Germany’s Social Democrats gather in Dresden to elect a new leader following the party’s mauling in September’s election.The heavy defeat saw the SPD ousted from government after 11 years in power and prompted the leadership to stand down. The party won 23 per cent of the vote, a drop 11 per cent from the 2005 poll. Sigmar Gabriel, who is running unopposed for the position of party chair, delivered this message: “We must ensure that we become stronger. We must do it by giving the people confidence in us, by what we say and do. We live in times that are crying out for SPD solutions, but the electorate no longer trusts us.” The party’s conservative wing ruled the roost in recent times. But the left has found its voice again after September’s humiliation. As well as leadership issues, heated discussions are expected on a wide range of policies including German military deployment in Afghanistan. Observers expect a great deal of soul searching during the congress, which runs until Sunday.