LETTER:Life beyond Westminster's two-party club

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From Mr John Bates

Sir: As we gather in Weston-Super-Mare this weekend for our annual conference, the members of the Social Democratic Party will take with a pinch of salt yet another report of our demise ("The end of the Mad Hatters", 16 November).

Professor King's assessment of the problems of the SDP is scholarly enough but makes some false claims and draws some inaccurate conclusions.

The SDP will certainly not have appeared to vanish without trace to those very many local electors who are still happily represented by SDP councillors around the country. It is also wrong to perpetuate the myth that the SDP merged with the then Liberal party. Only a minority of SDP members voted for the merger. Nor was the continuing SDP "dedicated to David Owen's leadership". We were, and more importantly still are, dedicated to Social Democracy. It was our good fortune to have a politician of Dr Owen's stature to lead us. In those circumstances only a party of imbeciles would have wished to be led by anyone else.

Professor King's aberrant conclusion is that Labour's conversion to Conservatism is a reflection of the spirit of the age. This is sheer nonsense. It is a clear expression of the corrupting effect of a corrupt and outdated electoral system. Labour's leaders have simply abandoned "principle without power" in the hope of achieving power, presumably with principles sent to the wall.

The SDP is now a small party but we will continue to look to a future and to prepare radical policies for a country that will one day reject once and for all the woefully inadequate electoral system and the wearisome and second-rate politicians with which it saddles us.

Yours faithfully,

John Bates


Social Democratic Party


16 November