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This party is not to be confused with any of the other Democratic Labour parties

Democratic Labour was a minor political party operating in the United Kingdom in the 1970s. They were formed by the Labour MP, Dick Taverne when his Constituency Labour Party (Lincoln) asked him to stand down as their candidate at the next general election. He had fallen out with them over Britain's continued membership of the European Economic Community which he supported but they did not.

More to the point, the local party had become packed with members of a number of far-left groups, who intended to have one of their own members nominated & thus elected in what was a safe Labour seat. A similar process was happening throughout the country in many "soft" Labour branches, with the International Marxist Group, the Socialist Workers Party and particularly Militant Tendency (at that time a platform within Labour) being implicated.

Taverne resigned from Labour on October 6, 1972 and formed the Lincoln Democratic Labour Association which his supporters in the CLP joined. His initial ambitions were to eventually re-join the Labour Party, but there were some who attempted to persuade him to try and establish a new party of the political centre.

Taverne resigned from parliament at the same time he resigned from the Labour Party in order to force the issue into the open: and he won the ensuing Lincoln by-election, held in March, 1973.

His victory was aided by the lack of a Liberal candidate, as they decided instead to support his candidacy (albeit in those days the party was only able to stand in a limited number of places, & had a very limited base to work from in Lincoln), and the disastrous adoption of Jonathan Guinness by the Conservatives (Chairman of the Monday Club: during the campaign he was ridiculed as "Old Razor Blades" for saying that convicted rapists and murderers should have a razor blade left in their cell after conviction so that they could do "the honourable thing" and save on taxpayer's money), so that any potential anti-Labour vote, as well as his own personal vote, was his for the taking.

Shortly after his by-election victory, Taverne formed the Campaign for Social Democracy as a nationally based body. He continued to serve as Lincoln MP until the October, 1974 general election when he was defeated (Wilson demanding the Labour Party "threw the kitchen sink" at Lincoln to get him out). He did not stand in the seat again, but Democratic Labour continued to organise politically, to the extent that Democratic Labour controlled Lincoln City Council from 1973 until 1979.

At the 1979 general election, Democratic Labour contested two seats : Lincoln and Brigg and Scunthorpe. Taverne advised against nominating any candidates, but campaigned for them anyway. Both were unsuccessful in their attempts to gain seats in the House of Commons, with both candidates losing their deposits (nb. at that time, you needed 12.5% of the vote, this did not fall to 5% until after the 1983 General Election).

In 1980, Democratic Labour merged with the Social Democratic Alliance.[1] A social club they had established ran until 1987.

In many ways Democratic Labour can be seen as a forerunner of the Social Democratic Party which was formed by many of a similar viewpoint to Taverne who broke away from Labour in the early 1980s. Taverne himself twice stood as a Social Democratic Party candidate, but failed to be elected again.


  1. ^ "Boost for Labour right", The Guardian, 15 February 1980


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