"A Very British Transition" - A Post-Junta Britain TL

Chapter 83: Hard Choices


The transition parties both saw poor results

“A new political era opened up in the UK on Sunday. Brits have decided to end over a decade of two-party rule by the National and Social Democratic Parties. Instead, their voting choices in Sunday’s general election have created a fragmented Commons. The conservative incumbent, William Hague, was the first of the main candidates to make a public statement after the Sunday ballot. Speaking a little after midnight, the prime minister insisted on the need to reach deals in the new scenario. “Whoever wins the elections has the obligation to try to form a government” he told supporters. “It’s not going to be easy. We will need to talk a lot, but I am going to try.” For his part, the SDP's Andy Burnham thanked the more than seven million Brits who voted for him “in the face of the attempt to make the SDP disappear.” - National Party wins British election but will find it difficult to govern, Marc Herman, Politico (2016)

Expectations are a funny thing, one the face of it, Britain’s insurgent parties had a very good night on July 1st. The UPA, Unity and RISE all made unprecedented gains, with the leftists a few seats away from securing the office opposition office, but expectations had soured these victories. Britain had drawn the eyes of the world with pundits declaring a dramatic death for Britain’s two party adversarial system, but this did not materialise. The duopoly lost eighteen seats between them - not brilliant, but not a disaster. The main story of the night was the complete collapse of Reform - down to one seat - cannibalised by Alan Sugar’s new movement.

For the UPA, the night was a disappointment, polls across the campaign had shown the People’s Alliance as Britain second largest party, and some even showed them coming first, a third place result - no matter how strong - was still a third place result. Unity too, who had also been polling well before the campaign, found itself in last place of the four GB-wide parties. Whilst RISE had made moderate gains, it’s frenemy in the SNP had made much worse losses, decreasing the overall number of separatist MPs in Westminster and damaging the Scottish Government's call for a unilateral independence referendum, whilst moderate nationalists were leaving the SNP, they weren’t turning to RISE.


The SNP was torn apart between governing partners - National at Westminster and RISE in Edinburgh

Low expectations arguably saved Andy Burnham, for whom holding onto his six Prime Minister’s Questions as Leader of the Opposition was a miracle, but now Burnham faced a choice. Whilst Hague had secured a clear victory in the election, leading all others by 60 seats, a lone National Government was mathematically impossible. Even with an alliance of all centrist and right wing parties (and that was quite the task), there still wouldn’t be a majority for a Hague premiership. A Social Democratic Government would also be nigh-impossible, even if Burnham could get Ribeiro-Addy on-side (unlikely considering their fractious relationship) he would still have to recruit almost every other progressive party, or get Alan Sugar to abandon all principles and support a government including the radical left.

“The UPA has refused to join any coalition including the National Party which won last week's election but fell short of a majority. The People's Party was launched two years ago, based on mass anti-austerity protests. It came third, with 106 seats. UPA leader Bell Ribeiro-Addy rebuffed the National leader and acting Prime Minister William Hague. New elections might have to be held. National came top with 168 seats in the 497-seat lower house of parliament - far short of a majority. In second place was the SDP with 113, and the new liberal Unity party was fourth with 58. Speaking after talks with Mr Hague, Ms Ribeiro-Addy said her priority was "social emergency" legislation. She refused to support Mr Hague - ruling out a coalition partnership or abstention in a confidence vote.” - No UPA coalition deal with Hague, BBC News Bulletin (2016)

Considering he had built his entire campaign around political stability, as he had the Troika breathing down his neck, Hague made the first move alluding to a grand coalition in his post election statement: “the United Kingdom cannot allow itself a period of political uncertainty that squanders the progress that has been achieved in the last four years”, he would tell cameras. This effectively threw a hand grenade into the already divided Social Democrats, as Shadow Cabinet Ministers and MPs loudly and openly debated the merits of grand coalition, including spats on Twitter. SDP Parliamentarians were well aware of what happened to their cousins in the Greek PASOK, who got into bed with the right only to be swept away.


Hague would struggle to unite his party, let alone a coalition

Notably absent in the post-election scrum was Andy Burnham, the only major party leader to refuse to talk to the press in the aftermath of the result. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place, joining with Hague and he’d alienate millions of left wing voters, align with the UPA, or allow fresh elections to happen and he risked pushing Britain closer to the abyss. Ribiero-Addy didn’t make things easier for Burnham when she declared support for a Scottish Referendum would be a red line in any coalition negotiations. With Unity and the UPA doing very well in these elections, Burnham’s MPs on left and right had political options unheard of before, if he played his cards wrong he faced a party splits, with his own Shadow Housing Secretary Len McCluskey threatening a defection to the UPA if Burnham made a “deal with the devil”.

Whilst the UPA failed to usurp the SDP, they still did remarkably well across the country. As well as the Westminster picture they won control of Provincial Governments for the first time, including three of the four London Provinces and Greater Manchester. As well as strong results in unexpected places like South Yorkshire, Berkshire and Gloucestershire. Ribiero-Addy could afford to bide her time, and some Social Democrats accused her of purposely sabotaging coalition negotiations by demanding a Scottish Referendum, something Unity would never agree to. The People’s Alliance instead called for a popular front of the left, including not only the SDP, UPA and RISE but other smaller parties like the SNP, Ecology and Plaid in a similar manner to the Portuguese “engenhoca” government. Whatever Government was formed, it was likely to be a marriage of convenience at best.

“Britain's SDP on Monday ruled out forming a new government with any party that supported a referendum on independence in Scotland. This is a stand that prolongs political uncertainty after this month’s inconclusive national election. As the four main parties in Britain vie to form a government following the election, Scotland has emerged as one of the main sticking points. National and the SDP, both reject any referendum in Scotland, where separatists won a majority of Scottish seats in the election. Leftist UPA, which has been cast as potential kingmaker and says Britain should be recognized as a multinational state. “We will not discuss questions about the territorial integrity of the country,” SDP Leader Andy Burnham said at a news conference.” - Britain’s Social Democrats reject coalition deal with any party urging Scottish referendum, Angus Berwick, Reuters (2016)


The election results prompted an existential crisis for the SNP
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2016 Election Detailed Results
  • National Party - 168 (-5)
  • Social Democratic Party - 113 (-13)
  • United People Alliance: 106 (+33)
  • Unity: 58 (+55)
  • RISE: 14 (+4)
  • Scottish National Party: 8 (-12)
  • Ecology Party: 6 (+4)
  • Plaid Cymru: 6 (-3)
  • Sinn Fein: 5 (-1)
  • Forward Wales: 4 (-4)
  • Ulster Conservatives: 3 (-1)
  • Social Democratic and Labour Party 1 (-)
  • The Centrists: 1 (+1)
  • The Reform Party: 1 (-55)
  • Worker's Party of Scotland: 1 (-2)
  • Northern Irish Liberals: 1 (-)
  • Mebyon Kernow: 1 (-)
So this is awkward.

Assuming the top two parties are the only ones with a serious shot at forming a government, then the three minimum scenarios are:

SDP+National Grand Coalition: 281 seats... which to be honest isn't that good a majority and would cause all sorts of problems for Hague but especially Burnham if he appears to be the weaker of the two partners. I think its safe to assume that all the other parties would oppose in this situation - its an easy win for the UPA and Unity in particular but also RISE and the other separatists.

National+Unity+Ulster Conservatives+[The Centrists]: Only 229 seats and that is with the unofficial but possibly still toxic support of the Centrists. On the other hand, as long as the SDP, left and separatists (even moreso if SF are still refusing to take their seats) can't agree on a government, then it might be sustainable. I wouldn't bet on it.

SDP+UPA+Ecology+Plaid Cymru+Forward Wales+SDLP+Mebyon Kernow+[SNP]+[RISE]: 259 seats... which isn't great given the sheer number of moving parts in this coalition and this assumes that an alliance with the left and the separatists doesn't result in defections from the SDP to Unity or National. No basically not happening.
If Alan Sugar's ego wasn't a major factor in all this I'd say a 'Scottish solution', like what RISE and the SNP have, would be workable in this parliament. A coalition between the SDP and Unity relying on the support or abstention of the UPA on the condition that their budgets are sufficiently left wing.
But Alan Sugar's ego is a major concern here so I would be a but surprised if he settled for as little as the Chancellory.
Chapter 84: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Despite leading the largest party, Hague stalled submitting himself to Parliament for a confidence vote

“Britain's Social Democrats have told the National Party to form a Government or move aside, as politicians jostle for power. National won the most votes, trading accusations of stalling and delays with the second-place SDP. Weeks of post-election maneuvering has left the country little closer to getting a government. This has fueled uncertainty that could be damaging for Britain's economic recovery. "William Hague is obliged to present himself as the candidate to be invested or to renounce his right to do so for good," a SDP spokesperson said. They said Mr Hague's "wait-and-see" stance was irresponsible and a ploy to ensure his political survival. Mr Hague deferred a decision on Friday to bring matters to a head and seek a confidence vote in parliament, admitting that did not have enough backing.”
- UK Stand-off stalls formation of new government, ABC News (2016)

Politics entered into the world’s nerdiest Mexican standoff as all four parties sat in a circle, refusing to compromise and waiting to see who would flinch. The UPA’s demands for massive constitutional change and a referendum on Scotland made them untouchable for any mainstream party. Alan Sugar doubled down on his campaign promise not to enter coalition with the traditional parties (although he kept open the possibility of abstention). RISE too refused a deal with any party unless they acquiesced to an independence referendum, cancelling out three of the four major parties. With the SNP shell shocked from it’s disastrous result and other smaller parties keen to avoid the SNP’s fate, the chance of a solid deal was looking ever distant.

This placed the SDP in the kingmaker spot, and immediately caused internal ruptures. Many on the right of the party including Yvette Cooper, Rachel Reeves and Margaret Hodge united around Shadow Foreign Secretary Polly Toynbee calling on Burnham to rule out any collaboration with the UPA, these calls would be echoed by the few remaining Social Democratic Provincial Premiers, who had been even more bruised than the national party. They argued the SDP should abstain from any future confidence votes to allow National a clear shot at forming a stable Government. This idea would pick up further steam as Unity said they would join the SDP in any abstention to allow for a period of “national regeneration”.


Bookies predicted a second election

After a brief meeting with Hague Burnham dismissed either abstention or coalition with the National Party, further enraging his party’s right flank. Burnham had overseen the worst election defeat for the SDP in democratic history and being a relative outsider had few close allies in the parliamentary party. The party’s Federal Committee, dominated by it’s moderate wing passed a resolution ruling out any deal with the People’s Alliance whilst it kept it’s Scottish “red line” - against the wishes of Burnham. The Social Democrats being on the verge of civil war delighted it’s political opponents, further weakening its claim to Downing Street. When asked in one interview how far negotiations were progressing, Alan Sugar retorted “we have to wait for the Social Democrats to sort out their issues first”.

“Alan Sugar has reiterated in a meeting with William Hague his decision not to support his investiture as PM with an affirmative vote. Sugar has also asked the National Party Leader to keep him abreast of his negotiations with the SDP to form a stable majority. The two leaders have come to the meeting sharing the same thesis, summarised by the Prime Minister in a tweet: "Stability and certainty". Hague hopes that this approach will convince a sector of the SDP to allow his investiture as PM, joining the abstention that Unity. "Andy Burnham's word now is no, no, and no" Alan Sugar told reporters. "We need the SDP to make a move," he added before showing his opposition to the SDP accepting an agreement with UPA, which asks for a referendum in Scotland.” - Sugar Calls on SDP to “Make a Move” - BBC News Bulletin (2016)

National wasn't laughing for very long as a spate of corruption scandals shook their party, whilst several investigations into the party had been put on hold for the election, shocking evidence uncovered by police and journalists revealed dozens of indictments. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had received millions of pounds of kickbacks through a property firm he owned, after refusing to resign Hunt was forcibly expelled by the National Party. This was shortly followed by one of Deputy Prime Minister Theresa May’s senior staffers resigning after it emerged he had been fraudulently awarding public contracts, in Berkshire an illegal financing network by the National-led provincial government was uncovered by police leading to the arrest of dozens of party officials.


The SDP was paralysed by internal maneuvering

The Home Office weren’t the only ones digging through National’s dirty laundry, a HMRC investigation into New Century Consulting a military consultancy firm run by former National Leader Tim Collins found the firm had engaged in mass tax evasion and millions of euros worth of fraudulent contracts with NATO Defence Ministers, including the Pentagon. The HMRC investigation found nearly 200 million euros of “unsupported costs” paid to New Century by the National-run Ministry of Defence, with some opposition politics alleging Collins had been in cahoots with senior ministers and possibly even the Secretary of Defence himself.

The most explosive finding however was the conclusion of the Rupert Harrison inquiry of money laundering by National’s former treasurer. The report found National to be “institutionally corrupt” accusing party leaders of actively “destroying evidence, hindering investigations and acting outside the law”. This marked the first time a British political party had been judicially charged for criminal activity. Whilst no elected officials were arrested, Harrison himself was given a prison sentence and dozens of senior staffers within the party hierarchy were arrested. All of these scandals breaking at the same time possessed disaster for Hague, who went from Britain's most likely Prime Minister, to barely keeping his party together.

With the Commons tea-rooms facing a riot Britain’s new King decided it was time to step in and knock some heads together and invited the leaders of all of Britain’s parliamentary political parties to the Palace for some tea from National to Mebyon Kernow and the Northern Irish Liberals all were welcome. Charles’ intervention was the most capital-p' political action of a reigning British monarch since George V intervened to help pass the Parliament Act in 1911. The fragmentation of the Commons put the King in an unprecedented situation, his role as the man to summon and dismiss the Prime Minister was no longer a formality, now he could hold the balance of power in his hands.

“King Charles will earn 20 percent less than his abdicated mother, the palace said on Tuesday, detailing its first budget since he took the crown. The 67-year-old will receive €41 million euros in sovereign grant as head of state, the palace said in a budget statement published on its website. That is one-fifth less than the €51 million his mother Elizabeth was paid as Queen in 2015. Charles himself earned half that amount last year as prince, as he took over as head of state from Elizabeth, 90. The palace's overall budget is unchanged at €69.2 million, under the state spending plan approved last year. Tuesday's statement detailed how that money will be spent, part of the palace's efforts to appear more transparent. Charles's wife, Queen Camilla, gets a salary of €400,00 in the new budget.” - King Charles slashes his own salary by a fifth, Chris Jewers, Daily Mail (2016)


The vacant premiership gave Charles unprecedented influence over politics
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The idea that Charles is now going to have to be a literal kingmaker in this scenario seems rather bleakly funny to me. This is going to be very interesting indeed.
Plot twist, they're making Charles the Prime Minister.
Or Scotland goes independent - and takes Northern Ireland with it. (Which would be a big difference from OTL ( ;) ), but it would make sense in this case, if Scotland also retains the monarchy. Also means, if the GCSE was not introduced ITTL to replace O-Levels and the CSE, that Northern Ireland and Scotland could both switch to the OTL Higher Still reformed qualifications reform later than OTL. More info here.)
Welp. The bombing campaigns are restarted. At least riot corgis will be present in the far more pleasant redbrick campus "riots."

Between street deposit boxes and post-offices being exploded.
What is actually happening in France ? Who is the president and who lead in the polls ?
Sarkozy was reelected in 2012 and serves as a very unpopular incumbent, as of January 2016 French Presidential polls are as follows:
  • Le Pen - 32%
  • Socialist Candidate - 23%
  • LR Candidate - 21%
  • Melenchon - 10%
  • Bayrou - 7%
  • Others - 7%
Sarkozy was reelected in 2012 and serves as a very unpopular incumbent, as of January 2016 French Presidential polls are as follows:
  • Le Pen - 32%
  • Socialist Candidate - 23%
  • LR Candidate - 21%
  • Melenchon - 10%
  • Bayrou - 7%
  • Others - 7%
Oh dear. Does this mean no Macron? I mean, I guess that makes sense since he rose under Hollande's administration, but it does make me worried for France in this course of events
Sarkozy was reelected in 2012 and serves as a very unpopular incumbent, as of January 2016 French Presidential polls are as follows:
  • Le Pen - 32%
  • Socialist Candidate - 23%
  • LR Candidate - 21%
  • Melenchon - 10%
  • Bayrou - 7%
  • Others - 7%
Why Sarkozy was re-elected? I thought that ceding the French permanent seat at UN to European Union was unpopular enough to denying him, together with other OTL issues, any second term.
Why Sarkozy was re-elected? I thought that ceding the French permanent seat at UN to European Union was unpopular enough to denying him, together with other OTL issues, any second term.
The 2012 election saw a much stronger result for Le Pen who came within touching distance of making it to the second round. Whilst Sarkozy was unpopular he was up against Hollande - an out and out european intergrationist - who also supported the EU Security Council Seat. The Socialists had a bruising primary as Straus-Khan decided to run for the nomination. The Hollande and Melenchon Campaigns also had a more fractious relationship leading to Melenchon refusing to endorse in the final round
Chapter 85: After You - I Insist

The King was growing frustrated at Britain's politicians

“William Hague has turned down an offer by the king to try to form a new government following last month’s inconclusive elections. The news, in a statement from Buckingham Palace on Friday evening, followed a week of talks between the monarch and party leaders. In a statement, the palace said the king would begin fresh talks with the leaders next Wednesday in a bid to find another candidate. Hague's National Party won most seats – 168 – in the 1 July election but that was well short of a majority in the Commons. The king will now most likely call on the leader of the opposition, Andy Burnham, to try to form a government. The SDP came second in the election with 113 seats and appears to have a better chance of mustering support from other groups in parliament.” - Hauge turns down king's offer to form new government, BBC News Bulletin (2016)

If Charles had thought the grandeur of Buckingham Palace would be enough to bring Britain's bickering politicians together he was sorely disappointed. Burnham continued his refusal to be part of any government led by National, and Unity - with it’s policy of equidistance - refused to favour one party or another, calling for grand coalition government. With no formal agreement reached after nearly two months the markets, and Britain's troika creditors were getting nervous as investors began to cash out of the British economy. The King put his foot down, demanding someone, anyone be presented to Parliament for an “indicative” confidence vote.

In an awfully polite British fashion, all the leaders held the door open, insisting someone else go first. Ribiero-Addy ruled out putting her name forward, instead offering to join a SDP coalition with radical devolution of powers. Burnham also refused to put his name to Parliament stating that Hague - as the incumbent and the man with the largest party - should take the first shot. With no other option the King sent for Hague to try and form a Government. Hague refused Charles’ summons, stating that with the People’s Alliance offering their support to Burnham there was a qualified majority against him, insiders also whispered National MPs would use a failed confidence vote as a springboard for a leadership challenge, a risk Hague wasn't willing to take, preferring to let Burnham fall first.


The protests outside Parliament square were becoming louder and more violent

With Hague seemingly withdrawing from the contest altogether it fell to the Social Democrats to make a play for Downing Street. With the open support of the UPA, Burnham now had the largest bloc in Parliament with over 200 seats, it fell to him to either reject or accept the leftist’s offer. Former leader David Miliband described the UPA’s offer and National’s subsequent withdrawal as a “trap” designed to “humiliate” the Social Democrats. Ribiero-Addy welcomed Hague’s withdrawal, telling journalists Burnham could seize a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for a truly radical government. Burnham had the same issues Hague did, if he reached for the crown and missed, the sharks in his party would use that opportunity to strike.

“This week in parliament could prove to be the SDP leader’s make-or-break moment. “Andy Burnham will either be elected prime minister or he’ll leave Parliament wounded,” noted columnist Helen Pidd. If he fails to gather a simple majority this month, Parliament will have another three months in which to form a government. During that time frame, the king could invite Hague — or even someone else from the SDP — to end the deadlock. If the deadline is missed, fresh elections will be called. With enemies in his own party waiting for an excuse to replace him and a possible leadership contest, the next few days will prove to be decisive. Burnham relishes defying those who wrote him off, the question now is whether he can deliver a solution to one of the deepest political crises of the UK's modern history.” - Andy Burnham on thin ice, Guy Hedgecoe, Politico (2016)

Boxed into a corner by the other parties, Burnham accepted King Charles’ offer to form a government, giving himself a negotiation period of one month to gather the votes needed for a majority. The King gave a 7th of October deadline for any party to form a Government, before he would dissolve Parliament and call snap elections. Now firmly in the arena Burnham's options began to run away from him, National continued to state they wouldn’t support any Government unless it was led by Hague, whilst both the UPA and Unity stated they would not accept a coalition containing the other. With Ribiero-Addy wanting a government backed by a rainbow of parties, whilst Sugar hoped a SDP-Unity pact could convince National to at least abstain in any confidence vote.


Burnham had too many plates spinning

Talks between Burnham and Sugar went fairly well, whilst Sugar kept to his People’s Alliance red line, his stance went from abstaining from a SDP Government to actively voting for and even joining in coalition with the Social Democrats. Still a SDP/Unity pact would cancel out any arrangement with the populist left, leaving Burnham with only 171 seats, a far cry from the 249 seats needed. In talks with the smaller parties, Ecology was open to supporting a Social Democratic led-government but the SNP and RISE both refused to support any government without an independence referendum. The Welsh parties however were more receptive, with Plaid agreeing to support Burnham in return for a united Welsh Parliament and even the radical Forward Wales open to supporting “real change”. So desperate for votes Burnham even offered Diane Abbott a Cabinet post, in return for the Alternative withdrawing from the UPA and supporting him instead - which she of course refused.

Negotiations would reach a breakthrough, when Burnham announced he and Sugar had signed a coalition government agreement named simply a “A Pact for Progress”. Calling on parties from left and right to “get on board or get out of the way” Burnham outlined an ambitious programme including constitutional reforms with a more proportional parliament and compulsory open primaries for party leadership elections. The pact also included tax reform and strong measures against corruption to tempt the UPA into abstaining. However much of the agreement was a bitter pill for the left to follow, it included further regulation on trade unions, a ban on any referendum in Scotland and a very little public investment. It was a risky move, Burnham hadn’t informed the leftist parties of the document beforehand. If it worked it could force them into supporting his government, if it failed it could collapse negotiations completely.

“The SDP was the formateur party and this meant that its work to build a parliamentary coalition would be crucial. Three main workable majorities could be built by Andy Burnham. A, an alliance with the UPA with the abstention of Unity and/or pro-independence parties (229 seats). B, an alliance with Unity and the support of other parties but the abstention of the UPA (171 seats). C, the support of the UPA and Unity (267 seats) But, each of those paths had difficulties. The SDP had internally vetoed any agreement with pro-independence parties and they competed with the UPA to be the leading party on the left. The UPA and Unity vetoed each other, so the support for or the abstention of one in favour of the other seemed unlikely.” - The Challenges of the New British Multipartism, Lecture by Damien Bol, King’s College London (2016)


The UPA would be enraged by the SDP/Unity pact
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