Tuesday, 16 May 2017
683 SDP Conference
First viewed : 10 September 1984
Watching this was not quite as desperate as watching cricket - I was now a student member of the Liberal Party after all - but it sits somewhere on the same spectrum.
The party was in a strange position, almost wiped out in the general election a year earlier but now led by one of the most impressive political performers of the decade keeping their profile high almost singlehandedly. They'd also been boosted by Mike Hancock's recent by-election in Portsmouth South. All I remember from this conference is some attention being given to a guy called Fitzgerald and his "Limehouse Group" dedicated to keeping the party true to Labour values.
Not long into my next term at university I switched from the Liberals to the SDP because the Liberal Society at Leeds was dominated by hardline supporters of trouble-making local MP Michael Meadowcroft and very hostile to a mooted alliance with moderate Tories for student union elections which I thought made sense.
David Owen kept up his high profile and after an impressive performance at the 1985 conference, the Alliance briefly topped the polls again until Neil Kinnock stole the headlines a fortnight later with his attack on the Militant leader Derek Hatton., a key moment in Labour coming back in from the cold.
The 1986 Conference was marred by a looming row with the Liberals over defence policy and by the time of the 1987 Conference all hell had broken loose between the parties over the idea of merger. In any case I was working by then so the days of watching live Condference coverage were over.