by Stephen Tall on August 1, 2009
If the SDP had lived on*, 2009 would have marked its
18th** 28th birthday – which spurious segue is all the excuse we need to dust off three video clips tracing its rise and fall.
Let’s begin at the beginning, with the explosion of the ‘Gang of Four’ – Roy, David, Shirley and Bill – onto the scene, here holding their first press conference in March 1981:
For a year or more it really did seem as if the SDP might truly break the mould of British politics. But the party was shattered by the results of the June 1983 general election, winning only six seats. Here’s the start of the BBC’s election night results programme. Historical footnote: the first three constituencies to declare that night were Guildford, Torbay and Cheltenham – all then safe Tory seats, all since represented by Lib Dem MPs:
Another four years, another disappointing general election result, and it was all over for the SDP. ITV’s Spitting Image captured, rather too accurately, the simmering tension of the ‘Two Davids’ leadership as the Alliance reincarnated itself as the Liberal Democrats:
* technically, the SDP does still live on, of course – indeed, according to its website, ‘the SDP is planning to revamp its operations in 2006/2007’.
** My Math = FAIL