Letter: Divided Tory party

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Sir: Contrary to Michael Heseltine's assertion (report, 3 November), it was the SDP's establishment in 1981 which kept Labour in opposition for 18 years and concentrated its mind on the reforms necessary to get elected.

Those reforms were carried through by strong leadership from Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair, not by Messrs Callaghan, Healey and Hattersley. They were the guilty men who (like John Major in his Party) were unwilling to confront the extremists and stop the drift which eventually led to the establishment of the SDP.

There was no inevitability about the demise of the SDP. It was not destroyed by lack of support or electoral success but by the disastrous split which occurred after the 1987 election.

The lesson from the SDP is that things will only change if people are prepared to stand up and fight. I am delighted to see Mr Heseltine and his colleagues doing so now in the Tory party. Like him, some of those who formed the SDP - including David Owen - swore quite sincerely only a short period before establishing it that they would never leave their old Party.


Chairman, Prima Europe

London W1