Tag Archives: limehouse declaration

Dates for your diary: The rise of China and 40 years on from the Limehouse declaration

I thought it might be worth sharing a couple of things I’ve registered for this morning.

On Thursday 30th September at 11 am,  the Paddy Ashdown Forum will be hosting a debate on China. The motion is “This House believes that China is interested in coexistence rather than domination.”

This will be a hybrid event, both in person at the National Liberal Club and online. It’s the sort of thing you can listen in to if you are still working from home.

You can get more details and register here. 

The second is a virtual  event being hosted by Queen Mary University and the Mile End Institute on 22nd September at 6:30 pm on the Limehouse Declaration 40 years on. Can the SDP teach us anything today? A panel including Vince Cable, Lib Dem peer Julie Smith, Polly Toynbee who was one of the founder members of the SDP and senior lecturer Peter Sloman. You can register for that one here.

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The future of Social Democracy: 40 years after the Limehouse Declaration

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On the 25 January 1981, Roy Jenkins, Bill Rodgers, Shirley Williams and David Owen issued a joint statement signalling intent to leave the Labour party and form a new Council for Social Democracy that would later become the SDP.

Stemming from disagreements over the recent Wembley conference and an increasing far-left stranglehold from the Militant tendency, the ‘Gang of Four’ made the heart-breaking decision to leave their political home and start anew.

As I was born in 1990 the moments above are of pure historical reference to me, however, I have often felt a kinship to Jenkins, Rodgers and Williams in this regard.

I grew up in the Labour movement, I joined the party aged 15 having been a direct beneficiary of the New Labour Government in 1997 and the Lib-Lab Coalition in Holyrood. I grew up in a single income household, where my Dad worked nightshift on manufacturing lines at IBM to provide for our family. Growing up one word was always echoed by my Dad ‘Opportunity’, the chance to get on and improve your life. That’s why he went to College part-time and earned himself an HNC, moving into the office-based environment at IBM.

In 2011 my Dad was elected as the Labour MP for Inverclyde, still believing in those principles of opportunity and building people up to succeed. I was immensely proud, so proud in fact I served as his election agent in 2015.

Then in 2019 I had a decision to make. I’d been a Labour council candidate in Reading and Chaired/Founded the Fabian Devolution Committee but the party since 2015 had moved so far left, my politics hadn’t changed but the voices around me had: ‘Home ownership is wrong’ and ‘All business is evil’ are actual quotes of things I heard people say.

I moved to the Liberal Democrats, as the only party that can truly stand up for the policies and principles of Social Democracy.

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Dick Newby writes … revisiting the Limehouse Declaration

William Rodgers, Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins & David Owen with funds from SDP supporters, Feb 1981On the wall of our downstairs loo is a framed copy of the Limehouse Declaration, issued at the inception of the SDP on 21 January 1981.

In the light of Matthew Oakeshott’s parting contention that Nick has led us as a party without roots, principles or values, I have re-read it to test his contention.

On international affairs the post-2010 Lib Dems have followed Limehouse to the letter – not just by being rooted and principled over Europe, but by our record on international development – underpinned by giving 0.7% of GDP in aid for the first time ever.

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“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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Question: Big or small government? Answer: effective

One prominent member of Liberal Youth hits the nail on the head when she says ‘ frankly sick of all this I’m a social liberal so I’m a better Lib Demno it’s Orange Bookers that are real Lib Dems… we’re in the same party ffs.’

And the contrasting Economist correspondent missed the target by a mile when he wrote – following our last conference – that ‘the Liberal Democrats are still in denial about their innate dividedness.’

You see according to this correspondent – quoted again in The Week – he has had a brilliant insight: ‘You cannot be both for, and against, the Big State.’ But whilst his truism is logically …

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