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 Euroscepticism
Social democracy
Political position Centre-left
Colours Blue and Red
Local government[1]
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The Social Democratic Party is a small political party in the United Kingdomformed in 1990. It traces its origin to the Social Democratic Party that was formed in 1981 by a group of dissident Labour Party politicians, all Members of Parliament (MPs) or former MPs: Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers andShirley 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 a number of 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. John Bates is the party president. According to the accounts filed with the Electoral Commission for the year ending 2008 it had 41 members.

From Bootle to Neath[edit]

The second incarnation of the SDP decided to dissolve itself after a disastrous result in the Bootle by-election of 1990. 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.


Since 1992, the SDP has concentrated on campaigning at local level and on trying to build up support again largely from scratch. In more recent years, it has 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 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: Peter Johnson stood in Birmingham Yardley, finishing in last place with 71 votes and Val Hoodless in Kingston upon Hull East, who was also last with 54 votes.

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.[9] Anthony Taylor is sitting on Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council as an “IndependentDemocrat”,[10] but remains listed on the party website as the only current SDP councillor.[11]

In August 2015, Solihull‘s Green councillor, Mike Sheriden, defected to the SDP,[12] taking their councillor tally up to one again. However, when he stood for re-election in May 2016, Sheridan received only 17 votes (0.83%) and lost his seat.

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 style themselves on their website as “The Socialist, anti-European Union alternative to UKIP and the pro-European Labour Party”,[citation needed] stating that “The SDP would repeal the European Communities Act 1972 [and] ensure sovereign powers of government are returned, enabling Britain to be governed in accordance with Social Democratic Party principles and policies.”[13]

SDP Councillors since 1999[edit]

Date Councillors
May 1999 Ray Allerston (Bridlington), Tony Pelton (Richmondshire), Brian Smith (Richmondshire), Jeff Dinham (Neath), John Sullivan (Neath), Anthony Taylor (Neath)
May 2003 Ray Allerston (Bridlington), Tony Pelton (Richmondshire), Jeff Dinham (Neath), John Sullivan (Neath), Anthony Taylor (Neath), Catherine Allerston (Bridlington)
May 2007 Ray Allerston (Bridlington), Jeff Dinham (Neath), John Sullivan (Neath), Anthony Taylor (Neath), David Metcalf (Bridlington)
May 2008 Ray Allerston (Bridlington), Jeff Dinham (Neath), John Sullivan (Neath), Anthony Taylor (Neath), David Metcalf (Bridlington), Jackie Foster (Bridlington)
May 2012 Ray Allerston (Bridlington), Anthony Taylor (Neath), David Metcalf (Bridlington), Jackie Foster (Bridlington)
Early 2014 Ray Allerston (Bridlington), Anthony Taylor (Neath), Jackie Foster (Bridlington)
September 2014 Anthony Taylor (Neath), Jackie Foster (Bridlington)
August 2015 Anthony Taylor (Neath), Jackie Foster (Bridlington), Mike Sheridan (Solihull)
Late 2015 Jackie Foster (Bridlington), Mike Sheridan (Solihull)
Early 2016 Mike Sheridan (Solihull)
May 2016 None remaining

See also