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Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Owen & Rodgers Reunited at Last
Twenty-five years ago the SDP was born when the famous Gang of Four (Williams, Rodgers, Jenkins & Owen) issued the Limehouse Declaration. Julian Glover brought the three surviving members together for the first time since 1987 in an excellent article in the Guardian, which you can read HERE. One of the best books I published was Bill Rodgers' autobiography, FOURTH AMONG EQUALS. Bill and David Owen hadn't spoken for 18 years before Julian Glover brought them together. Astonishing. Of course, the SDP were the forerunners of New Labour. I still think that's where Shirley Williams and Bill Rodgers would be most at home. David Owen, of course, is more of an enigma. I have always rather liked him. I understand John Major offered him a Cabinet job, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.
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Can it really be twenty-five years? I remember their conference at Torbay, we were on holiday nearby with our ickle daughter. It was very sweet because even the model village's hotel was bedecked with tiny SDP flags. To think I nearly joined them, although that was partly because they were the first party you could ring up and give a credit card number to to sign up. The others were still at the filling in a form and giving it to the branch secretary for him to lose stage.
It would be fascinating to know what would have happened in the gang had stayed in Labour. Maybe 'the project' would have got going earlier. Maybe Labour would have won in 1992. Maybe Michael Portillo would now be PM instead of tramping around the TV studios, Labour having been booted out after the ERM shambles.....
....which is basically what Iain wrote in his book of political counterfactuals, isn't it?
Moreorless everyone agrees that the 1992 election was a great one to lose, so yes, if the SDP crew had stayed and Labour had recovered an election earlier, we would probably now be into an eighth year of Tory Government.
I too would not have wanted to speak to Rodgers for 18 years. The same applies to Shirley Williams. At least Owen has class.
FWIW: I think you're right about Rodgers, I think your wrong about Shirley Williams.
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