Prologue: A Briefing for the President
United States Department of State Briefing 14th March 2005
As you may be aware tonight Great Britain goes to the polls for the first time since 1966. Working alongside the United States mission to the United Kingdom we have taken the liberty of writing up this briefing around the political situation in the United Kingdom.
The history of the British Junta is long and storied so I will try to give you the short version.
In 1966 Harold Wilson of the socialist Labour Party was re-elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Running on a radical platform of nationalisations at home, and a more independent foreign policy abroad. Wilson’s ambitions and evidence of his Government being linked to the Soviet Union led to a coup in 1968, supported by much of the British establishment including the military and the palace. The coup also received help from the Johnson Administration.
Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Mountbatten became the first leader of the new Britain, titling himself “First Lord”. Mountbatten would rule for twelve years until his death in 1980. These years would be the harshest in terms of repression, leading to the growth of several armed separatist groups in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As well as rise in left wing paramilitaries.
Admiral Peter Hill-Norton, Mountbatten’s right-hand man, would ascend to the title of First Lord shortly after Mountbatten’s death. Whilst initially rising to power as a conservative, Hill-Norton would shift to a more reformist agenda across the 90s and early 2000s. This included a relaxation of some trade union laws, the release of minor political prisoners and a modernisation of the economy, including neo-liberal reforms and the welcoming of foreign capital.
Hill-Norton died in late 2003, this led to a mass period of civil unrest including a general strike. General Mike Jackson, a reformist and Prime Minister under Hill-Norton would take the title of First Lord. Under pressure from protests and strikes from below, calls to democratise from the EU and with the consent of The Palace Jackson agreed to a transition towards democracy, including legalising opposition parties, ending Government control over trade unions, amnesty for opponents of the regime, freedom of the press, and elections to be held in 2005. All ratified under the Cardiff Accords.
The Political Situation
Polling indicates the Social Democratic Party will be the largest party.
- The SDP was founded by a mix of liberal intellectuals, moderate trade unionists, and what remains of the exile community. They are led by Alan Johnson, General Secretary of the Union of Communication Workers (UCW), Johnson is a moderate in the trade union community, having rejected political violence. He played a large part in leading the general strikes of 2003-4. The SDP is a Social Democratic and Socially Liberal party
The SDP’s main rivals are likely to be the National Party.
- Formed by Mountbatten in the aftermath of the coup, National makes up the former Conservative and Liberal Parties as well as Ulster Unionists and a large part of the military establishment. They are led by Brigadier General Tim Collins. Collins is the longest serving Governor of Northern Ireland and has served with distinction helping to stabilise the region. His time in Belfast allowed him to avoid the chaotic power struggles in the wake of Hill-Norton’s death. Whilst he is allied to Jackson and the reformist wing of the party, he has few friends in the British establishment. National is a Big-Tent, Conservative and Nationalist Party.
The only other national party likely to win seats is the Socialist Alternative.
- The SA is a loose confederation of far-left organisations, including radical unions and former paramilitaries. They are led by John McDonnell the “Mad Preacher of Merseyside”. A catholic priest, McDonnell was a commander in the Red Brigades, a group of left-wing Paramilitaries opposing the Junta. McDonnell was arrested in the mid 80s and over the twenty years he spent in prison he apparently converted to the ways of peace, and was one of the leading voices calling for an end to political violence. He was released as part of the Cardiff Accords. The SA ranges from Socialists to Communists and everything in between.
The only other parties expected to win a noticeable seats are the various separatist parties.
- In Scotland, they are divided between the centrist SNP, led by civil-rights activist John Swinney, and the radical left RISE party, made up of former Scottish National Liberation Army (SNLA) fighters including Tommy Sheridan.
- In Wales the separatist movement is more united - violent and non-violent activists are united under the revived Plaid Cymru party.
- In Northern Ireland Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA and the moderate SDLP are expected to win seats, as are Jim Allister’s Northern Irish Conservatives, a party of radical unionists.
Our analysts expect the most likely outcome will be an SDP minority government, supported by either the SA, separatist parties or both. The second most likely outcome is a formal coalition between the SDP and SA. A third option is a grand coalition between the SDP and National. Our analysts believe it is unlikely National will be the largest party but it is possible.
- Whilst most paramilitaries have signed onto the Cardiff accords, there are a not insignificant number of splinter groups still in operation. We also expected a rise in right-wing terrorism by those angered at the reforms.
- Investors have been reluctant to work in Britain due to its political instability, and the economic reforms under Norton-Hill didn’t go particularly far. Much of the UK economy remains in the 60s/70s model of central control and nationalisation.
- British society is starkly divided over the issue of Europe. The EU has said they would be willing to accept Britain if it met democratic standards, but many hardliners within National are strongly opposed.
- Britain now has a coup culture, many senior officers in the army were supporters of the Junta and will be open to political intervention. Under concessions in the Cardiff Accords the Military still have a great deal of privileges, including the Chief of Defence Staff automatically getting a seat at the Cabinet as Defence Minister. If the country goes in a direction they don’t want, the military could well step in.
As always the State Department will be watching events with great interest. If you have any further questions you know where to find me. Good evening Mr President.
John Danforth, Secretary of State