Democratic Labour

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This party is not to be confused with any of the other Democratic Labour parties

Democratic Labour was a minor political party operating in the United Kingdom in the 1970s. It was formed by the Labour MP, Dick Taverne when his Constituency Labour Party (Lincoln) asked him to stand down as their candidate at the next general election. He had fallen out with them over Britain's continued membership of the European Economic Community which he supported but they did not.

Taverne resigned from Labour on 6 October 1972, forming the Lincoln Democratic Labour Association which his supporters in the CLP joined. His initial ambitions were to eventually re-join the Labour Party, but there were some who attempted to persuade him to try to establish a new party of the political centre.

Taverne resigned from parliament at the same time that he resigned from the Labour Party in order to force the issue into the open, and he won the ensuing Lincoln by-election, held in March,1973.

His victory was aided by the lack of a Liberal candidate as it decided instead to support his candidacy (in those days the party was only able to stand in a limited number of places and had a very limited base to work from in Lincoln) and the controversial adoption of Jonathan Guinness by the Conservatives.

Shortly after his by-election victory, Taverne formed the Campaign for Social Democracy as a nationally based body. He was re-elected in the February 1974 general election, and continued to serve until the October 1974 general election when he was defeated (Wilson demanding the Labour Party "throw the kitchen sink" at Lincoln to get him out). He did not stand in the seat again, but Democratic Labour continued to organise politically, to the extent that Democratic Labour controlled Lincoln City Council from 1973 until 1979 and across England during the 1973 local elections Democratic Labour candidates achieved some success.[1]

At the 1979 general election, Democratic Labour contested two seats: Lincoln and Brigg and Scunthorpe. Taverne advised against nominating any candidates but campaigned for them anyway. Both were unsuccessful in their attempts to gain seats in the House of Commons, losing their deposits (at that time, 12.5% of the vote was needed to keep deposits, falling to 5% after the 1983 General Election).

In 1980, Democratic Labour merged with the Social Democratic Alliance.[2] A social club they had established ran until 1987.

In many ways, Democratic Labour can be seen as a forerunner of the Social Democratic Party, which was formed by many of the viewpoints as Taverne, that broke away from Labour in the early 1980s. Taverne twice stood as a Social Democratic Party candidate but failed to be elected.


  1. ^ How the Main Counties voted: "All over the country freelance candidates appeared wearing the Democratic Labour ticket...and several did well.", The Economist, 21 April 1973
  2. ^ "Boost for Labour right", The Guardian, 15 February 1980