Social Democratic Party (UK, 1990–present)

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This article is about the UK Social Democratic Party which has existed since 1990. For other UK parties of this name, see Social Democratic Party.
Social Democratic Party (SDP)
Leader Jack Holmes (1990–1991)
John Bates (1991–2008)
Peter Johnson (2008–present)
Founded 1990
Headquarters 69, Oakdale Road,
B36 8AU.
Ideology Hard euroscepticism
Social democracy
Colours Blue and Red
Local government[1]
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The Social Democratic Party is a small political party in the United Kingdom. As of 2016, it has a few elected councillors but no parliamentarians. 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 the accounts filed with the Electoral Commission for the year ending 2008 it had 41 members.[2]


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.)[3] The Neath result proved 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.[4]

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.[5][6] A by-election was held in his ward on 27 November, which was won by the UK Independence Party.[7]

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,[8] but as of 2016 is listed as a Labour councillor.[8] Anthony Taylor is sitting on Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council as an "Independent Democrat",[9] but remains listed on the party website as the only current SDP councillor.[10]

In August 2015, Solihull's Green councillor, Mike Sheriden, defected to the SDP.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]

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[14] 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." Two new regional web platforms have also emerged, both displaying a new Scottish-themed logo.[15] .[16]

In response to the outcome of the September 2016 Labour leadership election,[17] 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."[18]

Founding member of the original SDP Lord Owen continues to take a public platform to discuss foreign affairs and the Brexit,[19] and is a regular contributor to online campaign Brexit Central[20] which promotes "a positive and optimistic vision of Britain after Brexit".[21]


  1. ^ Edkins, Keith (11 January 2016). "Local Council Political Compositions". Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 5, 2006. Retrieved November 28, 2005. 
  4. ^ "Bridlington Central and Old Town Ward — East Riding". Local Elections Archive Project. Andrew Teale. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 27, 2014. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Former Bridlington mayor Ray Allerston dies". 
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 4, 2014. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Councillors – Bridlington Town Council". 
  9. ^ "Councillor details - Councillor Anthony Taylor: NPT CBC". 
  10. ^
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  12. ^ The Ten SDP Principles
  13. ^ Ignore voices of doom over Brexit, says Lord Owen, BBC News (19 May 2016).
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External links[edit]