wouldn’t even consider joining the Liberal Democrats. Yet my politics hasn’t changed, or if anything has drifted a bit rightwards since then.

    On the “weighty figures”, well there has been a continuing argument all that time which says the way to win votes is to become more “weighty”, that is to become more like conventional establishment politicians, and to drop anything that makes us look something which is a radical alternative to that. The latest manifestation of that was the Rose Garden imagery of Clegg and Cameron. We were told by those responsible for that imagery that voters would come flocking to us after that – voters would see Clegg standing at the dispatch box as a “proper politician”, and our poll support would go flying up as we lost all that old damaging beards and sandals stereotyping, which the smart set at the top of the party assumed was losing us votes. So, how’s it been since then? How much has our poll support risen since we joined the coalition and became proper “weighty” politicians?

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Mar '14 - 2:39pm

    paul barker

    Its hard to remember now how close The SDP came to breaking the mould with just 3% between The Alliance & Labour in The 1983 Election.

    Why do you say “SDP” and write off the contribution of the Liberal Party? As has already been noted, the Liberal Party’s vote had been pushed lower from its 1974 peak in 1979, but not anywhere near back to where it was in 1970. Things like the Thorpe affair probably did put the Liberal Party a little bit lower than its potential in 1979, but as that went further away, wouldn’t its support have risen anyway in 1983? The Liberal/SDP share of the vote in 1983 was not that much more than the Liberal share of the vote in 1974, so how can you be so sure it was all due to the SDP and none of it due to the continued growth of the Liberal Party, and the Liberal Party’s development of new and effective campaigning tactics pushed in particular by the ALC?

    A lot of the bad feeling at the time came because to Liberals it looked like it was they doing the work and the SDP getting the credit. What the SDP mainly managed to do was pull up the vote in places where there had been little Liberal activity, but all that meant was turning poor 3rd places into reasonable 3rd places, in terms of seats it won nothing.

  • Steve Griffiths 19th Mar '14 - 3:29pm

    RC

    “What it actually did was add some major, weighty figures from within the Labour party, with high profiles and cabinet level experience, particularly Roy Jenkins. This was something the Liberals totally lacked. They also brought with them probably around a minimum of another 10% of the centre-left electorate who had hitherto voted Labour.”

    It’s very difficult to improve on Matthew Huntbach’s ‘treatise’ on the merger, except to reiterate that that’s how it was at the time. I voted no to merger, as did others, because I felt that merger with the SDP would drag the party to the centre/right. Subsequent events have shown that to be what happened. He is also correct that the term liberal has now been hijacked by those who ‘burn incense before the altar of the market’, to mean something that we would have regarded as ‘Thatcherite’ at the time. It has been discussed several times on LDV previously and on each occasion the same issue has popped up, that the SDP somehow dragged the Liberals to the left at the merger. Each time Matthew, I and others have had to speak out and correct this seeming rewriting of history.

  • @ RC. Totally agree with your last paragraph on Thatcherite influence and the need for debate in the Liberal Democrats.

    I would suggest this offers a clue as to why you might be wrong on your earlier paragraph, which said —
    “…………….a large part of the “striking difference” between the policies implemented by our party now and its manifesto then has been dictated by only having one eleventh of the MPs in parliament and having to work with a much larger, right-of-centre party..,,,,,”

    It is not just the strength of the two parties in the Coaition. It is the fact we have had for the last eight years what Julian Astle very honestly described as “a cohort of ambitious MPs ” around Clegg deliberately out to change our party to one in a Conservative image. What in another thread Nick Thorsby says is “capitalist”. Whatever else the Alliance or the Liberal Democrats were between 1983 and 2008 there were most clearly not the political wing of Capitalism.

    It is difficult to believe that the hollowing out of the Liberal Democrat Party by Clegg and his cohort is an accidental spin-off of Coalition when one of the key figures writes in The Guardian that it is all part of a long term plan by right wingers to change the Liberal Democrats to be a centre party. In their terms ” centre ” means something well to the right of Ted Heath or John Major, let alone the 1983 Alliance.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Mar '14 - 1:16am

    RC

    However, a large part of the “striking difference” between the policies implemented by our party now and its manifesto then has been dictated by only having one eleventh of the MPs in parliament and having to work with a much larger, right-of-centre party.

    Yes, and I continue to this day to defend our party against what I believe are unrealistic attacks on it, the sort of attack that seems to be saying we could have implemented all of our manifesto policies in the coalition and so have just chosen not to and just chosen instead to support Conservative policies. I believe these attacks are ridiculous, and show a lack of understanding of how coalitions must work. I fully agree that in May 2010 we had no choice but to form the current coalition, as there was no other viable stable government that could have been formed. I accept that because of the balance of the two coalition parties in Parliament, we are getting as much out of it as we could expect, even if it’s a very long way from the sort of government I would want to see.

    So why is this defence that I often give simply not working? Why is it that whenever I make it, I am not believed, I am just written off as another of those Liberal Democrats who is blindly following his leader and uttering nonsense because that nonsense is the current party line?

    The reason, RC, is the POOR LEADERSHIP of Nick Clegg. Almost everything Nick Clegg and those surrounding him say and do undermines this line of defence. It was undermined with the Rose Garden imagery, in which the impression was given that the Liberal Democrats had an equal say to the Conservatives in the coalition. It has been undermined in all those speeches by Nick Clegg in which he has painted the coalition as a wonderful fulfilment of our dreams rather than as a sad compromise necessary because the way people voted and the distortions of the electoral system left us with this imbalance. It is undermined by the continuing word-beginning-with-sm-and-rhyming-with-rug attitude which exudes from Clegg and his followers and makes it look as if they really did just give up all they claimed stood for in order to get government jobs. It is undermined by the continuing boasting about us being “in government” which fails to distinguish that we are not “in government: as the term is conventionally understood meaning in 100% control of government. It was savagely undermined by that line that was put out, pushed in particular by party right-winger Tim Farron (yes, by pushing this out he revealed he is essentially a right-wing Cleggite) boasting of us having “implemented 75% of our manifesto policies”.

    Why can’t you, RC, see the very line you are trying to use here to defend the party is being undermined by your hero Clegg in the way he presents things?

  • @Ian Sanderson
    Ian, I don’t know if you had this in mind but one of the Sunday Magazines lampooned the black and white news photo that appears at the top of this piece. It portrayed the four as the participants in the Mad Hatters Tea Party. And it was in full colour.

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