30 years on from the SDP

CentreForum debate to mark the 30th anniversary of the formation of the SDP, Monday, 22 March 2011

A Message from David Owen

I wish I could have been with you to hear and contribute to the debate but I am in Germany.

I genuinely believe that all of us who were in the SDP can in our individual ways justly claim to be its heirs.  No one political party, member of one of the existing parties, or those who never joined another political party after the demise of the SDP can claim exclusivity.  And the reason I believe is that we never really succeeded in achieving an uncontested definition of what the modern social democratic party was.  This was both a weakness and a strength during the political turbulence of the 1980s.

Gradually as the polarisation between Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party and Michael Foot’s Labour Party narrowed, UK decentralised politics has begun to reflect the three main strands of European political parties: Christian Democracy, Liberal and Social Democracy.  The social market economy is now written into the Treaty of Lisbon and within that portmanteau term committed Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters in the UK can all live, adding their own particular emphasis on the social or the market framework.

Now 72 years of age, I can truly say that I derive great pleasure from watching the success of every former SDP member in many different walks of life, not just politics.

I remain a Crossbencher and value my independence but it will surprise none of you to know that in the light of what is now being proposed for the NHS if Labour returns to being a truly social democratic party accepting a distinction between an internal and not an external market for the NHS then I will support them.


18 March 2011