Founded in 1888, it is the second oldest political party in England after the Liberal Party. In the 1920s it displaced the Liberal Party to become the main opposition to the Conservative Party. Since the 1930s it has been the main rival to the National Party.
The Social Democrats have been in power on several occasions, 1929-1932, 1945-51, 1969-77, 1982-1990 and 2008-2015.
Internationally the SDP is affiliated to the Alliance of Socialists and Progressives.
Several socialist, trade unionist and reformist movements had been active during the 19th century. Most notable was the Socialist League, which even contested some by-elections in the 1870s. The Social Democratic Party was founded in 1888 as a merger between several of these groups.
Wainwright Government 1929-1932
On May 20th 1929 Harry Wainwright became the first Social Democrat Prime Minister of England.
Holt Government, 1945-51
Following the 1951 defeat the SDP was to spend the next 18 years in opposition.
At the 1961 Party Conference in Bristol the SDP adopted the Bristol Declaration, renouncing state socialism and the nationalisation of all industry in favour of pump-priming economics and government control of only the "commanding heights" of the economy (infrastructure, energy, water, coal and steel).
Following the 1963 defeat Arthur Brown was elected party leader.
Brown and Cox Government, 1969-77
Given the scale of the 1977 defeat, many predicted the SDP would be in opposition for at least a decade. James Cox stayed on as leader in opposition.
At the 1981 Party Conference in Sheffield the party replaced the Bristol Declaration with the Sheffield Declaration, renouncing nationalisation. Instead the party committed itself to defending a "Strong public sector and a strong private sector held in balance within a mixed economy".
Newton and Smith Government, 1982-1990
Miller Government 2008-2015
Tony Miller lead the SDP to electoral victory in the 2008 general election.
The SDP was initially founded in 1888 as a Marxist party. However in 1911 the party renounced Marxism and adopted a democratic socialist manifesto. Under the leadership of Harry Wainwright (1918-1933) the party abandoned most radical socialist rhetoric in favour of social reform, and indeed when the SDP formed a government in 1929 they did not embark on a widespread programme of nationalisation.
The post war Holt government did go through with a major nationalisation programme, bringing the railways, coal, steel, water and energy industries under central government control.
The Brown government in the 1960s and 1970s focused on social reform, and enhancing the welfare system rather than nationalisation, although did bring several failing companies under government ownership in order to save them from bankruptcy.
In the 1980s under James Newton the SDP endorsed elements of classical liberalism, deregulating the financial sector. The 1981 Sheffield Declaration saw the Social Democrats renounce nationalisation.
The Social Democratic Party is a self described social-democratic and progressive political party, and seeks to achieve social justice within the framework of a free market economy. The Social Democrats are socially liberal. On Foreign Affairs the Social Democrats support continued English membership of the European Community.
|1933||National Victory||Harry Wainwright|
|1936||National Victory||Alfred Staines|
|1939||National Victory||Alfred Staines|
|1942||National Victory||Ernest Holt|
|1945||SDP Victory||Ernest Holt|
|1948||SDP VIctory||Ernest Holt|
|1951||National Victory||Ernest Holt|
|1954||National Victory||Ernest Holt|
|1966||National Victory||Arthur Brown|
|1969||SDP Victory||Arthur Brown|
|1972||SDP VIctory||Arthur Brown|
|1975||SDP Victory||Arthur Brown|
|1977||National Victory||James Cox|
|1980||National Victory||James Cox|
|1982||SDP VIctory||James Newton|
|1984||SDP Victory||James Newton|
|1987||SDP VIctory||James Newton|
|1990||National Victory||Tom Smith|
|1993||National Victory||Kevin Meldrew|
|1996||National Victory||Mark Albert|
|2008||SDP Victory||Tony Miller|
|2011||SDP Victory||Tony Miller|
|2014||SDP Victory||Tony Miller|
Harry Wainwright 1918-1933
Alfred Staines 1933-1940
Ernest Holt 1940-1955
Arthur Brown 1964-1976
James Cox 1976-1980
James Newton 1980-1990
Tom Smith 1990-1991
Kevin Meldrew 1991-1993
Mark Albert 1993-1996
William Jackman 1996-2002
Tony Miller 2006-present