Pulling Together


SDP Conference and what I learned

Yesterday I went to the SDP Conference in Church House, Westminster. I always look forward to this as it’s the one day in the year when I don’t feel isolated. For a whole day I can talk to people who mostly see the world as I do, who value truth more than tribalism and seek to find a balance.

Of course, all parties will be coalitions of a range of views and that is particularly the case with a party which delights in diversity of opinion and people’s right to say what they believe without being punished for it. Indeed the day ended with a man, whose work had suddenly come to an end after he wrote something unfashionable on Twitter, being interviewed about his predicament. We believe in letting people speak for themselves, even when they're not members of our party, as most of the guest speakers at the conference are not.

The down side of this is we sometimes find ourselves listening to views we do not share, and that happened to me twice yesterday. One speaker, who is a member but holds no official position, erroneously claimed to speak for us all. Well, he didn’t speak for me. While I agreed with some of what he said, he undoubtedly went too far so far as I was concerned, and his remarks did not go in a direction of balance considering the complexities and seriousness of his subject. Audience shots just about show me listening intently with a concerned expression. Some applauded his remarks. I didn’t, though I cannot recall whether I gave the customary polite applause at the end. The video shows me looking agitated, but does not show my hands. I know I felt very unhappy about it.

But we have to take the rough with the smooth. On the whole, I was somewhat relieved by the end of the day, that things had not gone as badly as I had feared, for I had expected sparks to fly in debates which did not happen. I had the chance to meet many people and learn new things, and the usual comfort of being with many people who broadly share my outlook on the sane centre-left, rejecting the madness which has gripped most British politics in the last two decades or so.

I also learned when talking to one of the exhibitors why I feel so isolated as I do. Organisations which appear to stand for freedom and fairness don’t really do that. They are activist fighters just like those they oppose. They don’t want to encourage a genuine search for solutions. They thrive on stirring the pot, and the last thing they want is someone taking the heat out of the stew. I am a peacemaker. My instinct is to stand very firmly for what is sound, what is reasonable, and what can be established beyond doubt, but nobody in control of the debate wants peace. Therefore, those who do are squeezed out. As a fellow student used to say back in my college days, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be shot at from both sides.”

Let’s hope for peace, for it is in short supply at present.

About the Author

K J Petrie has a Full Technological Certificate in Radio, TV and Electronics, an HNC in Digital Electronics and a BA(Hons) in Theological Studies.

His interests include Christian and societal unity, Diverse Diversity, and freedoms from want, from fear, of speech, and of association. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party.

The views expressed here are entirely personal and unconnected with any body to which he belongs.

Engage with the Author

If you’d like to discuss anything please send me your e-mail address and I will send you mine.

Your address will only be used for replying and will not be passed to anyone else.


If you would like to be informed by e-mail of new Pulling Together articles as they are published, please enter your address here.

Your address will only be used to let you know about new articles and will not be passed to anyone else.

Full List