Social Democratic Party (UK, 1990–present)

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Social Democratic Party
Leader Jack Holmes (1990–1991)
John Bates (1991–2008)
Peter Johnson (2008–present)
Founded 1990
Headquarters 69, Oakdale Road,
B36 8AU.
Ideology Social democracy
Hard Euroscepticism
Political position Centre
Colours Blue and Red
Local government[1]
0 / 21,871

The Social Democratic Party is a minor political party in the United Kingdom, established in 1990. It traces its origin to the Social Democratic Party that was formed in 1981 by a group of dissident Labour Party Members of Parliament (MPs) and former MPs: Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams, who became known as the "Gang of Four". This party merged with the Liberal Party in 1988 to form the Liberal Democrats, but Owen, two other MPs and a minority of party activists formed a breakaway group immediately after with the same name. That party dissolved itself in 1990, but some activists met and voted to continue the party in defiance of its National Executive, leading to the creation of a new Social Democratic Party.

The party is listed on the Register of Political Parties for England, Scotland and Wales. According to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission, for the year ending 2008 it had 41 members,[2] and in 2015, the party had a total income of £769.50.[3] As of 2017, it has no principal authority councillors and one elected town councillor.


The second incarnation of the SDP decided to dissolve itself after a disastrous result in the May 1990 Bootle by-election. However, a number of SDP activists met and voted to continue the party in defiance of the National Executive. The continuing group was led by Jack Holmes, whose defeat by the Official Monster Raving Loony Party at the Bootle by-election had caused the party's end.

The much reduced SDP decided to fight the Neath by-election in 1991. With Holmes serving as the party's election agent, the SDP candidate finished fifth with 5.3% of the vote – only 174 votes behind the fourth-placed Liberal Democrats. (The SDP candidate joined the LibDems shortly thereafter.)[4] The Neath result suggested that a greatly reduced SDP could continue to be a viable party without David Owen. The party subsequently won a number of seats on the Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council.

1992–early 2016[edit]

Since 1992, the SDP has concentrated on campaigning at local level and on trying to build up support. It has at times held a few council seats in Yorkshire and South Wales.

Bridlington Central and Old Town ward on East Riding of Yorkshire Council remained a hotspot of SDP activity with Ray Allerston holding a council seat there from 1987. From 2003 to 2007 he was joined by his wife, Catherine Allerston.[5]

Meanwhile, in Tunstall Ward in Richmondshire, Tony Pelton and Brian Smith were elected in 1999.

A third hotspot consisted of SDP Councillors Jeff Dinham, John Sullivan and Anthony Taylor in Aberavon Ward, Neath Port Talbot.

In the 2003 elections, Tony Pelton was re-elected, but Brian Smith was not. In 2005, Christine Allerston became Mayor of Bridlington for a year, but stood down before the 2007 local elections, in which her husband Ray Allerston was re-elected (and made Mayor) and David Metcalf (SDP) picked up the vacant seat. All three Aberavon councillors remained in place, with Anthony Taylor becoming local mayor. However, Tony Pelton in Tunstall stood down before the 2007 locals, ending SDP representation there.

In 2008 Jackie Foster was elected onto Bridlington Town Council.

In 2007, Peter Johnson became party leader.

In 2012, Councillors Dinham and Sullivan lost their seats in Aberavon, leaving only Anthony Taylor in position.

In early 2014 David Metcalf stepped down due to ill health. He died soon after. This left just Allerston, Foster and Taylor in post. Ray Allerston died on 16 September 2014.[6][7] A by-election was held in his ward on 27 November, which was won by the UK Independence Party.[8]

The SDP fielded two candidates in the 2015 general election.

Jackie Foster remained an SDP councillor on Bridlington Town Council after the 2015 local elections,[9] but as of 2016 is listed as a Labour councillor.[9] Until May 2017, Anthony Taylor sat on Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council as an "Independent Democrat",[10] but remained listed on the party website as a SDP councillor.[11]

In August 2015, Solihull's Green councillor, Mike Sheriden, defected to the SDP.[12] However, when he stood for re-election in May 2016, Sheridan lost his seat.

Position on Europe[edit]

The party's political orientation has drifted towards Euroscepticism, despite the origins of the first SDP being as a pro-EU counterweight to Labour's disavowal of the European Community. The SDP's website says that "the SDP would repeal the European Communities Act 1972" to ensure sovereign powers of government are returned.[13]

During the 2016 referendum campaign on British withdrawal from the European Union, SDP founder Lord Owen publicly promoted a "leave" vote, urging Britons to ignore "voices of doom" warning about the consequences of withdrawal.[14]

After the 2016 Brexit referendum[edit]

Following the 23 June 2016 referendum in which UK voters voted to leave the European Union, the (Scottish) Sunday Herald published an article[15] stating that "Leader Peter Johnson will set up a branch network in Scotland over the coming months and his party will “target” council seats next May". Blair Smillie was also behind a modest campaign for three candidates, reported in the Herald as 'Labour Scion's Great Grandson Backs SDP'.[16] Two new regional web platforms have also emerged, both displaying a new Scottish-themed logo.[17][18] In response to the outcome of the September 2016 Labour leadership election,[19] Johnson commented "I congratulate Jeremy Corbyn on his leadership election success, and his success in creating within the party a similar mess to that which existed in 1981 and which led to the launch of the Social Democratic Party later that year."[20]

Six SDP candidates stood in the General Election 2017: one in Glasgow East and five in Sheffield constituencies.[21]

Burton Latimer town councillor Sam Watts[22] joined the party in June 2017, praising it on BBC Radio as a fresh choice for sensible moderates.[23] He was the UKIP candidate in Corby in June 2017 general election.[24]

Westminster elections[edit]

Election Seats ± Position Total votes  % Government
0 / 651
Steady None 35,248 0.1% No Seats
0 / 659
Steady None 1,246 0.0% No Seats
0 / 650
Steady None 1,551 0.0% No Seats
0 / 650
Steady None 125 0.0% No Seats
0 / 650
Steady None 469 0.0% No Seats


  1. ^ Edkins, Keith (30 June 2017). "Local Council Political Compositions". Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors. Retrieved 30 June 2017. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "Statement of Accounts (Yearly), 2015 Party name: Social Democratic Party". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 29 June 2017. 
  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 5, 2006. Retrieved November 28, 2005. 
  5. ^ "Bridlington Central and Old Town Ward — East Riding". Local Elections Archive Project. Andrew Teale. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 27, 2014. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Former Bridlington mayor Ray Allerston dies". 
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 4, 2014. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "Councillors – Bridlington Town Council". 
  10. ^ "Councillor details - Councillor Anthony Taylor: NPT CBC". 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ The Ten SDP Principles
  14. ^ Ignore voices of doom over Brexit, says Lord Owen, BBC News (19 May 2016).
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Social Democratic Party candidates in the 2017 General Election". Retrieved 12 May 2017. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ BBC Radio Northamptonshire, [2]
  24. ^ "Defeated Corby Parliamentary candidate defects". Northamptonshire Telegraph. 29 June 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017. 
  25. ^ "BBC Election 2010 Results". Retrieved 27 March 2017. 
  26. ^ Election 2015: The Results and Tables, Rallings, Thrasher & Borisyuk, University of Plymouth
  27. ^ "Election 2017 Results". BBC News. Retrieved 9 June 2017. 

External links[edit]