The splitters have been joined by one more Labour MP, and three Tories. Paul Mason comments with sense on the New Statesman, “To save his project, Jeremy Corbyn must bring Labour’s old guard on side“; it would seem that he agrees with me, it’s important to minimise the split, and constrain it to careerist malcontents. In a video, Tom Watson argues correctly that this is not a time for anger or glee and that we need to remember our, or Jeremy’s, promise of a kinder gentler politics. We must convince other doubters that only Labour can make the changes in society that are needed. This article looks at these responses and also examines the history and electoral impact of the foundation of the SDP last time, and its predecessors, specifically in the light of Dick Taverne’s decision to resign immediately and defend his seat.

There are two reasons for this, the first is that it’s the right thing to do, and the second is to maintain the progressive coalition to win a general election. Mason puts it well, do we want to fix the country or fix party.

The leader must build a broader shadow cabinet and not swap the chance to lead a government for the chance to control a party.

If we fail to maintain our support then we are in danger of repeating the experiences of 1983, Wikipedia says,

The election saw a landslide victory for the Conservatives, achieving their best results since 1935. Although there was a slight drop in their share of the vote, they made significant gains at the expense of Labour. The night was a disaster for the Labour Party; their share of the vote fell by over 9%, which meant they were only 700,000 votes ahead of the newly-formed third party, the SDP–Liberal Alliance. The massive increase of support for the Alliance at the expense of Labour meant that, in many seats, the collapse in the Labour vote allowed the Conservatives to gain. Despite winning over 25% of the national vote, the Alliance got fewer than 4% of seats, 186 fewer than Labour. The most significant Labour loss of the night was Tony Benn, who was defeated in the revived Bristol East seat. SDP President Shirley Williams, then a prominent leader in the Social Democratic Party, lost her Crosby seat which she had won in a by-election in 1981. Bill Rodgers, another leading figure in the Alliance (like Williams, one of the “Gang of Four”) also failed to win his old seat that he previously held as a Labour MP.

Wikipedia asks that the statement, “The massive increase of support for the Alliance at the expense of Labour meant that, in many seats, the collapse in the Labour vote allowed the Conservatives to gain.” should be supported by evidence and I have examined the results of the Hayes & Harlington votes on an article on my wiki. It’s a seat where an SDP defector tried to hold the seat, the Tory vote is virtually unchanged and yet they won it in 1983. Labour, where a “campaigning comrade” of mine, I grew up in the area, stood for Labour only got ~375 votes more than the incumbent SDP candidate.

This chart showing the following careers of the splitters is available on twitter,

The result of the split is most likely to be a Tory victory at the next General Election and maybe the one after that.


A nerd writes, that’s me that is!

Labour lost 52 seats net in 1983, and the SDP candidates of which there were 31 incumbents held 5 seats and thus lost 26 seats. Wikipedia asks for substantiation of the claim that Labour lost seats not because the Tories grew, but because they shrank. I have written up the results of Hayes & Harlington, where the Tory votes remained pretty much the same but the split in the Labour vote between the Labour candidate and the incumbent defector were split nearly 50/50. The Tory won.

I had a play with , but I think their model is to generous to the Tories, or at least I hope it is, the one thing it did prove is that if UKIP recover, it’ll be dangerous to the Tories although this all proves the weakness of exclusively mathematical models.

A couple of days later, @robfordmancs posted this on twitter,

He argues that the Labour would have done worse without the SDP/Liberal Alliance as many Alliance Voters had the Tories as 2nd choice and that many Liberals switched to Tory. The book “SDP: The Birth, Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party” by King & Crewe examines this. i.e the argument that the SDP split the progressive vote and allowed the Tories to win is not based on all the evidence, despite my analysis of Hayes and Harlington,

History, tragedy & farce
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2 thoughts on “History, tragedy & farce

  • 23rd February 2019 at 6:24 pm

    Ian Austin has also left the Labour Party and has been an MP since 2005.

  • 25th February 2019 at 4:56 pm

    Today I added the reference to the book, SDP: The Birth, Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party

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