Launched on a wave of euphoria in 1981, the SDP aroused the hopes and enthusiasm of millions. Promising to break the mould of British politics, its leaders included four of the most respected figures in British public life - Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers, and Shirley Williams. But the SDP failed. Despite winning with the Liberals a quarter of the vote in two general elections, by the autumn of 1987 it had disintegrated amidst acrimony and bitter in-fighting. Ivor Crewe and Anthony King draw on unprecedented access to the SDP's archive and extensive interviews with all the leading players to chronicle the party's short but turbulent history and analyse in detail the reasons for its early success and its ultimate demise. Reviews of the hardback: 'It is British political science at its best, combining intimate knowledge of the players with a firm grasp of the numbers, all gracefully and thoughtfully presented.' - Nelson W. Polsby, Choice; 'This study of the SDP is a classic of its kind, accurate, detailed, perceptive, mercilessly honest.' - Shirley Williams, Times Higher Education Supplement; "Professors Crewe and King have produced a masterpiece of contemporary history.
They marshal complex arguments and masses of detail with the art that conceals art. Their narrative sweeps forward with captivating energy and style, and bristles with mordant phrases.' - David Marquand, Observer; 'If there were a Booker Prize for social sciences, here would be the obvious nomination.' - Kenneth O. Morgan, New Statesman; 'This brilliant history - definitively researched, graced with wit, insight and countless pungent anecdotes.' - Gerald Kaufman, Sunday Telegraph; 'Our two professors ...write clearly, sometimes wittily and without academic jargon. They are masters of their material.' - Douglas Hurd, Daily Telegraph.
`In the hands of Crewe and King, the story of the SDP is more than a gripping narrative. Apart from providing a concise summary of the party's organization ... they also subject the motives of the original defectors to a convincing analysis ... Crewe and King display considerable ingenuity in testing less obvious factors, such as potential earnings outside parliament, membership of the trade unions, local government experience, and the defector's place of
Government and Opposition
`Crewe and King present a very detailed history of this strange enterprise to create a centre party, including five appendices and numerous comprehensive notes ... There is unlikely to be a better history of the SDP written in the future.'
`a magisterial work - a definitive account of a remarkable episode in British political history ... It is full of 'inside dope' and tackles every question that one could think to ask about the SDP ... the book is splendidly written and is a thoroughly good read. It is full of excellent character sketches.'
David Denver, EPOP Newsletter, January 1997
`This book charts the birth, brief life and death of the SDP and will be instructive reading for the large number of MCD members who want to see a Christian Democrat Party arise out of a supporting and continuing Movement.'
The Christian Democrat
`as a near-definitive piece of contemporary political history it would be hard to better'
John Stevenson, Worcester College, Oxford, Contemporary British History, Vol. 10, No. 1, Spring '96
`They set out to tell the story of the S.D.P., and to place it in the context of late twentieth-century British politics. They do so meticulously and with a feast of detail on electoral support, party membership, and of course the dealings and wheelings of the principal actors. S.D.P. is an impressive account, and its judgements are in general astute and well balanced.'