Tag Archives: social democrat group

Why you should join the Liberal Democrats’ Social Democrat Group

We can only imagine what, David Owen (83), infamously styled Dr Death by Dennis Skinner, made of the Social Democratic Party’s 2021 conference, from his lonely perch in the House of Lords where he sits as an independent social democrat, estranged from the other survivor of the gang of four, Bill Rogers (93) who is still a loyal member of the Liberal Democrats. The recent SDP plenary featured an address from Baroness Claire Fox, the only peer in history to include membership of the Revolutionary Communist Party and being a UKIP MEP on her curriculum vitae. Owen should perhaps be retitled Dr Frankenstein whose creation’s demise was widely desired.  Fortunately, despite the spectre of the surviving SDP, who Owen led into the wilderness in 1988, still haunting the periphery of politics, the social democratic tradition is alive and well inside the Liberal Democrats.

Determined to build on that tradition, the Social Democrat Group became a formal organisation within the Liberal Democrat Party in 2020, published a book, The Future of Social Democracy, in 2021 and passionately believe that the emblematic bird of freedom needs two wings; liberalism and social democracy to reach its former heights; and that the founding principle of one party two traditions is a vital to our future not a footnote in our past. Working closely with Dick Newby, The Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords and SDP CEO in their heyday, the Social Democrat Group are planning an innovative session on the future of global football at Spring Conference and an ambitious membership drive and post lockdown relaunch at the, hopefully face to face, Autumn Conference in 2022.

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The future of Social Democracy – a book to mark 40 years since the Limehouse Declaration

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January 25th marks the 40th Anniversary of the Limehouse Declaration, when four former Labour Cabinet Ministers Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams met to issue a statement that would shortly afterwards lead to the formation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

The SDP in alliance with the Liberal Party took 26% of the vote in the 1983 election and 23% of the vote in the 1987 election, two of our highest general election vote shares since the 1920s. The bulk of the SDP then merged with the Liberal Party in 1988 to go on to form the Liberal Democrat party we know today.

To mark this occasion the Social Democrat Group have arranged for the publication of a book of essays called The Future of Social Democracy.

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Why social democrats are more left wing than the hard left

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Tories sneer when they use the term “left wing”. They point to the terrible failures of authoritarian states like North Korea. But if left wing is about poverty reduction, why do we let them call North Korea left wing?

In contrast to its northern neighbour, South Korea has had extraordinary success in reducing poverty, whereas “leftwing” oil-rich Venezuela has been a catastrophe.

If some states that call themselves “leftwing” aren’t, the same is true of political activists.

In 2017, Jeremy Corbyn proposed a radical manifesto. But the IFS and the Resolution Foundation found that Corbyn’s manifesto failed to reverse many cuts to the poorest, in dramatic contrast to the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

Poverty reduction is hard. Many well-meaning projects in international development have failed. They needed the warning of dissenting voices. The same is true in the UK, but when anyone pointed out the failings of Corbyn’s manifesto on social media, the red mists of anger descended on the hard left.

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Social justice in a time of deficits

Liberal Democrats, and social democrats in the Labour party, share two key priorities. We want to improve social justice, and, to fund that work, we need to strengthen the economy.

We’ve often argued about the best way to do this, both within our parties and between them. But the decisions of the 2010-2015 parliament are behind us, and we need to look forward.

Unfortunately, deficits aren’t in the past. Since 2010, the deficit, when adjusted for the economic cycle, has fallen by about 40%. But it’s still around £65 billion a year. And the existing deficit is only one of our challenges.

Each year, the age profile of the UK gets older. As it does, the pressure on the NHS and other services increases, and the pressure on the government budget grows.

This will probably be made worse by Brexit.

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We already have the Social Liberal Forum, so why do we need a Social Democrat group?

The Social Democrat Group has been formed to work with social democrats outside the party, to build links with them, and encourage some to join the Liberal Democrats.

As I handed out leaflets to promote our fringe meeting in York (see here for a recording) , I was asked why we needed another group when we already had the Social Liberal Forum (SLF). A year ago, I’d have agreed a new group wasn’t needed but the situation has changed.

When the party merged in 1988, there was a lot of controversy about the party’s name. It was vital the party move on from that debate, so many former members of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) agreed that the short name become the Liberal Democrats. I feared this might mean we would eventually be called Liberals, and the SDP heritage forgotten, but I believed it was necessary.

Sure enough, increasingly, we have been called Liberals. I haven’t liked it, but when there were so many other serious issues to grapple with, it didn’t seem a fight worth having.

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Recent Comments

  • matt
    @Lorenzo I thought about writing an article about it for LDV, but I am not that articulate and besides, I think after the last couple of years, people are we...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    Matt Terribly poignant descriptions, you need to present these as articles or testimony of what you see, to the NHS, it may be govt that funds and leads, it ...
  • Neil James Sandison
    if they want to go down with Boozy Boris and the drinks club thats up to them ....
  • Charley Hasted
    Referring to people who ask you questions because they want to understand your opinions and stances on issues they care about as plastic liberals is not how you...
  • James Fowler
    I think this article is interesting and I applaud it. A year or so ago not many dared to challenge the dogma that the rules were there for everyone's benefit. N...