The party was formed by a group of former members who disagreed with the SDP/Liberal merger and was led by the former leader of the SDP, David Owen. Supporting Owen were two other MPs, John Cartwright and Rosie Barnes and 17 members of the House of Lords. The party retained one major financial backer in Lord Sainsbury. At first the continuing SDP had some success, benefitting from the early problems encountered by the Social and Liberal Democrats. In February 1989 the SDP came second in the Richmond by-election coming within 3,000 votes of the Tory victor William Hague. However, a lack of active membership began to take its toll. A wilful decision to contest the Upper Bann by-election in early 1990 ended with the SDP bottom of the poll and this was followed in May by the party’s disastrous showing at the Bootle by-election when the SDP candidate finished behind the Monster Raving Loony candidate. The following week David Owen announced that the party had been wound up.