Germany’s Social Democrats have begun sifting through the ruins of their recent electoral drubbing.The SPD party conference opened today in Dresden, a city flattened by wartime bombs but since restored. The centre-left SPD will try to emulate this reconstruction under a new leadership. Outgoing party president Franz Müntefering told the congress: “Gains and losses in a democracy are just temporary. It was a bitter result but not the last result. Democracy continues. The SPD is patient and can fight. We’re ready for battle and we’ll be back.” Sigmar Gabriel is running unopposed to replace Müntefering at the head of the party. In September the SPD was relegated to opposition after 11 years in power. Its share of the vote fell 11 percent from four years earlier. Observers expect much soul-searching and heated debate at the congress, which runs until Sunday.