The SDP – What does it stand for?

26 July 2023 , categories: Democracy, Free speech, Manchester, Meetings

Tim O'Rourke, chair of the North West region of the Social Democratic Party joined us to explain what the SDP stands for.

Tim O’Rourke, chair of the North West region of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and other members of the party, joined us at the Welcome Inn to tell us about what the SDP stands for and what makes them different from other political parties. We had a great turn-out for this meeting and very lively debate with impassioned engagement.

Tim provided some background on his family origins and his own story, having previously always voted labour but never really being engaged in politics. This changed when he retired from a career building power stations and working on rail projects.  He went on to provide some history of the SDP, including:

  • Its formation in March 1981 by the “Gang of Four” who were disenchanted by Labour’s lurch to the left
  • Its decision to fight a “United States of Europe” in 1989 and continues to support Brexit today
  • Its alliance with the liberal party in 1981
  • Mostly disbanded in 1990 by David Owen though pockets of it continued.
  • Rebirth under William Clouston in 2018 and “The New Declaration
  • Recent successes in Leeds gaining SDP councillors

They are planning to stand 100+ candidates in the next General Election, including 10 in the north west.

The SDP team handed out material including “The end of indifference”, their green paper published in 2021, showing how they would approach all the main policy areas.

SDP membership is about 2,000 nationally with about 200 in the North West, of which 20 are most active. Members are surveyed every 6 months and when asked what areas to prioritise they responded with the top 7 areas as follows:

Their stance on the main policy areas is as follows:

  • Economy – to the left of labour, believe in public ownership of main utilities such as water, power and rail. But, public and private sectors should coexist, as open, competitive, free markets are the most efficient way to provide goods and services, they call this a “Social Market Economy”.
  • Gender – against biological males competing in women’s sports, and protection of female only spaces from biological men, whilst respecting the rights of trans-people not to be discriminated against.
  • Housing – need for a reinvigorated state house building programme.
  • Immigration – Support a net immigration target of 50,000 per year, and a clear distinction between political and economic migrants. More emphasis on skills needed and social integration.
  • Democracy – note the scale and vehemence of the reaction against the Brexit result in the 2016 referendum and wild swings between expansion and austerity under the two-party system. Hence need for proportional representation. So many people not represented and need for more people to be politically engaged and contribute.
  • Tolerance / Diversity – reject the current obsession with grievance and identity politics, preferring the teaching of Martin Luther King.
  • Nation / World – Unionist, patriotic, and internationalist.  Support NATO, WTO and the UN. Against imposition of our values on other countries by military intervention. Have pride in our country.
  • Zero emissions – whilst they believe in green policies such as the need to decarbonise and further invest in green technology, their stance is pragmatic. Whilst we sub-contract our emissions to other countries (with poor labour and environmental conditions) we are only responsible for 1% of global emissions. Chasing emissions reduction should not trump jobs, e.g. coking coal mine in Cumbria should go ahead. Their Uxbridge candidate stood against ULEZ.
  • The family – believe that a stable and secure family life is the foundation of a properly functioning society, yet successive governments have undermined this through economic and social policy.


When it came time for discussion there were many challenging comments and questions, and here is a brief summary of the main areas brought up:

  1. The most contentious area was SDP’s view on the “Climate Crisis”, NetZero and what they mean by being green. There was a strong request for more clarity on where the SDP stand on the fundamental science of climate change and the need to stand out from most of the other parties on this, and ideally to denounce the idea of a climate crisis (nearly unanimous). 
  2. Related to this topic was energy policy where the audience wanted more detail on how private companies could be nationalised and whether a public company could deliver more efficiently, not least if retaining the fundamental inefficiency of renewable energy. There was a significant feeling that governments need to step out of the way, avoiding policies mandating one approach to another and to let the market find the most efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable solutions.
  3. There needs to be a clearer elaboration of differences with the Reform Party and how can the SDP make in-roads with the poor showing for all the small parties in the recent bi-election?  A member (who would vote for the SDP if they stand in the next election) suggested that globalists despise the nation state because they don’t want us to guide our own future. They gave the example of Boris Johnson suggesting we all had a say in the last election and then, once the result was in, suggested we could then “leave them to it”. We must never “leave them to it” again.
  4. Other important areas included how to fix the NHS, how to solve the housing crisis (discussed previously at our Sheffield Group), how to promote families and whether Brexit (which the SDP supports) has been a success. These are all important topics worthy of further discussion in their own right.

During the discussion Tim was ably abetted by his colleagues who presented themselves enthusiastically and with conviction.

We did not reach agreement on the thorny issue of NetZero. The SDP did emphasise that they do not believe there to be a “crisis” and also there is no point striving for Net Zero when China’s increase in a year is more than our entire emissions. However, NetZero still remains a longer term goal which is predicated on an acceptance of man-made climate change. For many in the audience, this stance does not go far enough. Instead, they would have preferred a clear rejection of politically corrupted “scientific” claims which underpin wasteful and expensive NetZero policies.

Many thanks to Tim and his colleagues for taking the time to help us understand their party better. Whilst not everyone agreed with all of their policies, it was great to see a party providing honest answers and not being evasive. We wish them well in future elections.

Tim’s speaker notes.

Dates for your diary

NetZero Meetings in Manchester

On Wednesday 23rd August, Politics in Pubs Manchester is meeting for our first discussion on NetZero. One of our regular group members will lead this discussion.

This will be followed up with a special event on Thursday 14th September, when we will be joined by Dr Benny Peiser, director of The Global Warming Policy Foundation. Benny will be talking about the work of the GWPF and its campaigning arm NetZeroWatch. This meeting is likely to be over-subscribed and preference will be given to regular attendees. If you would like to attend please email us at

The Together Declaration

On Wednesday 9th August The Together Declaration is holding a regular meeting at 7pm in The Britons Protection.  As well as a general catch up, they will be going through a plan to set up a group of people who want to fight back against proposed plans for low traffic neighbourhoods across Greater Manchester. They are looking to have people in each council borough looking at what they’re proposing, feeding back, then act collectively to protest, write emails, interrogate the proposals with a view of pointing out errors, contradictions etc. More details here.

Politics in Pubs Newcastle

On Tuesday 15th August Politics in Pubs Newcastle is meeting again to discuss “The Right to Die: the ultimate civil right?”. This promises to be a fascinating and challenging topic and will be led by Professor Kevin Yuill, who is the CEO of Humanists Against Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.

Cancelling Cancel Culture

On Sunday 20th August, the Cancelling Cancel Culture group will be holding a meeting at 2pm in The Britons Protection in Manchester, with the topic: Is WOKE a 4-letter word? This promises to explain the origins of the term of what it really means to be woke.  More details here.

We are growing!

In 2023 we are hoping to expand our activities via regional Politics in Pubs groups and have created a map where you can search for a group near you.

Don’t worry if you can’t find anything nearby as you can start your own group. If you would like to be put in touch with other people interested in talking about politics, please reply to this email letting us know your location and we’ll help to get the conversation started.

We are also planning to network with other free speech groups who have a similar interest in open discussion and debate. If you have such a group and want to appear on our map please get in touch.

What aren’t we talking about? Would you like to be a guest speaker?

If there are any topics that you would like to discuss just let us know at We welcome suggestions covering anything relating to politics, free speech and our changing culture.

We are also very keen to have guest speakers lead discussions and give their perspectives on issues – but do prepare to be challenged! We get great attendance at our established groups in Manchester and Newcastle, and now have a new group in Sheffield. The only thing we ask is that you support free speech and open debate.