A Firm Hand- A British Political Timeline

A Firm Hand
1974 saw a rather unremarkable General Election in January, with Ted Heath leading the Conservatives to re election. The Conservatives gained seven seats, going up to 337, while Wilson’s Labour Party dropped by 20 to 268. Labour lost the majority of there lost seats to the Tories, who in turn lost a few seats to the Liberals, who went from 6 to 19 seats. Other parties and independents took 9 seats between them.

Heath had initially intended to hold the election a month or so later but was convinced to hold the election in January by his advisors. That February Harold Wilson resigned as leader of the Labour Party. Having been Labour's leader for nearly nine years, and he was succeeded to his post a senior party figure, who won in the subsequent leadership contest.​
 
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A Firm Hand
1974 saw a rather unremarkable General Election in January, with Ted Heath leading the Conservatives to re election. The Conservatives gained seven seats, going up to 337, while Wilson’s Labour Party dropped by 20 to 268. Most of these seats were picked up by the Liberals, who went from 6 to 19 seats. Other parties and independents took 9 seats between them.

Heath had initially intended to hold the election a month or so later but was convinced to hold the election in January by his advisors. That February Harold Wilson resigned as leader of the Labour Party. Having been Labour's leader for nearly nine years, and he was succeeded to his post a senior party figure, who won in the subsequent leadership contest.​
I think numerically you can get this result, but it would be Liberals gain seats from Tories in Lib/Tory marginals but the Tories gain more from Labour in Tory/Labour marginals given the serious shortage of Liberal/Labour competitive seats other than ugh Rochdale (please can Cyril be non present perhaps sunk by an earlier emergence of his involvement in covering up asbestosis caused by Turner and Newell to its employeees and thuis being notselected to fight the by election).
 
Chapter One:
Britain, strikes and riots went on. In March the miners were once again joined by the rail workers for another strike. Later in the month they were joined by transport workers and engineers. Fast forward to May, and the country was almost paralysed by the growing strike action. In late May Heath announced the commencement of the Three Day Week, limiting work and school to three days to conserve coal. Television and radio broadcasting hours were reduced, and the country braced itself for a hard winter later that year.
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Within the Labour Party, Harold Wilson’s reputation was a rotten one. When Denis Healey announced he was running for leader, and Wilson endorsed him, Healey’s approval rating went down. Jim Callaghan was reluctant to run but was viewed as the only one who could beat Tony Benn’s populist movement. Callaghan pulled a modest victory and began on his mission to portray Heath as the pantomime villain of the strikes.
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Callaghan was elected as Labour Leader in 1974

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1975 Labour Leadership Election


1975 saw Britain in a state of paralysis due to the ongoing strikes. By January the miners were demanding pay increases of as much as 45%, and claimed that their trade had been neglected ever since 1951 because of government suspicion of the unions. Ted Heath refused to give in to what he referred to in a televised broadcast on the 4th of January as "selfishness and single mindedness".​
 
Chapter Two:
The Liberal Party by no means had an easy 1975 as there leader, Jeremy Thorpe resigned from his post, citing "personal reasons" for his departure. Often well-liked by the press, the circumstances around Thorpe's resignation were nonetheless subjected to intense speculation, especially given news on it was brief and unexpected. Liberal Whip, Cyril Smith (often referred to as “Big Cyril”) would take the Leadership and portrayed himself as energetic an jolly. However three weeks later he was arrested for covering up the murder of a teenager by a local friend whilst he was a city councillor. David Steel was forced to pick up the pieces of a ruined Liberal Party. Steel was hardly the needed tough leadership the party needed and polls suggested a total wipeout of the Liberal Party in the next election.
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Three of the 1975 Liberal Leaders

August saw the Tory government heavily slated for sweeping cuts to public services, with much funding for the NHS and armed forces losing out in the name of curbing the recession. The next month unemployment hit 1.8 million.

As the protests continued, Ted Heath caved in. A wage increase of 47% was agreed to, and the miners went back to work. Similar concessions were made to the dockers and transport workers.
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The reaction from within the Conservative Party was, to put it mildly, negative. In fact, it was one of fury and outrage. How dare the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a Conservative Prime Minister, submit to the demands of these godless communists, these rebels, these traitors?
 
Chapter Two:
The Liberal Party by no means had an easy 1975 as there leader, Jeremy Thorpe resigned from his post, citing "personal reasons" for his departure. Often well-liked by the press, the circumstances around Thorpe's resignation were nonetheless subjected to intense speculation, especially given news on it was brief and unexpected. Liberal Whip, Cyril Smith (often referred to as “Big Cyril”) would take the Leadership and portrayed himself as energetic an jolly. However three weeks later he was arrested for covering up the murder of a teenager by a local friend whilst he was a city councillor. David Steel was forced to pick up the pieces of a ruined Liberal Party. Steel was hardly the needed tough leadership the party needed and polls suggested a total wipeout of the Liberal Party in the next election.​
Of course that was far from the only misdeed of Cyril Smith...
 
Chapter Three:
It was no secret that Heath was on shaky ground. On the 31st of October 1975, Home Secretary, Keith Joseph announced in a speech his anger at the Prime Minister and his intention to stage a leadership challenge. He was very easily able to gather the required Parliamentary support, and the leadership election went ahead. Heath stated his intention to make a bid for a continuation of his tenure, but initial reception from his party was lukewarm at best. Many expected Reginald Maudling to run, however he refused, reluctantly backing Heath. In the end, Heath only pulled 53% of the party's vote. Despite a narrow victory, Heath announced that he would be gone by the next election.
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Heath and Joseph fought for the leadership

With Heath’s resignation impending, Maudling was found to be drumming up support for his leadership bid, whilst the right wing of the party had to reflect on there failure to unseat one of the most unpopular Prime Ministers of the century. Whilst Margaret Thatcher initially started off as the front runner to be the candidate of the right, her lead dropped when opponents heavily attacked her for voting to legalise Abortion and Homosexuality.

As unemployment decreased throughout 1976 and NHS funding went back up, Heath found himself considerably more popular than in previous years. With Heath polling above 50% for the first time since the election, the tories had reason to look forward to the next election. With Reginald Maudling de facto confirmed to take over from Heath in 1977 / 1978, Heath could brag of a massive local election victory in 1976, with 10,000 Tory councillors in England and Wales.

With Labour taking only 2,000 councillors, Callaghan found himself in an awkward position, with many in his party finding a Callaghan premiership impossible to believe. Callaghan would resign quoting “Personal Reasons”, however all knew it was due to his party’s poor performance.

In February 1977 the Prime Minister and Her Majesty the Queen both went on a goodwill tour to the United States. Heath was thought to be very pro-American, and wished to retain, Britain’s good relations with the U.S. Echoing the 1972 tour, the Prime Minister and the Queen met with the Newly Innaugarated, American President Jimmy Carter, and Vice President Frank Church. Her Majesty attended a review of the US Navy at San Francisco, and watched joint Anglo-American military exercises on the Great Plains. Heath and Carter also met to discuss Anglo-American trade, and defence cooperation.
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The Queen and Prince Philip meeting President Carter
 
Chapter Four: New
Chapter Four:
Inspired by the American and British Protests, unrest began in the Soviet Union in December 1977, with protests and riots breaking out across the USSR. In what seemed to be a chain reaction, demonstrations and violence sprung up in dozens of cities in the various "occupied" regions of Russia. The Ukraine and Georgia were most affected with many refugees fleeing to Turkey and Romania to avoid the chaos. In many cases the army was used to put down any particularly violent protests, in other cases riot police and tear gas was used.
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Tanks in Kiev, January 1978. The riots in the Soviet Union during the late 70s were far out of Brezhnev’s control

On the 10th July Ted Heath resigned as Prime Minister, and Reginald Maudling drove to the Palace, where Her Majesty the Queen invited him to form a government. Dennis Healey and David Steel both welcomed Maudling as great change from the Government of Ted Heath. Heath himself would agree to serve as Chancellor until a post election reshuffle.
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Heath leaving to go to the palace to tender his resignation
 
Chapter Five: New
Chapter Five:
Reginald Maudling would cut taxes and increase public spending however he is only ever remembered for one thing: dying. Maudling would die at the age of 62 on the 10th April 1979, just 9 months after entering number 10. His funeral was attended by the Queen, Prince Charles, Ted Heath, President Carter and many other world leaders.
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Reginald Maudling: 1917-1979

With only a month until the election, Ted Heath agreed to stand in as acting Prime Minister until after the election. The 1979 Conservative leadership election was hotly contested, with Maggie Thatcher, Willie Whitelaw and Geoffrey Howe all vying for a chance at the leadership. The relatively new Howe polled only 12% of the vote. Whitelaw gained 32%, and Thatcher 56%. On the 18th April 1979, Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party.

The 1979 General Election was overwhelming for Labour, who gained 60 seats, almost all of which were taken from the Tories in a targeted campaign. The Liberals also failed to make any gains, losing two seats. Other parties took home ten between them.
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Dennis Healey hadn’t expected to become Prime Minister

With a solid cabinet of several old hands like Roy Jenkins (Chancellor), new hands like Roy Hattersley (Home) and radical hands like Michael Foot (Foreign), Healey expected to do well in the polls. Meanwhile Margaret Thatcher and her personality based campaign seemed not to wash with the electorate, and the party lost 58 seats overall. Questions over her ability to lead the Tories to victory were frequently asked but Thatcher dodged them, for now.​
 
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Well. This'll be interesting. I imagine Heath and Maudling will have privatised a few more nationalised businesses than IOTL, but I feel like Labour under Healey will keep the status quo as it is. I don't expect them to go fully neoliberal in the sense that Hawke and Douglas did around that time, but I feel like they'll be rather pragmatic in government nevertheless. With that said, I feel like Thatcher can't dodge those questions for long, and she's going to be challenged by a moderate like Whitelaw sooner or later.
 
Chapter Six:
The Liberals had anticipated a much worse result than that of the one they got. Despite the scandal around Smith’s departure, and mystery around Thorpe’s; the bumbling Steel had somehow limited the damage and controlled 17 parliamentary seats. By the time 1980 came around, Steel was also enjoying high polls, with some suggesting as many as 35 seats going towards the liberals.

In September 1980 Margaret Thatcher, at a press conference, stated her belief that the growing number of single-parent families was concerning, but hurriedly had to add that she was not opposed to divorce. The line was picked up on by the press quickly, and Thatcher saw her approval ratings slip after the incident.
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Shortly after this press conference the Conservative Party held its annual conference in October. Thatcher rolled out her trademark plans for privatisation, making public her ideas for privatised rail saying it would be "much better handled by the free market". The policy received mixed reviews, proving very popular with old traditionalists, while newer Tories thought it was a step too far. Healey was quick to seize on this, and took every opportunity to lambaste the party over it.

Healey himself had found himself repealing a few of the privatisations made by Heath and Maudling. Whilst popular amongst those in his party they did little to help in the polls. Michael Foot was shuffled out of the foreign office and into the role of Justice Secretary in an attempt to sway over more moderate voters but the polls remained stagnant.
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Denis Healey and Michael Foot. Healey was known for being experimental with the polls.
 
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Chapter Seven:
On the 11th February 1981, Healey finally broke through the polls as an Ipsos MORI poll put Labour at eleven points ahead of the Conservatives. On the 18th, Healey himself appeared on Question Time, putting up an admirable performance in defending the government's record. On the 23rd the Prime Minister announced his intention to call an early General Election, seizing the sudden surge in Labour support. Healey had initially been concerned about holding an early election, and would have preferred to have waited until 1984, but was convinced to go to the polls early while approval was high.
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Prime Minister Healey had initially wanted the election to take place in 1984, but good polling persuaded him otherwise

The country went to the polls on the 31st March, and Healey's gamble paid off - sort of. In the end, the Conservatives tanked and lost 30 seats, slipping down to 249. However, Labour lost two, going down to 326. What had taken place was some sort of political musical chairs. The Conservatives had lost seats to Labour, while Labour had lost about enough seats to the Liberals. The Liberals were where the real shock came from, as they gained a massive 33 seats, increasing their number then to 50. Thatcher's post-election speech proclaimed "the lady's not for leaving" in response to calls from her own party to resign, but it received a very negative response, especially from cabinet ministers who viewed it as selfish.

Maggie's tenure as Conservative Party leader, after the election, was short-lived. The straw that broke the camel's back was a fiery speech in which she once again condemned trade unionism. In April a no-confidence motion was tabled against her, and 201 to 48 of the party's MPs voted to remove Thatcher from office. On the 14th April, Margaret Thatcher stepped down.

May saw the Conservative leadership election held, after Thatcher’s bloody removal. Willie Whitelaw stood for election again, but the right-wing of the party had no horse in the race after Keith Joseph declined to stand. Eventually a reluctant Lord Peter Carrington was persuaded to stand. In the end he won over 60% of the vote, and became Leader of the Opposition and the Conservative Party on the 4th of May 1981.
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Being a member of the House of Lords, Carrington was reluctant to stand for Tory Leader
 
Chapter Seven:
On the 11th February 1981, Healey finally broke through the polls as an Ipsos MORI poll put Labour at eleven points ahead of the Conservatives. On the 18th, Healey himself appeared on Question Time, putting up an admirable performance in defending the government's record. On the 23rd the Prime Minister announced his intention to call an early General Election, seizing the sudden surge in Labour support. Healey had initially been concerned about holding an early election, and would have preferred to have waited until 1984, but was convinced to go to the polls early while approval was high.
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Prime Minister Healey had initially wanted the election to take place in 1984, but good polling persuaded him otherwise

The country went to the polls on the 31st March, and Healey's gamble paid off - sort of. In the end, the Conservatives tanked and lost 30 seats, slipping down to 249. However, Labour lost two, going down to 326. What had taken place was some sort of political musical chairs. The Conservatives had lost seats to Labour, while Labour had lost about enough seats to the Liberals. The Liberals were where the real shock came from, as they gained a massive 33 seats, increasing their number then to 50. Thatcher's post-election speech proclaimed "the lady's not for leaving" in response to calls from her own party to resign, but it received a very negative response, especially from cabinet ministers who viewed it as selfish.

Maggie's tenure as Conservative Party leader, after the election, was short-lived. The straw that broke the camel's back was a fiery speech in which she once again condemned trade unionism. In April a no-confidence motion was tabled against her, and 201 to 48 of the party's MPs voted to remove Thatcher from office. On the 14th April, Margaret Thatcher stepped down.

May saw the Conservative leadership election held, after Thatcher’s bloody removal. Willie Whitelaw stood for election again, but the right-wing of the party had no horse in the race after Keith Joseph declined to stand. Eventually a reluctant Lord Peter Carrington was persuaded to stand. In the end he won over 60% of the vote, and became Leader of the Opposition and the Conservative Party on the 4th of May 1981.
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Being a member of the House of Lords, Carrington was reluctant to stand for Tory Leader
I would expect he really would have to renounce the peerage if he is going to continue. Secondly with all those Liberal Seats in formerly Labour Constituencies the Liberals will probably be moved to adopt a more "progressive" stance, which is more in tune with party members anyway, rather than being a party trying to win mainly Conservative Voters Third;y if the Liberals got 33 ish seats from Labour either they have replaced the SNP/PC in Urban Scotland and Wales, with major effects in the long term, or the SNP/PC should be up 15-20 as well, which would affect your Labour-Tory numbers..
 
Chapter Eight: New
Chapter Eight:
In December 1981 the British political scene was rocked by a monumental event. Healey had decided to sack off most of the left leaning cabinet ministers within his own party in favour of more moderate voices. By November, many papers were expecting the Justice Secretary, Michael Foot to be sacked. Divisions finally burst on the 18th of December 1981, as a group of Far Left Labour politicians decided to split from the party and establish their own. The result was "Democratic Socialist Party", or "DSP". It was established as a mainstream radical leftist party by prominent Labour MPs, including Michael Foot, Eric Heffer, Norman Atkinson and Bob Cryer. The split was a massive shock to the Prime Minister, who later claimed he had never imagined the division was that serious. This split crashed the Labour party’s popularity, and in one poll the party was rated at 39%.

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Despite experts predicting that the DSP wouldn’t get anywhere, due to it‘s radical policies, Foot and the newly formed DSP polled as high as 15%.

On the Tory front Carrington had asked his son Rupert to keep his Peerage warm whilst he led the Conservative Party and won the 1981 Beaconsfield By-Election against unknown Labour barrister Tony Blair. The Conservatives under Carrington had also undergone a modernisation of their public image. Carrington became the dashing, modern figurehead for a party claiming to be ready to "take Britain into the future". Carrington was obviously neither Dashing nor Modern, but people believed it after watching Conservative Party‘s heavily pushed adverts on television.
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Carrington would take town hall styled questions throughout his opposition years

In March Parliament passed the Shops Act 1982, which lifted restrictions on Sunday trading in Britain. The bill passed by a narrow margin of just four votes, being heavily opposed by Tory and some traditional Liberal MPs.​
 
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Chapter Nine: New
Chapter Nine:
On the 18th of June Westminster fought the Croydon Northwest by-election, following the death of its sitting Tory MP. Much to the surprise of all, the seat was won from the Conservative Party by the Democratic Socialist Party, with their candidate, John Tilley, triumphantly winning by a few hundred votes. The massive shift in policy was remarkable and met with surprise by most.
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John Tilley was the first DSP member to be elected to Parliament under the DSP banner. 13 other Labour MPs and 2 Liberal MPs would defect within the next four months, including Dennis Skinner and Tony Benn.

In August 1982 Parliament denied the General Elections Act 1982, which fell short of being signed into law on the provision that General Elections must be held every four years at least, rather than the previous five. With Healey having a slim majority, most traditional Labour MPs refused to sign it.

In September the Falklands war would result in British victory, however with Foreign Secretary, John Silkin pledging to begin a peaceful handover by the end of the century, the victory felt like a compromise. The reaction from the British public was one of outrage, with Silkin becoming a scapegoat for the government’s failings. Denis Healey’s government had evidently beginning to fall apart after a relatively successful 3 years in office. Whilst Healey would insist that his government was in a fine state and would not be resigning, Healey would only be able to slog out another year or two if he stayed on.

However there were few more credible faces in the Labour Party that could possibly take over. Roy Hattersley was decided upon by Healey and other close cabinet members to be his successor, with a young face decided to be the best option to win in 1986. On 21st January 1983, Dennis Healey reluctantly resigned the office of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Roy Hattersley easily won the leadership election against Neil Kinnock, who refused to let Hattersley become Prime Minister without a leadership election. Her Majesty was reported to have felt sad to see Healey go.

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With an underwhelming bounce up in the polls, Hattersley announced that there would be no early general election before 1986.


February 1983 Poll for 1986 Election:


Conservative Party: 309 Seats

Labour Party: 285 Seats

Liberal Party: 31 Seats

Democratic Socialist Party: 9 Seats

Other Parties: 16 Seats​
 
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A Firm Hand
1974 saw a rather unremarkable General Election in January, with Ted Heath leading the Conservatives to re election. The Conservatives gained seven seats, going up to 337, while Wilson’s Labour Party dropped by 20 to 268. Labour lost the majority of there lost seats to the Tories, who in turn lost a few seats to the Liberals, who went from 6 to 19 seats. Other parties and independents took 9 seats between them.

Heath had initially intended to hold the election a month or so later but was convinced to hold the election in January by his advisors. That February Harold Wilson resigned as leader of the Labour Party. Having been Labour's leader for nearly nine years, and he was succeeded to his post a senior party figure, who won in the subsequent leadership contest.​
Eleven other seats -and twelve in Northern Ireland.
 
I don't see the SDP forming under these circumstances. It form OTL because Labour had gone in a hard Left direction as a whole, and seemed stuck in perpetual opposition. Why would Jenkins, et al act in a way to undermine a reasonably successful Government under a relatively moderate Labour Party? All because of a dispute over who should be Foreign Secretary?
 
Yeah, Healey was on the Labour right himself, so I genuinely don't think the SDP would form under these circumstances. If anything, I'd expect the Left to split off at some point along the line.
 
I don't see the SDP forming under these circumstances. It form OTL because Labour had gone in a hard Left direction as a whole, and seemed stuck in perpetual opposition. Why would Jenkins, et al act in a way to undermine a reasonably successful Government under a relatively moderate Labour Party? All because of a dispute over who should be Foreign Secretary?
I was going to say, you must have misread as there is no SDP in this timeline. But then I realise the last two TL posts have been edited. I didn't see what they were, but presumably it removes the SDP and replaces them with this alt-DSP split for Labour.

Which is almost as unlikely. Left leaning members and MPs within Labour prefer to simply wait (look at Corbyn under Blair) and take the party when the time is right. I can't see Foot, who had been Labour since the 1940s, splitting off. He'd just bide his time and hope Benn would take over in the late 1980s.
 
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