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

Wikibox: Sadiq Khan
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    Sadiq Aman Khan (born 8 October 1970) is a British politician serving as Solicitor General since 2005. He has also served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Inner West London since 2005. A member of the SDP Khan is a support of the party's traditionalist tendency

    Born in Tooting, South London, to a working-class British Pakistani family, Khan earned a law degree from the University of North London. He worked as a solicitor specialising in human rights issues and served as a public defender. In 1998 Khan was stripped from the bar and blacklisted by the Department of Justice for supporting seditious elements. This was overturned in 2005. Khan chaired the London branch of the Democratic Lawyers Association (DLA) for seven years, a pressure group of anti-Junta legal officials. After the fall of the Junta in 2005 Khan joined the SDP and was elected MP for Inner West London. He was supportive of Prime Minister Alan Johnson and appointed Solicitor General in the First Johnson Cabinet.

    After the 2007 wiretapping scandal, Home Secretary Charlie Falconer appointed Khan to head up an inquiry investigating the powers of the Security Services. Khan came under heavy criticism for this inquiry. His office was bugged and his emails were leaked at several points. At the end of the inquiry, Khan recommended the Security Services be broken up and Director-General Richard Dearlove resign

    Khan has been included in the Time 100 list of most influential people in Britain. Khan has been praised for making Britain's justice system more accessible and for defending human rights. But, he has been criticised for the rise of gun crime in Britain and his response.
     
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    Chapter 26: Big Brother
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    Johnson had to strike a careful balance between getting a leash on the security services and being perceived as weak on crime

    “I am today announcing Machinery of Government changes to the Home Office and the Security Service. These changes build on the 'Security and Justice' inquiry by Sadiq Khan which sets out the Government's security policy. We will tackle the threat posed by terrorism by creating a new intelligence agency focused solely on domestic terrorism. The Centre for Organised Crime and Terrorism Intelligence or COCTI. The security and counter-terrorism changes will have immediate effect. Alongside this, a new Centre for National Intelligence (CNI) will be established, with lead responsibility for international intelligence. Finally, counter-terror policing powers will be transferred to the Home Office. The Security Service as an organisation will be disbanded. This change will take effect from May 9.”
    - Speech by Home Secretary Charlie Falconer (2007)

    After a several hours long Cabinet meeting, Home Secretary Charlie Falconer made a statement to the public. The Security Services would be split into two separate organisations, the Centre for National Intelligence (CNI) would form the main organisation for foreign intelligence and the Centre for Organised Crime and Terrorism Intelligence (COCTI) would handle domestic intelligence. Counter-terrorism police would no longer be directly overseen by the intelligence agencies, instead, it would be transferred to the Home Office and police. However, most controversially, Sir Richard Dearlove would remain in place as Director of the CNI. Falconer argued Dearlove’s expertise was too valuable to lose in such a volatile period.

    The administration hoped that by confining Dearlove to international affairs they could prevent him from interfering in domestic politics, whilst still keeping Britain’s intelligence community on side. Johnson had opted to try and clip Dearlove’s wings, rather than make peace or remove him from the board entirely. This decision pleased few people, those within the SDP’s right and National saw breaking up the Security Services as weakening Britain, meanwhile, the SA and the political left were outraged that Dearlove wasn’t in prison and had even managed to keep his job. Johnson was walking a difficult tightrope, by keeping everyone unhappy he had managed to preserve both democracy and his authority but his backbenchers were becoming increasingly angry.

    The military too was angry, there had long been a close brotherhood between the intelligence community and the military. Defence Secretary Charles Guthrie was a close friend of Dearlove. In an attempt to keep the military on side and prove to voters he wasn’t weak on terror, Johnson gave Guthrie permission to send a further thousand British troops to Afghanistan to assist in joint counter-terrorism missions. Foreign Secretary Tony Blair was greatly supportive of this measure, as were Britain’s allies in the States. Now the UK had ascended back to the NATO/EU liberal international order, Johnson was eager to prove Britain would remain a reliable international partner to democracy.

    “Terrorist groups including al Qaeda operate in Afghanistan. The country is the source of 95% of the heroin in the UK. The Afghan state remains very fragile, with limited control of territory, and the Taliban’s insurgency continues. Afghanistan remains a priority for the Government. The UK Government continues to focus on counter-terrorism as a primary security aim in Afghanistan. Regional stability is interconnected with reducing the threat from terrorism and illicit economies. Conflict in Afghanistan, allows serious organised crime to continue. Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opiates and 95% of the heroin in the UK originates from Afghanistan. The significant increase in Methamphetamine production in Afghanistan is cause for concern.” - Defence Ministry Report (2007)

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    Drugs from Afghanistan were unexplainably making their way to the UK

    Foreign Secretary Blair travelled to Afghanistan personally to oversee the troops arriving and to meet Afghan officials. Little did he know this would be the last trip he made as Foreign Secretary. Whether as a revenge move by rogue intelligence agencies or just some clever journalism, several choice recordings made their way to the press. The recordings showed Blair as well as Development Secretary Jack Straw taking bribes from senior businessmen of up to 80,000 euros in return for access to key government figures. Whilst the SDP had avoided a coup, they instead saw a good old fashioned corruption scandal.

    Of course, corruption was nothing new to Britain, the Junta had been famously corrupt, senior military officials and civil servants lived in luxury through generous “gifts” from the business world. This corruption was particularly strong in the military, where surplus gear would mysteriously find its way to international dictators, warlords and rebel groups. But the SDP was meant to be the good guys, the saviours of democracy, whiter than white. Both Blair and Straw had to go.

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    Some in the SA wanted Blair and Straw to face prosecution, but Johnson left it at resignation

    Whilst this was never proven the leak was likely a set up by Security Service agents, the businessmen in the recordings were never discovered, and the organisations they claimed to represent didn’t exist, nonetheless they were able to produce hundreds of thousands of euros in cash. The Guardian simply didn’t have the money for this kind of string operation, but the Intelligence Agencies did, in the end, Dearlove had the last laugh. The scandal would also hurt Johnson’s ability to control his caucus. Blair and Straw were both leading lights in the liberal right-wing of the SDP, with the SDP right already agitated by frequent terror attacks, Johnson couldn’t afford to lose Blair. But lose him he did, as he reshuffled his Cabinet for the third time in two years.

    Johnson Cabinet 2007-
    • Prime Minister - Alan Johnson (SDP)
    • Deputy Prime Minister - Alan Milburn (SDP)
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer - Simon Hughes (SDP)
    • Foreign Secretary - Rosie Boycott (SDP)
    • Justice Secretary - David Miliband (SDP)
    • Defence Secretary - Field Marshal Charles Guthrie (Military)
    • Home Secretary - Charlie Falconer (SDP)
    • Development Secretary - Chris Huhne (SDP)
    • Education Secretary - John Reid (SDP)
    • Industry, Tourism and Trade Secretary - Patricia Hewitt (SDP)
    • Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Secretary - Glenda Jackson (SDP)
    • Public Administrations Secretary - Peter Hain (SDP)
    • Culture Secretary - Susan Kramer (SDP)
    • Health Secretary - Charles Kennedy (SDP)
    • Environment Secretary - Valerie Amos (SDP)
    • Housing Secretary - Polly Toynbee (SDP)
    “Alan Johnson today appointed Britain's first female Foreign Secretary as he unveiled a shake-up of his frontbench team. Rosie Boycott, the former Education Secretary, will take charge of the Foreign Office in a wide-ranging reshuffle. Tony Blair, the former Foreign Secretary, was the most high-profile casualty. In a surprise move, Patricia Hewitt, a junior Health Minister, received a cabinet appointment as Industry Secretary. Former Industry Secretary Chris Huhne was confirmed as Straw's replacement as Development Secretary. Charles Kennedy, a junior Industry Minister, was promoted to secretary of state for Health. John Reid - Mr Johnson's close political ally - was promoted to Secretary of State for Education.” - Johnson appoints first female Forigen Secretary, Associated Press (2007)

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    Feminist activist Rosie Boycott had seen a rapid rise under the Johnson administration
     
    Chapter 27: On That Bombshell
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    Britain's nuclear weapon stock was prohibitively expensive, and almost entirely controlled by the Americans

    “Junta Britain’s foreign and defence policy followed the US lead. After 9/11 UK defence strategy was judged to need expeditionary forces to intervene against terrorist groups alongside US forces. Even when terror, not communism became the main challenge to the West, Britain’s identity as a ‘nuclear weapon state’ was asserted through a discourse that constructs Britain standing alone against the Soviets/Russia. Dangerous and indecipherable ‘others’ that threaten, or could threaten, the UK with nuclear weapons. The construction of these enemy images is a political process. The Junta refused to acknowledge the absence of a direct strategic threat to British security for a decade after the fall of the soviets. The validity of these enemy images in the context of UK rationales for a nuclear capability was debatable even before the end of the Cold War. Even so, they remained an important ally of in the perceived necessity of a British nuclear capability”
    - Relinquishing nuclear weapons: identities, networks and the British bomb, Lecture by Nick Ritchie, University of York (2010)

    The word “rogue nuclear state” is tossed around a lot these days. When tanks rolled through Whitehall and political prisoners were locked up it caused a bit of a headache for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, only just signed earlier this year and spearheaded by a British delegation. Sitting bang in the centre of Europe was a nation in great deal of political turmoil, and carrying over a hundred nuclear warheads. It wasn’t a brilliant start for world peace. With the support of the United States Britain held onto her nuclear weapons, but as her economy weakened this nuclear arsenal became more and more dependent on the United States, less of an independent deterrent and more of an oversized US launch pad.

    Britain’s economy was in no state to maintain these warheads before the Junta fell, and it certainly wasn’t now. Under the Confidence and Supply agreement with the Socialist Alternative the Johnson Government had promised to scrap its nuclear weapons. South Africa ten years earlier had gone through a similar period of transition, and ending its nuclear arsenal produced a huge amount of goodwill entering the international stage. The Johnson administration hoped to do the same. All the old arguments for keeping nuclear bombs were no longer relevant, Britain had lost her seat on the UN Security Council and the Soviets weren’t going to be crossing the Channel anytime soon. It was time, Johnson argued, to ditch the bomb.

    It wasn’t just Britain’s nuclear arsenal that was unwieldy, Britain’s military spending had reached nearly 5% of its GDP and over a 100 billion dollars, more than Russia and Australia combined. With Britain’s budget bloated and dark economic times on the horizon cuts had to be made. Chancellor Simon Hughes proposed reducing overall spending to just 3% of GDP, bringing Britain in line with countries like India and South Korea. On nuclear weapons Johnson found an unlikely ally in Defence Secretary Charles Gunthrie. A hardliner within the military, many had expected Gunthrie to kick off at ditching the bomb, but Gunthrie was a realist and knew the British Military couldn’t survive in its current state. Trident made up over 6% of the UK’s total defence budget. Gunthrie hoped by supporting an end to nuclear weapons, he could use his political capital to reduce cuts to conventional forces.

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    The military hoped to protect itself by cooperating and negotiating with the government

    “The more nuclear material in circulation, the greater the risk that it falls into the wrong hands. And while governments, no matter how distasteful, are usually capable of being deterred, groups such as al-Qaeda or SNLA, are not. Cold War calculations have been replaced by asymmetrical warfare and suicide missions. At a time when many countries, including Iran and Syria, may be developing a nuclear weapons programme, Britain must set an example. Bringing Britain back into the Non-Proliferation Treaty will reduce the nuclear threat. Achieving real progress in reducing the nuclear weapons threat is the responsibility of all nuclear powers, not the US and Russia. Progress towards a dramatic reduction in the world’s nuclear weapons is possible. The ultimate aspiration should be to have a world free of nuclear weapons. It will take time, but with political will and improvements in monitoring, the goal is achievable. We must act before it is too late, and we can begin by supporting the campaign here at home for a non-nuclear weapons world.”
    - Rosie Boycott’s Speech to the House of Commons (2007)

    National on the other hand were outraged, Collins pointed to the military cuts as a politically motivated“vendetta” against the armed forces, arguing losing Britain’s nuclear umbrella would leave the island nation defenceless. Collin’s declarations weren’t backed up by the usually so political military apparatus, at other times when the Government went after the military, they would send a General onto the BBC’s Politics Show to set the record straight, now the army men were keeping silent, Gunthrie had kept them in line. Instead behind the scenes Guthrie negotiated with Hughes a compromise. In return for backing Trident scrapping, the Military would see a 35% cut to spending, rather than a 60% cut.

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    Chancellor Simon Hughes was a committed unilateralist

    With the support of the Alternative and various separatist parties, Hughes’ cuts to the military and the scrapping of Trident passed Parliament. Foreign Secretary Rosie Boycott flew out to Geneva to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and Britain became the fourth country in history to surrender their nuclear weapons. Britain received praise from around the world. UN Secretary General Shashi Tharoor welcomed Britain’s decision as a “victory for peace everywhere” and called on other nuclear states, most notably the US and Russia, to follow Britain’s example.

    It was a victory for Johnson but an even greater victory for Gunthrie, the old hardliner had shown himself as a much better political negotiator than many had given him credit for. He kept the UK military’s bloated budget mostly intact, and he had prevented a direct showdown with the forces of government. Gunthrie knew the military was on thin ice after the spying scandal, and that the army establishment couldn’t survive a direct confrontation with the Johnson administration, instead choosing to bide his time. The old Field Marshall hadn’t forgotten the first rule of war, know when to pick your battles.

    “We need to be more thoughtful, more strategic and more coordinated in the way we advance our interests and protect our national security. The difficult legacy we have inherited has necessitated tough decisions to get our military back on track. Our national security depends on our economic security and vice versa. So bringing the defence budget back to balance is a vital part of how we protect this country’s national security. Even so, defence budgets will meet the NATO 2% target throughout the next four years. We expect to continue with the third largest military budget in the world. We are proud of everyone who works on our behalf to keep us safe at home and to protect our interests overseas. As a nation we owe them an immense debt of gratitude. They are a fundamental part of our sense of national identity. And it is vital for the security of future generations that these capabilities are retained.” - Foreword by Alan Johnson, The Strategic Defence and Security Review (2007)

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    Johnson still didn't trust the military and the feeling was mutual
     
    Chapter 28: We Don’t Need No Education
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    The "Reid Curriculum" would split the British public

    “Britain's parliament opened debate this week on an education bill that drops support for religious studies. The Church of England has denounced it, saying it would diminish parents' rights. At a rally organized by the Church of England and the National Party, thousands turned out last weekend to protest the bill. Some demonstrators seemed confused about exactly what the changes would be. Amid chants of "Johnson resign," Ana Robinson, a young teacher, claimed, "They want to get rid of the religion course." In fact, the proposed "Giving Students a Chance" White Paper retains the rule that all public schools offer religion classes. It also would continue to subsidize church schools and safeguard bishops' right to select headteachers.”
    - British churches mount opposition to education reform, Renwick McLean, The New York Times (2007)

    Britain’s education system was a mess. After years of underfunding, political interference in the curriculum and downright neglect, schools weren’t fit for purpose. There was a huge disparity between the wealthy private schools, grammar schools and languishing comprehensives, as well as a huge demographic gap, a white male student from the South of England was more than twice as likely to go to university than a black female student from the North or Scotland. Schools still practised 80s style gender roles, with women learning sewing and cooking whilst boys learned engineering. Student cadet forces were mandatory, with students wasting precious class time marching around their playground or polishing boots. The arts were particularly underfunded, with subjects like drama and music reserved only for the privileged few who could afford private school, Britain’s culture had been strangled.

    Inner city schools were particularly bad, with most students either ending up in the army, a paramilitary, or one of Britain’s numerous organised crime gangs. Civil Assistance, The Red Brigades and the SNLA found ample recruits amongst inner city school dropouts. Britain’s education, once the best in the world, had fallen down the international league tables below even other former dictatorships such as Latvia and the Czech Republic. Britain’s universities too no longer held the great esteem of old, with no international students or lecturers and academic freedom silenced, Oxford and Cambridge had gone from being in the top five best universities in the world, to not even making the top hundred, falling far below nearby rivals like Ireland’s Dublin University or the Dutch TU Delft, who were poaching newly free British students by the thousands

    Johnson had come to power promising to reform Britain’s education system, but this had proven politically difficult. His first appointee had been left wing firebrand Glenda Jackson, but she had frequently clashed with both the Department for Education establishment and Johnson himself, she had failed to get much done and was demoted to Agriculture Secretary. Her successor, Rosie Boycott, had moved away from Jackson’s more radical instincts, but she was still blocked by Civil Servants due to her strong support for equalising women’s treatment in the classroom, just as Boycott was beginning to get somewhere Tony Blair took a wad of cash on camera and she found herself in the Foreign Office.

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    Going from Glenda Jackson to John Reid was quite the political shift

    “Teachers, whose morale was at a low ebb after the endless diktats they had endured at the hands of the Junta had good cause to feel positive. The hopes of millions rested on Alan Johnson's shoulders. In some areas of education, the SDP did make a real and positive difference. There were some early reversals of Junta policy: allowing girls to take "boys subjects", for example. Schools benefited from an increased budget as the SDP endeavoured to compensate for years of neglect. Exam results improved, too: the proportion of pupils getting five good GCSEs including rose from 39.5 percent in 2004 to 43.5 percent in 2012.”
    - Education in Transition Britain, Derek Gillard (2018)

    The third Education Secretary of the last two years was John Reid, born on a Council Estate in Lanarkshire, Reid had been an SNLA fighter in his youth, before leaving the organisation in the early 80s, he had moderated over his lifetime and now found himself strictly on the SDP’s right-wing. Reid was particularly focused on improving outcomes, especially in his native Scotland where years of repression had crushed Scottish schools. After several months of untangling the various papers left to him back Jackson and Boycott, he was ready to present his paper education white paper “Giving Students a Chance”.

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    Increasing school drop-out rates in Scotland and the North fed organised crime

    Many of the reforms were to be expected, desegregating subjects based on gender, and ending mandatory cadet training, new subjects in the arts and further funding for struggling schools, things all but the most hardliner Mountbattenites could accept. There were aspects that were more controversial however. The first was the removal of religion as a mandatory subject, instead replacing it with Civics. Civics would teach students critical thinking, democratic ideals and human values. Religious organisations were outraged at the removal of religion from the curriculum. The Church of England was especially upset, whilst state education had languished the Church had stepped in to take its place, nearly 30% of total British schools were administered by a religious authority, doubling to over 60% for primary schools. Many in the Church saw this as a direct attack on the institution that saved British education. National described the removal of religion as a “totalitarian act” which robbed schools and parents of the freedom to choose their own curriculum.

    Then there were the history textbooks. History in British schools had a strongly Mountbattenist bend, Harold Wilson was a communist spy who Mountbatten and the Junta had bravely stopped. Even after the Junta liberalised in the 80s and 90s the history curriculum continued to venerate Mountbatten. Reid’s history would aim for a more “balanced approach” it would teach both sides of the coup and paint a less propagandist picture of the Junta years. This was a departure from Jackson's plans for history lessons; she had wanted the Junta to be painted as unambiguously wrong in their actions. Reid’s curriculum would also condemn violence on both sides, including that of resistance fighters during the Junta years, ironic considering Reid’s past as an SNLA fighter. This did not endear the curriculum to the Socialist Alternative, many of whom’s paramilitary heroes would be portrayed as villains. Another Parliamentary showdown was about to begin.

    “Although it presented different views on the fall of the Wilson Government, The Reid curriculum presented the 1960s as a period when the political centre was overwhelmed by extremists on left and right. The failure of mutual respect, the absence of a “democratic culture,” led to military intervention. By privileging the memory of democratic failure while silencing the memory of authoritarianism, the curriculum prioritised the values of tolerance and stability over freedom. This brought at least short-term benefits for the process of democratic change. Relative silence on political violence of all kinds rested on the useful assumption that “all of us were guilty.” The textbooks thus “wiped the slate clean” and made possible the negotiated transition to liberal democracy” - The British Junta History Debates, Lecture by Alistair Thomson, Monash University (2009)

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    The old curriculum had protected Mountbatten's legacy
     
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    Chapter 29: We Don’t Need No Thought Control
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    After years of political interference, the Anglican Church had ultra-conservative leadership

    “Those calling the people onto the streets were not professional politicians, but bishops. The demonstration added up to an impressive display of strength. As the bishops were quick to point out, the Anglican Church is one of Britain's biggest social movements. But they did not limit themselves to spiritual matters. Their words were full of raw politics, and their target was clear. Prime Minister Alan Johnson, they averred, was leading the country towards moral and democratic ruin. “We are heading towards the end of democracy,” said one bishop. Britain was “going backwards” on human rights, claimed another. The family was under “serious attack”, said a third. Lay speakers piled on the anti-government rhetoric. “Don't leave the hearts and minds of your children in the hands of anyone, and especially not of the state,” said one.”
    - Johnson and the Church: The Bishops' Revolt, The Economist (2007)

    Things continued to not go well for the SDP as opposition mounted to the Reid curriculum. The Church of England continued to speak openly against the government as protesters marched around Parliament Square demanding religion classes be kept. The Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Nazir-Ali was an arch conservative and had actively campaigned against the transition to democracy. He had a close relationship with many senior members of the National Party, working together they were able to coordinate a powerful political response to the reforms. Nazir-Aliwarned that if the Government didn’t back down then the Church would be forced to “walk away” from hundreds of schools it managed.

    With Britain’s education struggling as it was and the Department for Education on its knees, the SPD administration couldn’t afford to directly administer hundreds of new schools. Nazir-Ali’ intervention marked the first major religious intervention in the post-transition era, and showed the Church of England as a powerful force against the transition. On the left, the Socialist Alternative was outraged that resistance martyrs such as Mark Ashton would be treated on the same level as Junta era war criminals, and the equivocation between Junta violence and the violence of those resisting it. Ronnie Campbell, The Alternative’s Education Spokesperson confirmed the SA would not support the passage of the Reid curriculum unless it was reformed with the Junta as the ambiguous villains of history.

    With the Alternative invoking their Confidence and Supply right not to support the government, majority support for the bill was now gone. Johnson and Reid had a choice, to compromise with National and the Church to get a bipartisan white paper through, or to work with the Alternative on a more critical thesis of Junta history. Reid, ever the pragmatist, looked at his options, if Nazir-Ali wasn’t bluffing they could lose hundreds of schools and face an immediate educational crisis. On the other hand if he annoyed the Alternative they would stomp their feet but ultimately they had only two dozen MPs and nowhere else to go. Reid made his decision, Tim Collins and Liam Fox from National, along with Michael Nazir-Ali from the Church were invited to a meeting at Downing Street to hammer out a curriculum compromise.

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    The Church under Nazir-Ali continued to flex their political muscles

    After several days of negotiation a compromise bargain was struck, in terms of history the balanced approach would remain. As well as this both parties accepted desegregating gendered subjects. In terms of the main sticking point - religious studies - schools would be free to choose whether to make religion and civics both mandatory, or just civics with federal guidelines strongly advising schools to make only civics mandatory. In reality this led to provincial run comprehensives, mostly in the inner city to abandon religion as a mandatory subject, whilst in the parishes and villages of rural Britain, where Church education reigned supreme, things would continue on pretty much as normal. In return for these concessions, National would abstain on the White Paper

    “One of the positive results of Britain's transition was the reduction in the school-leaving rate. With aggressive military recruitment at an end, students had little option but to stay on at school after 16. The share of all jobs requiring only a secondary education in Britain was higher in Britain(24%) than in any other OECD country. The supply of low-educated workers exceeded demand. At the other end of the labour force, Britain faced a high over-qualification and field-of-study mismatch. ‘Rising educational attainment has created a large supply of highly-qualified adults. But many of them are working in jobs for which they are overqualified’, the OECD noted in a report at the time” - The labour market in Transition Britain, Lecture by William Chislett, London School of Economics (2018)

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    The deal between the two parties became known as the "Reid Pact"

    There were two main interpretations of the Reid Pact, for those on the right and centre it was the sign of a mature democracy, two opposite parties coming together with civil society to decide a mutually beneficial compromise, the mature adults in the room. For the left it was a sign that the Junta’s power was never truly broken, that despite being tossed out of office National and their allies in the Church and civil service could still dictate how education policy was run. In the Alternative the party’s radicals, led by backbench MP Lindsey German, saw this as the last straw and demanded the Alternative withdraw support for the government.

    McDonnell used what was left of his goodwill and political capital to hold them back, he feared if the government collapsed now, National would be straight back in office, and all they had fought for would be lost. Latest polls showed National dangerously close to the SDP, polling at 40% to the SDP’s 42%. The Alternative was polling at 5%, so in the event of a snap election the left-wing bloc would be short of a majority. McDonnell, Britain’s most wanted terrorist turned elder statesman was doing everything he could to hold it together, despite it violating all his principles McDonnell believed this government making until the end of it’s term was the only way to save British democracy.

    “Do you want to let those bastards back in? Because comrades if I'm totally honest I'd really rather not go back to prison, bourgeoisie and decadent as that opinion may be. The number one priority of this party and us as its elected representatives - is anti fascism - no parasan. The curriculum won't matter if the tanks are rolling down the streets again, our legacies won't matter if we fail here, today, in 2007. I understand why some comrades are angry and I share that anger but I say look how far we've come. Working with other parties we have secured democracy, we scrapped the bomb for god's sake. We're winning. We are winning and we will keep winning as long as this party and this movement sticks together.” - John McDonnell’s speech to a reportedly rambunctious meeting of the SA’s Parliamentary Caucus (2007)

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    McDonnell seemed to be the only person keeping the SDP/SA pact together, and he was retiring before the next election
     
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    Chapter 30: Price Tag
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    Hughes demonstrated an uncharacteristic lack of restraint with the 2007 budget

    “The Chancellor on Tuesday unveiled a generous budget for 2007, fuelling speculation around a snap election. Simon Hughes is to provide more than €4bn in tax breaks for single parents and families with newborn children. As well as rent subsidies for young adults who cannot afford to leave the parental nest. The handouts will cut the budget surplus from an estimated 0.6 per cent of gross domestic product in 2006 to just about breaking even next year. Mr Hughes has kept a tight lid on public spending since the Social Democrats came to power in 2004 as Britain sought to join the EU. But with the government on thin ice, he has faced pressure from all sides to loosen the reins. This has sometimes put the Chancellor at loggerheads with Alan Johnson and cabinet colleagues.”
    - Hughes’ ‘baby cheque budget targets families, Leslie Crawford, Financial Times (2007)

    With the Reid pact still fresh in voters' minds, it came to budget season, the second annual budget of the new democratic Britain, and the first as a full member of the European Union. Chancellor Simon Hughes had a difficult balancing act to perform, he had to draw up a budget that would both please Britain’s EU partners, as well as keeping the Alternative on side. Hughes also sought to attract international business to the UK, long shut out by strong state regulations and high taxes. Britain’s difficulty attracting investment was only exacerbated by having Ireland on its doorstep. With it’s low corporation tax and high level of education (partly due to British emigrants) Ireland was quickly becoming an economic powerhouse, the go-to place for multinationals to set up their European headquarters.

    Hughes also announced Britain would spend 600 million euros on alleviating child poverty, after a UN report revealed Britain was the worst place to grow up in the developed world. These new policies included an increase to child benefit and generous tax credits. The Junta had always tried to encourage birth rates through policy with lavish one-off payments to new mothers, however Junta era policy lacked long-term support after the child was born, leading to huge levels of child poverty, neglect and adoption. This of course would feed into the various organised crimes and paramilitary groups, able to swell their numbers from disadvantaged youths. Hughes promised “cradle to adulthood” support for Britain’s children, with a target of eradicating child poverty by the end of the next Parliament.

    Trying to keep everyone happy at the same time, and with the additional wiggle room created by EU membership and the scrapping of trident, the 2007 budget would involve a spending splurge. The 2007 budget saw a huge increase of federal subsidies into education, infrastructure and research. This additional spending not only made the Alternative happy, but made Britain an attractive location for multinationals. The most notable part of the infrastructure spending was the announcement of a high speed rail network going from London to the Channel Tunnel and continuing on to Paris, Britain would officially have a high-speed link to the continent, predicted to be finished in 2014.

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    Britain's infrastructure was decades behind other leading nations

    “Plans for a new high-speed rail network have been announced by Development Secretary Chris Huhne. The government is recommending “HS2” a route for a new line between London and Ashford, to connect on to Paris via the Channel Tunnel. This follows on from the HS1 link between London and Birmingham developed by the Junta in the 90s. The public will be consulted on the proposed route, with work unlikely to start until 2009 at the earliest. The Ministry for Development said high-speed rail "can drive economic growth and boost jobs". Secretary Huhne told the House of Commons that the views of communities along the route would be particularly sought. He said the 60 miles between London and Ashford would cost around 15bn euros.”
    - BBC News Bulletin (2007)

    Hughes also announced cuts to the basic rate of tax, dropping from 29% to just 25%. The Junta had always kept personal tax rates high and the SDP government hoped by associating democracy with prosperity they could protect their transition. Corporation tax would also be cut from 34% to 30% Whilst popular these measures would drag Britain into a budget deficit, Hughes justified this arguing the investments in infrastructure and tax cuts would pay for themselves, encouraging further investment in the UK and growth to the British economy. Hughes’ gambled that by increasing spending in the short term, Britain could boost productivity and overtake regional rivals like Ireland.

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    Dublin had been the most popular site for Junta exiles - both political and economic

    In the days since the fall of the Junta Britain’s economy had indeed exploded, London has relatively cheap office rents for a major European city and the British government was happy to bend over backwards to accommodate new business. Some academics nicknamed this “Jack in the Box Economics”, the thesis Britain's economy had been stifled for so long during the Junta years that economic “pressure” had built, being released all at once with the return of democracy. However this explosive growth had slowed over the last two years, if Hughes’ investments paid off the upwards growth would continue, making Britain even stronger, but if this massive growth slowed or even stopped, Britain would not have a surplus to cushion any fall.

    Another elephant in the room was Britain’s bloated military spending, whilst Hughes had made some minor cutbacks the Ministry of Defence was left mostly untouched, due to the Government’s deal with Defence Secretary Charles Gunthrie. Military spending was glossed over by both major parties in their budget speeches, with only interventions from the Alternative raising the issue in Parliament for Hansard. Britain’s military spending as a percentage of GDP still matched that of authoritarian regimes such as Russia or Saudi Arabia. Both parties' silence on the issue spoke volumes, behind the scenes the army establishment was still untouchable, and the taxpayer footed the bill.

    “At a time when the Government’s spending faces-growing challenges, there is one area where Britain could impose more austerity. And that is the arena of military spending and the arms industry. Abolishing nuclear weapons saved several billions of euros every year. Reductions of all military spending to Ireland’s levels (1% of GDP) would save many more billions. Writing off dirty debts caused by arms deals would be a good first step to lay the bill for the crisis with those who helped cause it. Such measures would also prove that at a time of crisis, Britain is prepared to invest in a future desired by its citizens rather than its warmongers.”
    - Guns, Debt and Corruption: Military Spending in Transition Britain, Lecture by Paul Cornish, London School of Economics (2009)

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    The military still had money for elaborate parades
     
    Wikibox: Kent Election 2005
  • 1628611175174.png


    The 2005 Kent regional election was held on 14 March 2005, to elect the Parliament of the Province of Kent. All 33 seats in the Parliament were up for election. The election was held alongside the 2005 United Kingdom general election.

    Results in Kent were influenced by political controversy derived from the 10 March train bombings in Tonbridge. The ruling National Party exceeded opinion poll expectations by securing a comfortable majority. Incumbent Michael Howard was thus able to be re-elected as President of the Regional Government of Kent. This marked his seventeenth year in the role.
     
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    Chapter 31: Splitters!
  • 1628694283828.png

    Transition parties tended to be focused around big personalities rather than policy

    “The predominance of leadership is reflected in personalised networks around party leaders. Indeed, a high level of intraparty instability is typical for new parties in a new democracy. This stands in contrast to established democracies, where the number of splits and mergers has generally been limited. Newer democracies tend to see weaker party loyalties and lower party institutionalization. The personalisation of party politics is confounded in newer democracies as parties spring up around established resistance figures. This leads to a great deal of party instability where splits are common. The cost of entry for a new party in young democracies is a lot lower in established democracies.”
    - Party formation and adaptation in new democracies, Lecture by Ingrid van Biezen, University of Birmingham (2008)

    Britain had all the things a hot new democracy needed, freedom of the press, a representative parliament, a slightly dodgy armed forces and the reek of corruption. But Britain lacked the one thing that made new democracies pop, unstable political parties. The new Britain had gone nearly two years without an old fashioned party split. This was until Sarah Brown entered the stage. Sarah Brown was an SDP MP and the widow of Gordon Brown, a University of Edinburgh Academic who had been accidentally killed by the SNLA in a bombing attack targeting Michael Ancram. The experience had shifted Brown solidly to the right, in 2005 she was elected to Parliament for the Social Democrats and became a loud voice calling for a stronger line against Scottish separatism and a crackdown on terror.

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    Some on the SDP's right believed Johnson had been too soft on SNLA dissidents

    Generally liked and respected across the political aisle, Brown would be the perfect figurehead. Brown had been approached by two fellow Scottish women, Ruth Davidson and Joanne Rowling. Davidson was the chair of the Terrorism Victims Defence Assocation (TVDA) a pressure group for the victims of paramilitary violence, Rowling was the bestselling author of the global hit “Harry Potter” books and one of the richest women in Britain. Supporters of National and the Social Democrats respectively, both women had become disillusioned with their parties, Davidson for National’s lack of support for further EU integration, and Rowling due to the Social Democrats soft line of Scottish separatism.

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    Rowling's wealth and personal brand was a formidable asset

    In a University of Edinburgh coffee shop on drizzly April morning they made the pitch to Brown: a new centrist, pro-European, unionist and anti-paramilitary political party. Davidson would provide the extra-parliamentary support, Rowling would provide the fundraising and Brown would act as the party’s figurehead. What could possibly go wrong? After some convincing Brown was in, they got to work launching their new party, holding discussions with politicians from both parties. Brown managed to recruit three other MPs and one MEP to sign onto the new party, from the Social Democrats she recruited Vince Cable, another figure from the right of the party and MEP David Aaronovitch. From National she recruited John Bercow and Stephen Dorrell, both ardant pro-European Nationalists. Her greatest prize would have been Shadow Chancellor Nick Clegg, who according to his memoirs “strongly considered defecting” but ultimately “declined but wished Sarah well”.

    “After the new party launched, National HQ was in a panic. I had already told Sarah [Brown] no, but Tim [Collins] and William [Hague] saw fit to lock me in a room for several hours until I pinky promised not to defect. If I'm being honest, if Sarah's new party had been remotely plausible I would have jumped ship, but I didn't see the benefit in leaving National to the hardliners. All Reform did was attract moderate party members and MPs away from the established parties, instead they went charging off a cliff ruining their careers. Sarah and the others could've done a lot more good if they'd stayed in their parties making the case for moderate, pro-European liberal politics. The Cardiff Accords system was designed not to benefit new insurgent parties - and for good reason.” - Excerpt from Nick Clegg’s Memoirs“Between the Extremes” (2016)

    At the University of Edinburgh, on the four year anniversary of Brown’s death, Brown, Davidson and Rowling unveiling their new party, it was a slick launch, three young women Scots coming together from across different parties to start a new movement, it was a compelling image. The Reform Party was here, initial YouGov projects conducted directly after it’s launch showed the party winning as many as 10 seats. More noticeably, some polls in Scotland showed Reform eclipsing National and the Social Democrats as the party of Scottish Unionism, whilst Scottish loyalists were a minority they were strongly attracted to this new party.

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    The Reform Party hoped to be the main voice of British Unionism

    Reform sent alarm bells ringing around both major parties as party leaders and their whips rushed to stem the bleeding. Nick Clegg and David Laws were held in Norman Shaw North for nearly three hours as Collins begged them not to jump ship. Over in Downing Street, Chief Whip Hilary Benn and Comms Director Bron Madson were dispatched to squash this story as quickly as possible. Their mission was as much stopping other factions from “getting ideas” as it was trying to stop direct Reform directions, with party elites fearing if Reform was a success the entire two party system could quickly collapse. Both National and the Social Democrats were big tent parties, filled with people who hated each other and cobbled together with duct tape. The small constituencies agreed under the Cardiff Accords encouraged two party dominance but this could only get them so far. In the days after Reform’s launch no new parties launched and no other MPs jumped ship, the establishment was safe for now but a precedent had been set. In a leaked internal memo to Johnson, Benn warned a “snowball of splits” in the future was a distinct possibility.

    “Vertical organisation is necessary for voters as they seek to find channels to represent their interests. It shows the instability of linkages among members, voters and parties in new democracies. Such weak party institutionalisation might worsen political institutionalisation in new democracies. In most new democracies, party politics was established overnight and thus they have not experienced spontaneous party evolution. Thus, the unstable organisational changes have a tendency only to make parties a tag for MPs to take part in elections. Split and merger of MPs without partisan support can damage the functionality of parties. Political institutionalisation can only be achieved when parties maintain party stability.” - Party Mergers and Splits in New Democracies, Kyungmee Park, Cambridge University Press (2013)

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    Brown had shaken Britain's fragile party system, but it remained standing
     
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    Chapter 32: The Boys in Blue
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    Theresa May's stock had fallen somewhat in Collins' inner circle

    “Theresa May today rallied National to prepare for an election, declaring the party is "hungry for victory". With National trailing in the polls, May used her address to urge delegates to show "confidence" ahead of a possible snap election. The Deputy Leader took the stage to declare the party was "ready" for the battle to govern the country. Mrs May said: "The circumstances of this conference mean it may be one of the most crucial of our times. The willingness of our country to vote for change depends on our ability to show that we are ready to fight back, to win, and to govern." This morning Shadow Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke told the BBC's Peter Snow that Alan Johnson should seek a fresh mandate. "It is the interest of the country to have an early election," said Mr Clarke.”
    - National ready for election, says May, Hélène Mulholland, The Guardian (2007)

    National’s backbenchers weren’t happy, now National’s backbenchers are rarely happy, the further back you go the less happy they usually are. The party had been through a lot in the last few months. The referendum had split the party, with nearly a third of it’s MPs running off with Kilroy-Silk and the No Campaign, who had subsequently been crushed. Collins had taken this opportunity to try and detoxify his party, Kilroyites who came crawling back after the referendum had found their Shadow Cabinet jobs filled by Collins loyalists, with senior figures like David Bannerman, Chris Grayling and even old Kilroy himself cast to the backbenches to grumble and scheme.

    Tim Collins Shadow Cabinet 2007-
    • Leader of the Opposition - Tim Collins
    • Deputy Leader of the Opposition - Theresa May
    • Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer - Nick Clegg
    • Shadow Foreign Secretary - David Davis
    • Shadow Justice Secretary - Kenneth Clarke
    • Shadow Defence Secretary - Vacant (Non-Political)
    • Shadow Home Secretary - Ian Blair
    • Development Secretary - David Willetts
    • Shadow Education Secretary - Liam Fox
    • Shadow Industry, Tourism and Trade Secretary - David Laws
    • Shadow Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Secretary - Caroline Spelman
    • Shadow Public Administrations Secretary - Nicholas Soames
    • Shadow Culture Secretary - Oliver Letwin
    • Shadow Health Secretary - Mark Oaten
    • Shadow Environment Secretary - David Richards
    • Shadow Housing Secretary - Malcolm Pearson
    1628782485309.png

    The balance of power in the Shadow Cabinet had shifted after the referendum, with reformists like David Willetts replacing hardliners like Kilroy

    National’s following victories in the European Elections and gentle uptick in the opinion polls seemed to vindicate Collins’ strategy as the prospect of returning to power drew ever nearer. This wasn’t to say all was well within the National camp, whilst Collins wasn’t a raging hardliner, he wasn’t a reformist either, frequently clashing with his more liberal colleagues, especially Shadow Chancellor Nick Clegg. Collins increasingly began to rely on his inner circle of allies, including Deputy Theresa May, Shadow Foreign Secretary David Davis and Shadow Home Secretary Ian Blair. There was one figure in particular however who became invaluable to Collins and that was his Chief Whip William Hague.

    “An exponent of the almost lost art of Parliamentary wit, Mr Hague is an accomplished public speaker. He is one of the few speakers in modern politics that journalists and other politicians can listen to expecting a few good jokes. But his bruising experience as Industry Secretary from 1996 to 2002 added a sense of gravitas to his public persona. His modest background has provided a valuable counterpoint to the public school backgrounds of much of National's top team. William Jefferson Hague was born in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, on 26 March 1961. His parents ran a soft drinks company - Hague's Dandelion and Burdock and Lemonade were two local favourites. The young Hague used to help out with deliveries to shops and pubs during university holidays.” - Profile William Hague, BBC News Bulletin (2007)

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    Hague was mirroring Ted Heath's meteoric rise via the whip's office

    In the name of party unity, Chief Whip Hague was excused from Collins’ three-line whip enforcement for National MPs to vote Yes, Hague’s referendum vote remained a mystery. This allowed him to deftly cross the tearooms and smoking balconies of Westminster, quelling rebellions and defections wherever they arose. Hague had become invaluable. Hague’s star only rose with the formation of the Reform Party, whilst he couldn’t stop two National MPs jumping on ship, as many as a dozen National MPs had considered defection with Hague credited with keeping them inside the tent. Collin’s project of detoxifying the party couldn’t have been done without Hague’s support.

    Collin’s reforms would be put to the test when Nigel Hastilow, the National Party’s chairman gave an interview to the Telegraph where he defended Michael Hanley, the brutal head of the Security Services from 1968 to 1980 who had overseen crackdowns against separatists, leftist and other undesirables during his time in power. Creating institutions such as the Civil Guard who were now being disbanded for human rights violations. Hanley had become a hate figure for democracy campaigners and somewhat of a hero amongst reactionary Mountbattenites. Hastilow’s comments couldn’t have come at a worse time, with Reform just out the gate, National’s leaders worried the party’s right would follow suit, creating their own splinter party or joining the NNP, yet not acting against Hastilow would ruin all of Collins’ hard work detoxifying the party. A show of strength was needed in order to quash dissent and drag the hardliners back to heel. Collins announced Hastilow would have the whip removed and be expelled from the party.

    It was a risky move but it appeared to pay off, the backbenches were silent, no one wanting to follow Hastilow into the great unknown. Whilst there had been grumblings on National’s right there was no clear plan for a new party, or a clear leader with Kilroy-Silk’s star faded. Collins acted swiftly and ruthlessly to quash Hastilow, keeping his backbenchers off-guard and the political momentum on his side. Whilst the incident led to a small dip in National’s polling, a protracted fight would’ve been much worse for National’s electoral prospects. For the second time in a few short weeks National had been shaken, but it had survived. Maybe the big tent wasn’t so fragile after all.

    “Last week Tim Collins removed the whip from party chair Nigel Hastilow. Our polling elsewhere found public support for Hasitlow's removal but what of the effect on perceptions of party unity? During the referendum National was divided over Europe. There is the risk that expulsions such as these will once again lead to perceptions of National as a divided party. The week following the scandal, we asked whether people saw National and the SDP as united or divided. 60% of people now see the National party as divided, compared to 22% who see them as united. This is the most divided the National party has been since YouGov started asking the question. Down from a peak in 2005 when 52% saw the party as united.”
    - Parties Divided, Anthony Wells, YouGov (2007)

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    Collins had kept his party together for now
     
    Chapter 33: Get This Bread
  • 1629904552286.png

    The rapid modernisation of Britain's infrastructure also provided plenty of opportunities for money laundering

    “Britain provides a compelling case in which to consider the social consequences of corruption. To begin with, it is a new democracy, memories of a turbulent modern history make Brits well equipped to distinguish abuses of power. The devolution of authority to empowered provinces became a key feature of Britain's federal arrangement. The country joined the European Union in 2006, and it adopted the euro as its currency around the same time. During this period, Britain experienced rapid modernisation and economic growth. This included a boom in infrastructure spending, real estate development, and property prices. It was this rapid growth in urban development and property values that set the stage for an outbreak of public sector corruption. Particularly at the regional levels of government, where public officials enjoyed new autonomy.”
    - Social and Political Consequences of Administrative Corruption, Gregg Van Ryzin (2012)

    One unfortunate side effect of new democracies is corruption. All these young new civil servants and politicians finding themselves with easy access to public coffers, without the civil society restraints a mature democracy would have. Corruption was a particularly difficult issue for Prime Minister Johnson as he’d thoroughly pissed off the Security Services by balkanising them and harshly reducing their powers. The now neutered but thoroughly annoyed Security Services made turfing out political corruption a top priority, if this crusade hurt the SDP even better. Johnson had already lost two senior Cabinet members - Tony Blair and Jack Straw to sting operations and he had made sure to keep his Cabinet on it's best behaviour.

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    Johnson had lost several close allies to corruption

    Unfortunately for him he couldn’t be everywhere at once, and there were several figures lower down on the SDP’s pecking order. This is where our story takes us to the province of Inner East London. Stretching from Haringey to Lewisham the Inner East was a stronghold for the British left, with the SDP’s Provincial President Harriet Harman ruling with a massive majority. Unfortunately Harman’s administration seemed to have missed the “don’t be corrupt” memo, this corruption would emerge in the most British possible. Kingsmill, famous for making bland bread, and the occasional Northern Irish massacre, was a major player in East London, with factories on the docks and thousands of employees.

    Kingsmill was failing financially since the fall of the Junta, unable to compete with cheaper produce coming from the breadbaskets of Eastern Europe. So the Provincial Government stepped in to provide financial aid to Kingsmill, including grants for severance packages and subsidies early retirement pensions. So far so good. Unfortunately for Harman the The Centre for Organised Crime and Terrorism Intelligence or COCTI, successor to MI5 decided to dig a bit deeper, they found several payments made to people who were not actually Kingsmill employees, as well as vast payouts to trade union officials and company directors. Several leading local politicians, including Harman, had used the money to contribute to a slush fund.

    “Of particular note have been the revelations of endemic corruption surrounding the city of Bolton. This led to a series of 100 high profile arrests in 2006 following Operation Bolton, including the mayor and the chief of police. The mayor at the time, Ruth Kelly, headed a coalition administration that included National and the Social Democrats. The Bolton scandal in turn sparked revelations of real estate-related corruption throughout Britain. Another major scandal that surfaced in 2008 revealed that Andrew Lothian, a former judge of the High Court of Eastern Scotland. Lothian was sentenced to lengthy jail terms. As a direct consequence of these scandals Alan Johnson announced plans to introduce a code of conduct in public life.” - Corruption in Transition Britain, Lecture by Paul Haywood, University of Cambridge (2021)

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    It would take more than a code of conduct to undo years of corruption culture

    Finally and most damning of all, leaked emails found that Public Administrations Secretary Peter Hain, who oversaw Provincial Administrations, had known about the corruption but turned a blind eye. Provisional President Harman stepped down from her position, as did her Vice-President and Finance Minister. Hain too was sacked from the Cabinet, with Susan Kramer taking his place as Public Administrations Secretary and Junior Minister Eddie Izzard appointed to Health Secretary to fill the empty seat around the Cabinet. This would be reshuffle number four of Johnson’s three year old administration.

    Johnson Cabinet 2007-
    • Prime Minister - Alan Johnson (SDP)
    • Deputy Prime Minister - Alan Milburn (SDP)
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer - Simon Hughes (SDP)
    • Foreign Secretary - Rosie Boycott (SDP)
    • Justice Secretary - David Miliband (SDP)
    • Defence Secretary - Field Marshal Charles Guthrie (Military)
    • Home Secretary - Charlie Falconer (SDP)
    • Development Secretary - Chris Huhne (SDP)
    • Education Secretary - John Reid (SDP)
    • Industry, Tourism and Trade Secretary - Patricia Hewitt (SDP)
    • Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Secretary - Glenda Jackson (SDP)
    • Public Administrations Secretary - Susan Kramer (SDP)
    • Culture Secretary - Charles Kennedy (SDP)
    • Health Secretary - Eddie Izzard (SDP)
    • Environment Secretary - Valerie Amos (SDP)
    • Housing Secretary - Polly Toynbee (SDP)
    Corruption investigations also targeted the SNP and RISE up in Scotland as it found Stewart Hosie, Eastern Scotland’s Tourism Minister under the SNP/RISE coalition had embezzled over 3 million euros during the construction of Perth Concert Hall. He had also received over 6 million euros in undisclosed donations from the Tarmac Group, a giant construction company heavily involved with several public construction projects across Eastern Scotland. COCTI argued these donations had influenced Hoise’s decisions when awarding and the Tarmac Group had used Perth Concert Hall as a front for false invoicing.

    Hain, Harman and Hosie were just the three most notable names caught up in the regional corruption scandal, in left-wing and separatist run provincial authorities local politicians were being done for all sorts of crimes, even the most banal, from taking bribes all the way down to smoking cannabis on their own time. Whilst some of these local politicians certainly were corrupt they saw heavy handed investigations from the authorities, with wiretaps and even undercover police officers used as part of these investigations. The investigations were also highly politicised, mysteriously no National politician was caught doing anything untoward. Luckily for National only it’s enemies were caught with their hands in the wrong pockets.

    “Citizens in full democracies are antagonistic to government corruption. The more corrupt the citizens perceive the incumbents to be, the more likely they are to punish the incumbent government in elections. Cross-national studies also show that political corruption erodes trust in political institutions and increases the likely-hood of protest. When leaders fight corruption they hope to signal their responsiveness to the public, and thus to garner more public support. As Alan Johnson said in a speech in 2008: “We must be determined to fight against corruption to win support from the people.” - Money, Corruption and Political Competition in Emerging Democracies, Jonathan Mendilow (2012)

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    Local elections were due in a few weeks, and National elections in just over a year
     
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    Chapter 34: Dustbins and Bunting
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    During the local election campaign Johnson stood on a record of moderation

    “Elections held too early tend to strengthen radical leaders who have been in the forefront of instigating conflict. Most election experts tend to agree on the need to differentiate between national and local elections. In general, it is considered to be more prudent to start with the latter. The stakes of power and wealth to be distributed are less dramatic than on the national level. In emerging democracies the population lives far removed from national capitals, where the big power game takes place. Thus, local elections are more relevant for their day-to-day lives than national ones. The real world of conflict management, peacekeeping and peacebuilding is a tough and contradictory one. It is full of dilemmas which are difficult to manage for those in the freshly built arenas.
    ” - Lecture by Winrich Kühne, John Hopkins University (2010)

    Local democracy wasn’t a new idea to the people of Britain, Peter Hill-Norton had legalised local elections in the 1990s and they had gone through five local elections before national democracy had come swanning in. Of course there were some caveats, opposition parties were still illegal, meaning local councillors could only run as National candidates or Independents. Local candidates were still strictly monitored with anyone too critical of the Junta quietly removed from the ballot and sometimes their house. Councils had been balkanised with thousands of tiny councils covering parishes and boroughs. Long gone were the mighty County and City Councils of old. Local Councils also had their powers gutted during the age of the Junta, with policies like transport or social care taken back into the hands of the Westminster Government, most local authorities were reduced to being only slightly more powerful than your traditional parish council responsible for “dustbins and bunting” as Public Administrations Secretary John Major had put it in 1992.

    The 2004 local elections had come at a strange time, the Cardiff Accords had been signed a few months earlier, but the Junta wasn’t set to be dissolved for another few months, so they found themselves in an awkward situation, the “dress rehearsal for democracy”. Of course opposition parties had only been legalised a few months earlier so they had scrambled to prepare for these elections, with it being unclear whether the Social Democrats or Socialist Alternative would become the main party of opposition. The results were fairly chaotic with a narrow SDP victory, including a strong result for the Alternative, as well as dozens of smaller parties, independents and Residents Associations making their way onto various local councils.

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    The local level was the only place independents had a real chance

    Four years later the 2008 locals would prove the first test run before the 2009 general. Expectations were mixed, whilst the elections were held in the midst of a corruption scandal there was plenty for the SDP to be proud of. They had brought Britain into the EU and oversaw an explosion in Britain’s economy, many Brits were more prosperous now than they had ever been. National had good reason to be confident, considering the chaos the SDP was in but the Nationalists were divided too and Tim Collin’s leadership was constantly in question.

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    Collins needed a strong result ahead of the General Election

    “It is easy to forget that indications about the outcome of the next general election could rest with the local elections tomorrow. 90,000 council seats are up for grabs. The contests represent Alan Johnson's first electoral test since he became Prime Minister. The Social Democrats are campaigning on neighbourhood police and crime. For Tim Collins the issues are whether he can make inroads into the northern suburbs and continue to hold National's south and rural bases. For John McDonnell, the issue is whether he can avoid a squeeze and help his party continue to outperform their national poll performance. In England, 11,000 local authorities are holding elections. National say it will be trench warfare, with no side making big gains.”
    - Real test for Social Democrats lies in local polls, Patrick Wintour, The Guardian (2008)

    The Alternative were braced for a bad election, the Alternative had overwhelming support in cities like Liverpool, Manchester and inner-London where for many years they had been the only force opposing the Junta, but their support for the Johnson administration had sapped away that support and angered the party’s grassroots. The Alternative was also starting from an unusually high point at the 2004 locals. In the chaos following the Junta’s fall the Communists and other parties that made up the Alternative were the only really political force still organised, whilst the SDP was building itself up from scratch, this led to the party getting a much greater result in the 2004 locals than the 2005 nationals where the SDP had managed to get itself established. All in all the Alternative was braced for a crash.

    As for the minor parties the SNP and RISE were still competing to be the main voice of Scottish separatism, polling neck and neck. With Britain’s growing prosperity and the end of military occupation, support for separatism had ticked down slightly in the polls, meaning both parties were fishing in a smaller pond. Reform had also managed to organise itself properly in unionist areas of Scotland and liberal southern towns across England, this would form the first real test for Brown’s new party. On the sidelines there was also Ecology, hoping to break into being a National force, the hard-right New Nationalists, and a variety of regionalist and smaller parties such as Mebyon Kernow. For these third rate parties local elections offered the only chance of political representation.

    1629991311595.png


    The local election results were generally seen as a narrow victory for National, who picked up over 700 council seats, mostly at the expense of the various Residents Associations and independents in rural areas, who had struggled against the organised might of National. The Alternative had the worst night, losing over 600 seats. They even lost some stronghold local councils such as Hackney Town Council. However the overwhelming result of the locals was stagnation, most swings only made up a point or two, there were no dramatic surprises and no sudden upsets. This was good news for the SDP as it meant democracy had stabilised, Britain’s voters had picked their tribes and they were sticking with them. Reform had made some small gains but nowhere near enough to challenge the 2.5 party system.

    “How, and to what extent, money influences electoral outcomes in the UK is difficult to assess. Although there is general agreement about the range of ways in which such an influence may be felt. It is argued, for instance,that campaign promises made by incumbents, may be considered as a form of ‘collective bribe’. A strong party system has prompted responsibility for election finance to transfer to party headquarters. This is a development which gave rise to new kinds of corruption, but which reduced the level of traditional malpractice. The UK’s new model of democracy encourages central manipulation of public spending for partisan advantage. Whether or not we choose to regard such governmental expenditure as a form of ‘collective bribe’, incumbents generally start election campaigns with an advantage.” - Public spending and the benefits of incumbency, Report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2008)

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    The "Cardiff Consensus" remained unchallenged
     
    Chapter 35: Up the LA
  • 1630075161187.png

    Huge storms had wracked Scotland in the early summer, with local leaders struggling to cope

    “After last weekend's biblical deluge in Scotland comes the political storms. Following a week when floods filled an Edinburgh underpass with water, the forecast for Scottish separatism is as gloomy as the weather with disappointing local election results. Senior SNP and RISE officials are despondent when you speak to them about the durability of the "non aggression pact" between the two parties. Both parties have cooperated to form administrations in all 4 Scottish provinces and have agreed not to criticise each other in public. Despite this, the two parties are engaged in a nasty form of shadow boxing. The other parties jibe that the separatists can't even bear being in the same room as each other.”
    - It's showdown time in Scotland, Paul Kelbie, The Observer (2008)

    Scottish politics remained in deadlock after the local elections. It’s two main separatist parties, the SNP and RISE were known as the “world’s worst frenemies”, whilst they often clashed in elections the two parties cooperated in every Scottish Provincial Parliament, trying to put on a united front. Whilst the SNP was slightly larger they often found themselves stalemated during electoral competitions, with neither side gaining a clear upper hand in terms of seats. In fact, both parties had declined slightly in the local elections, mostly attributed to Britain’s growing prosperity and a better organised unionist community under the Reform Party.

    RISE especially was a strange case, straddling democratic socialist politicians all the way to hardcore former SNLA fighters. Their leader, Tommy Sheridan was often crass, refusing to condemn the acts of SNLA dissidents and increasingly taking the party in a radical direction. Unfortunately for Tommy, the Security Services’ targeting of left-wing politicians didn’t stop south of the border. He found this out the hard way when armed police stormed into his Glasgow flat at three in the morning. Tommy Sheridan became the first politician of the transition age to be arrested, on charges of collaborating with SNLA dissidents. Papers presented by the security services showed correspondence with SNLA commanders including figurehead Matt Lygate and even a picture of Sheridan meeting with armed masked men.

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    The tabloids described Sheridan as "inspecting the troops"

    COCTI alleged Sheridan had been using his position as a parliamentarian to shuttle secure briefings and even public funds towards dissident separatist groups. Sheridan’s arrest and subsequent trial threw RISE into catastrophe, with two camps emerging in the party. One camp, led by figures such as Alex Neil and Elaine Smith, said the party needed to cut Sheridan loose, move as far away from him as possible, afraid the whole party could be banned under anti-terror legislation. Sheridan’s allies like Rosemary Byrne said Sherridan was facing political persecution, comparing him to Nelson Mandela, they called for the party to take a strong line defending Sheridan, even at the risk of being banned.

    “At an inspiring rally in Glasgow on 7 June, 3000 people pledged their support for Tommy Sheridan. Sheridan faces terrorism charges and allegations he has met with SNLA dissidents. The Security Services have spent nearly a million euros of public money accusing Tommy of terrorism. After messages of support from socialists and trade unionists, RISE MP Janice Godrich, gave unconditional support. She described her shock at some of Tommy's parliamentary comrades refusing to support the party leader. Godrich proclaimed "They had a choice, and sided against the movement. It's a sordid story of disgrace and dishonour, they are class traitors." Another RISE MP, Jim Walls, former convener of opencast coal miners in Ayrshire, said that Tommy had his full support.” - Stirring rally backs Tommy Sheridan, Jim McFarlane, The Socialist (2008)

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    Sheridan had a loyal base of support in the separatist community

    Many were suspicious of Sheridan’s arrest, even those in the SDP establishment. Home Secretary Charlie Falconer had seen his SDP comrades persecuted by the security services, and understood how fragile the peace process in Scotland was. Upon hearing of Sheridan’s arrest he had reportedly called COCTI Director Jonathan Evans demanding to know if he wanted “another fucking war”. But counter-terror officials knew how sensitive a target Sheridan was, presenting a water-tight case. This included secret recordings taken from Sheridan’s flat and car, evidence that could have only been collected by bugging. The Security Services didn’t even deny they had bugged Sheridan, calling it a “national security necessity”. Underhanded though their tactics were, the evidence was hard to refute.

    As Sheridan’s trial mounted on and more evidence was presented in court, an emergency meeting of RISE's Executive Council was held. Neil and his moderate allies had a very slim majority on the Council and Sheridan was expelled from RISE, with Neil appointed as acting leader. A few days later Sheridan would be found guilty, sentenced to ten years in prison. Riots would break out in separatist areas of Scotland, and there were bitter divisions in Scotland’s separatist movements, Sheridan’s allies were outraged that neither the SDP, SA or RISE had done anything to prevent Sheridan going under. In what was probably poor taste Byrne recited “First they came” by Martin Niemoller in her resignation speech, three other RISE MPs left the party alongside Byrne, followed by dozens of provincial legislators.

    Now Alex Neil had to pick up the pieces of his broken party, RISE hadn’t been banned, so he had succeeded in his first goal, now he had to stem the bleeding of members, modernise the party and turn it back into a fighting force by the election next year. Stopping members from leaving wasn’t only a political goal but a moral one. Whilst some RISE members were defecting to Byrne’s new “Workers Party of Scotland” just as many were making their way to the safe-houses of the SNLA dissidents. As one academic put it, Sheridan's arrest was “the greatest SNLA recruiting sergeant since the fall of the Junta ''. RISE had an important place in Britain's political peace process, if Scotland’s radicals lost faith in RISE, and by extension electoral democracy, many could return to violence.

    “Between 2005 and 2009 the Scottish media was full of stories of ‘incidents’ that added to the growing mistrust between the parties. The publication of five reports from the Simpson Inquiry into possible collusion between the Civil Guard in Scotland in the murders of five civil rights activists in 2006 and the arrest of Tommy Sheridan in 2008 conspired against any possible thaw in relations between the various political positions. Public Administrations Secretary, Susan Kramer, told the Scottish Select Committee that trust remained key to the political process. Instilling this trust among political representatives remained a difficult job. After the general election results in 2005 National Leader, Tim Collins, insisted that National provincial legislators would not serve alongside separatists in any regional government.” - The Role of Trust in Transition Scotland's Political Institutions and Actors, Lecture by Gery Hassan, University of Dundee (2013)

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    The SNP had to decide whether to keep the non-aggression pact, or go for the kill whilst RISE was weak
     
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    Chapter 36: Hail to the Chief
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    The world's least popular man was stopping by London

    “London will be brought to a standstill in 10 days' time when the visit of George Bush will take place. Last-minute road closures and a rally at Trafalgar Square by an estimated 150,000 protesters will paralyse the capital. It will be the first ever post-Junta state visit by an American President, who will be the guest of the Queen for the duration of his stay. For security reasons the Police will not confirm a route for the cavalcade and will be forced to make road closures with minimal notice. After Air Force One touches down, the President and his entourage will be flown by helicopter to a reception at Buckingham Palace. Bush's arrival is likely to follow the pattern of his visit to Australia, when he was spirited away from protesters along empty streets.”
    - Bush visit set to paralyse London, Martin Bright, The Guardian (2008)

    George Bush was not a popular man in the UK, as the Junta collapsed and most of the world turned against him, including most of the American establishment, Bush and Cheney remained outspoken in a call for “calm and moderation” on behalf of the protesters. Relations further cooled after Alan Johnson pulled British troops out of the war in Iraq under pressure from the Alternative. Britain had been punished by the Bush administration, Bush had refused to make a single state visit to the UK as half the world flocked to see the world’s newest democracy, enraged by Britain’s betrayal in Iraq. There was no love lost between Bush and Johnson, but now Bush was on his way out, the US Presidential election due in just a few months and he was taking his farewell tour across Europe.

    The Bush administration decided they needed to make their peace with democratic Britain and arranged a state visit. For Johnson accepting the state visit was a gamble, on one hand Bush was incredibly unpopular, the election was less than a year away, but Britain still needed the US, it’s aid and it’s investors. Above all, being seen with the world’s most powerful man would give his government much needed prestige and legitimacy. The people of Britain were less excited however and as Bush touched down in London he was met with protests up and down the country. Bush saw a packed schedule, alongside the usual affair such as tea with the Queen and inspecting US military bases he had a few more unusual visits.

    One trip that raised several eyebrows was a personal visit to General Mike Jackson, the former Prime Minister under First Lord Peter Hill-Norton and close personal friend of Bush. This was of course met with suspicion from the political left, Bush meeting with the last great man of the Junta years, this was seen by many in the press as Bush giving a subtle endorsement to National and the remaining Juntistas. The biggest controversy of the trip was Bush's speech to both Houses of Parliament. In his speech Bush asserted Britain had to reclaim its role as a “productive, proactive partner” on the global stage, warning Britain could “run but not hide” from it’s global responsibilities. This was obviously a not-so-subtle dig at the withdrawal of British troops by Iraq.

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    Britain was eager to break it's reputation as an American puppet

    “The British have grown used to Alan Johnson's hyperactivity at home. Now the rest of the world is getting a measure of it too. Coming up to 1,000 days in office, Johnson has brought Britain into the EU, given a diplomatic push to peacekeeping efforts in Darfur and helped to free journalists on death row in Libya. Britain, Mr Johnson seems to be saying at every turn, is back. What does all this frenetic diplomatic activity add up to? Mr Johnson's top concern seems to be to get Britain taken seriously again. In recent years, its voice has been barely audible. Under the Junta administration, Britain was hardly listened to outside of Washington, DC. Mr Johnson is determined to make good his campaign promise of a “rupture” with the Junta era.”
    - Alan Johnson’s foreign policy: running fast, but where is he going?, The Economist (2008)

    At the end of his speech Bush received a standing ovation from MPs which was customary for state visitors, but over 50 MPs refused to stand or even clap, including all the Alternative MPs as well as several left-leaning SDP MPs. This was a theme in Bush’s visit, many of these left-leaning MPs had been speaking at the anti-bush rallies earlier in the day and were in no mood to be magnanimous in Bush’s departure. One SDP MP even wore a “Yes We Can” lapel badge during Bush’s speech, a nod to presumptive Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama. The Alternative especially saw opposition to Bush as a great way to distinguish themselves from the SDP and make up for some of the support they had lost over the last few years.

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    The Alternative gained some standing in the polls after it's strong response to Bush

    The Bush visit also had a geopolitical bent to it under the EU’s Treaty of Vienna, which Britain was a signatory to, EU member state Security Council seats would pass to a central EU seat. The US did not see the EU as a reliable partner and many within it’s National Security apparatus wanted Britain to keep it’s seat, or for the seat to at least go to a more reliable partner like Japan. The UN had already clarified that the EU would not be granted two seats, such an arrangement would be against the spirit of the Council. The main dilemma now was whether to keep the Council to four states, as favoured by Russia, or open up the Security Council to a new member, with the US favouring Japan and China favouring Brazil.

    Johnson certainly wasn’t going to throw away the UK’s strong EU relationship for Bush’s paranoia. The economic benefits of EU membership far outstripped any prestige that could be gained by Britain desperately clinging onto her Council Seat. Johnson released Britain was going to lose it’s seat one way or the other, however Johnson agreed that the UK would formally petition for it’s seat to transfer to Japan, as a fellow western-aligned regional power. The EU was also likely to back Japan’s membership, meaning the Security Council’s western bloc was now united in support for Japan. For Johnson it was a relative political win, he got to tell Bush to sod off (very popular with the British people) and by magnanimously giving out the Council seat he was bound to lose anyway, Britain’s reputation abroad continued to repair.

    “Johnson faced two overarching challenges: restoring Britain's reputation abroad and repairing relations with allies. The Junta got into trouble for both style and substance. UK allies were turned off by his Junta's disdain for multinational organizations, and refusal to tolerate dissent. The criticisms became more pointed when the Junta reinterpreted the Geneva Convention to allow CIA torture black sites on British soil. "Johnson has managed to dump much of the Junta's baggage," said Jonathan McClory, a foreign policy expert at the Institute for Government. "The fact that the UK has dropped its nuclear weapons and Security Council seat has gone a long way toward restoring it's reputation.” - Alan Johnson’s International Mess, Tim Jones, Politico (2008)

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    Whilst his domestic record was mixed, Johnson's foreign policy had been broadly successful
     
    Chapter 37: Cash Out
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    The Johnson administration had loosened regulations governing City financiers

    “Although desirable, financial deregulation alongside political liberalisation can be disastrous if not managed properly. If the regulatory structure is not in place before liberalisation, risk-taking behaviour will not be constrained. Bad loans are a likely outcome, with potential calamitous consequences for bank balance sheets at some point in the future. Financial deregulation alongside political liberalisation also often leads to a lending boom, because of increased opportunities for citizens. We saw this in the British example. The authorities (Treasury and Bank of England) realised that the previous framework was flawed in many respects. The regulations in place at the time of the banking crisis were inadequate and insufficient. The financial statements provided by banks did not permit testing of the real risks of the institutions.”
    - The Financial Crises and Financial Reforms in Transition Britain, Scott James (2020)

    You know what the great thing is about being allowed back into the global democratic order? - International finance. As an up and coming new market spending vast sums on infrastructure improvements, Britain became a hub for international investors and infrastructure borrowing. Britain’s accession to this new-fangled euro currency made it even easier for Britain to procure international capital. Then a thousand miles away a bank by the name of Lehman Brothers collapsed, then another then another and suddenly the entire international financial system was crumbling down and Great Britain was stuck in the middle. Britain’s many rich friends suddenly began to cash out as all the world’s nations looked inwards to mitigate the crash in their own borders.

    For Britain the main problem was a housing bubble. The Johnson administration had overseen a mass sale of state housing. Hundreds of thousands of Brits became homeowners for the first time ever, and international investors had bought up homes in major cities like London. House building had also exploded as the government sought to modernise Britain’s housing stock with 1.4 million new homes built in four years. Despite all these new homes many were built up by wealthy external investors, with over a quarter of British homes unoccupied. Real estate prices had exploded by over 200% in just a few short years since the fall of the Junta and British homeowners owed almost a trillion euros in mortgage debts collectively.

    Britain’s politicians were reluctant to do anything about Britain's housing bubble as nearly all MPs had at least some investments in the housing market, with some MPs owning over 20 homes. Then the banks tumbled down and the bubble popped, the British construction industry crumbled by over 25%, areas on the periphery like Scotland and Northumberland were hit especially hard with the construction industry in these provinces falling by nearly 50%. Britain’s construction boom had provided decent paying good quality jobs for thousands of working class Brits, now many of them were in the dole queue, eyeing up the airport to emigrate.

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    Emigration increased by 30% in 2008, mostly to Ireland

    As the bubble burst Britain’s housing market collapsed, many who had invested their life savings into a mortgage deposit found their shiny new house worth less than half of what they had paid for.Many of Britain’s infrastructure plans were abandoned halfway as the state ran out of money, extra runways on Heathrow and Stansted airport were abandoned before finishing as the Treasury rushed to secure capital, planned new “eco-towns” were dropped and rail upgrades were “indefinitely shelved”. This of course had knock-on effects for the banks, especially smaller ones. Britain had a system of small, partly state owned regional banks operating in most of the larger provinces.

    “New towns, like Churchill, in the East of London, or Brunel, North of Eastbourne, were never finished and became ‘ghost towns’. In Churchill, for instance, 21,000 apartments were built, out of 80,000 planned, and less than 4,000 were occupied. One of the transformations of savings banks practices in Britain involved offering loans to private corporations, which was not the case under the Junta. For many bank ranches, this practice changed daily activities, and even their socio-economic role. Some savings banks like Anglia based Lowestoft Savings, were more reluctant than others, such as the Bank of London, in accepting this change. But, the transformation took place by “doubtful loans” in the “construction” business. Managers at every level started to meet entrepreneurs involved in construction.” - The new social role of savings banks and the British financial crisis, Lecture by Mark Blyth, Brown University (2017)

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    Banks were deeply intertwined with the housing bubble

    Leftover from the Junta days, these “Savings Banks” were designed to provide easy to access savings accounts and provide loans for citizens to become homeowners. These banks lent heavily to real estate companies who, one by one were going bankrupt and defaulting on their debts. The Savings Banks found themselves left with the collateral and properties of those companies, overpriced real estate and land, now worthless, rendering the Savings Banks in essence bankrupt. The banks had given the state some control over finance, much more so than banks in Ireland or France, but it also meant when the banks failed the buck stopped with Westminster.

    Chancellor Simon Hughes had two options: bailouts or nationalisations. The central government could buy private shares in the Savings Banks and take failing private banks into public ownership, giving the state the resources needed to combat the impending recession, the other option was bailouts and concentrations. The idea being the Treasury would bail out the largest banks and in return these large banks would buy up the smaller regional banks. This would not only consolidate Britain’s bloated financial system but it would cost a lot less in immediate capital than a mass nationalisation programme.The Cabinet was split on the issue, Chancellor Hughes favoured the bailout and consolidation strategy, known in the media as the “Hughes Plan”.

    The Hughes plan was supported in Cabinet by Deputy Prime Minister Alan Milburn and Justice Secretary David Miliband. Meanwhile a faction around Agriculture Secretary Glenda Jackson, supported by Culture Secretary Charles Kennedy and Health Secretary Eddie Izzard supported a nationalisation plan. It came down to a Cabinet vote, but with the loss of John Prescott, Peter Tatchell and others from the left of the SDP, the Cabinet was strongly stacked in favour of the Hughes Plan, with Prime Minister Johnson himself voting in favour of the plan. There would be no nationalisations, if the Savings Bank failed, it failed, the Government's main goal was keeping the bigger banks above water, the little banks could always be absorbed, but if the City of London fell the whole British economy could go tumbling down with it.

    ““A very solid group with more than 14m customers.” That was how a senior Nationwide executive described the big British bank. He assured journalists that the task of integrating the ten regional savings banks in the group was complete. The executive stressed plans to cut costs and reduce debt were well advanced. “We’ve created a brand,” the executive said, although the confidence he sought to convey was undermined by his evident unease. Over a week later, the government of Alan Johnson intervened to save the bank. The game was up for an ill-fated behemoth with more than 5,000 branches and 40,000 employees. Howard Flight, a former Chancellor who became Nationwide's chairman, was obliged to resign. The government announced a bailout at an estimated cost of up to €14bn.” - The bank that broke Britain, Victor Mallet, Financial Times (2008)

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    Nationwide was one of the largest banks to be bailed out
     
    Wikibox: Scottish National Party
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    The Scottish National Party is a Scottish nationalist party in Scotland, United Kingdom. It was redounded in 2004 as the successor organisation to the banned Scottish National Party, alongside other small pro-independence and devolutionist organisations.

    The SNP is usually seen as a moderate nationalist party in Britain, as opposed to more radical separatist parties such as RISE. There is some debate on whether the SNP is a conservative or liberal party. The Liberal tendency dominates the SNP at present with leader John Swinney seen as on the Liberal wing, while the centre-right tendencies have been sidelined. Scholars argue the SNP's ideology is deliberately ambiguous so as to appeal to the broadest spectrum possible. The 2005 manifesto states that "we want to build a wide social majority so that Scotland can have its own State in the European frame. Scotland has the will to become a normal country among the world's countries and nations".

    In the most recent elections, held in 2005, the SNP won 28.89% of the vote across Scotland. It gained 13 seats in the House of Commons and 47 regional deputies across the four Scottish provinces. Three of the four Scottish Provincial Presidents are from the SNP. After the election, they entered into coalition with the RISE Party in all four provinces. The SNP and RISE cooperate politically in a "non aggression pact". RISE has a completely different political orientation but also supports Scottish independence. Reports in 2008 stated that the pact may break apart due to fractions around SNLA dissidents, with the SNP opposing pardons.

    Author's Note: Hey look after two TL's I've worked out how to wrap text on this forum
     
    Chapter 38: There is no Alternative Pt.1
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    The Alternative still had a committed support base in it's strongholds

    “You have to understand the main feeling underpinning the Socialist Alternative in those early days was fear. Most of the SDP guys had spent their Junta days writing pamphlets in Paris, or whispering to each other in civil service backrooms - we spent our Junta being shot at, beaten and imprisoned. We knew if democracy failed and the tanks rolled down the streets, the SDP guys would probably get a slap on the wrist, we would on be lined up against the wall. Many people have said I should have taken a harder stance in negotiations with Alan Johnson, and maybe that's true, but we were facing an extinction level event, I myself had only left prison a few years before the 2005 elections began. My overarching priority between 2005 and 2009 was to avoid a counter-revolution, at all costs.”
    - McDonnell interview by QC Magazine (2014)

    When Mountbatten died in 1980, many hoped for change, his designated successor Admiral Hill-Norton was a relative liberal compared to others in the First Lord’s inner circle. In homes up and down the country people prayed for an end to the state of emergency that had governed the country for over a decade. Then Hill-Norton gave his infamous speech justifying the continuation of military rule, one line stood out above all - “there is no alternative”. This would mark the darkest days for the left’s resistance fighters. When the Junta fell and democracy rose the Communist Party desperately tried to jury-rig the various left wing parties, unions, paramilitaries and campaign groups into a single unified political force, it was rather like herding cats.

    In endless boring committee meetings socialists, tankies, anarchists and trots all bickered. A special point of contention was the alliance’s name, every title would upset one group or another, then the “Socialist Alternative” was suggested as a name, a direct rebuttal to Hill-Norton’s infamous speech - if there was one thing that could unite Britain’s bickering leftists, it was spite. The main linchpin of the Alternative was John McDonnell, the closest thing Britain had to a Gerry Adams figure, leader of the Merseyside Red Brigades, one of Britain's most successful left resistance groups that grew to a national scale. After being imprisoned in the late 80s, McDonnell became a spiritual leader for the British left, emerging as the Alternative’s figurehead.

    The thirty years of goodwill McDonnell had built up over the years helped to hold the SA together, he led them into a deal with the SDP, and kept that deal going as the SDP privatised it’s way through the British economy. Now McDonnell’s political capital was all used up, after disappointing electoral results and the European and local level, McDonnell agreed to step aside and allow new talent to come through the party. The Alternative would now have to select a new leader. The SA’s internal politics were byzantine, a compromise necessary to keep the operation together, it worked on a delegate system, with every organisation from the 30,000 member strong Communist Party to the tiny 1,000 member National Union of Mineworkers awarded delegates.

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    Everyone's voice needed to be heard, which meant proceedings took hours

    “Salma Yaqoob has hit out at the Communist dominated party establishment ‘They should be working hard to build in weaker areas, she says of the Communist Party. ‘But the leadership wants to put their candidates into ‘safe seats’. To me it’s like leaching behaviour." The underlying factor is the uneven development of the Alternative across the country. As well as the tension between a Communist-influenced national organisation and local parties dominated by various community groups and smaller organisations. The result was great success in Merseyside, Manchester and London, but nothing in many other areas. Some constituent organisations are moribund, while the Communist Party is huge, with around 30,000 members, entitling it to around a quarter of the delegates at the coalition’s annual conference.”
    - Car crash on the left, Alex Nunns, Red Pepper (2008)

    The main dilemma discussed during the leadership election would be the party’s deal with the SDP, the party’s radicals wanted to take the opportunity the financial crisis presented to cut loose and establish itself as a real alternative. The more moderate wing of the party wanted to keep National out at all costs and didn’t want to risk collapsing the government only for the bad old days of the Junta to return. Four candidates would emerge for leader, which was strange considering the party only had 23 MPs. Michael Meacher MP would stand as the McDonnellite candidate, receiving the backing of most of the union bosses and the powerful 50 delegate strong bloc vote of the Communist Party. Meacher was seen as the most supportive of the deal with the SDP, having a strong personal relationship with Alan Johnson and other senior SDP officials.

    His main rival would be Diane Abbott MP, a former London Black Panthers fighter, who led and founded the African People’s Socialist Party, an organisation for representing black Brits. Abbott especially saw support from former paramilitaries and the London branches of the Alternative. Abbott was seen as in the middle of the SDP debate, whilst she opposed ending support for the government, she also pledged to be tougher in any future negotiations. Abbott and Meacher represented the two main strands of the anti-Junta left, socialist old guard intellectuals on one side, and the various downtrodden minorities on the other.

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    Abbott, alongside figures like Bernie Grant, was a figurehead for Britain's much maligned black community

    Alongside the two main candidates there was Salma Yaqoob, MP for the West Midlands and a Muslim civil rights leader, Yaqoob wasn’t a member of any of the Alternative’s constituent parties, she was an independent MP and leading member of the British Muslim Association. Yaqoob was seen as the most hostile to the SDP of the candidates, calling for an immediate end to the SDP pact. Yaqoob was also by far the youngest candidate in a party dominated by old men, aged just 36. The strangest candidate of all was Brian Eno, a former indie musician without a hugely political background, he too had been elected an independent MP with the backing of the Alternative. Eno was backed by the Libertarian and Anarchist wings of the party; he called for an end to the top-down structure of the alliance, wanting it to take a more bottom-up, populist approach to politics.

    McDonnell had strove for unity in his party above all else, now with four people running from every possible wing, the leadership election risked tearing the party apart, all he could do was watch the joys of socialist organising, that was democracy for you. McDonnell wasn't the only one looking on in horror, over in Downing Street Johnson’s aides kept a watchful eye over the conference proceedings, the future of the government and possibly even British democracy rested on 200 squabbling leftists coming to some sort of arrangement. Across the proverbial river in the Leader of the Opposition’s Office Tim Collins was having the time of his life

    “It isn't news that Bob Crow is not a member of the Michael Meacher fan club, although the phrases he used in his BBC interview last night are extraordinary. He spoke of John McDonnell's leadership being a "tragedy" for the Alternative. The only thing that should cheer those in the McDonnellite ranks, is the rambunctious performance of Michael Meacher. He could not disguise his fury on the Today programme this morning at what he described as "another episode of True Confessions". It may be that the combined attack of all under candidates and their supporters show Meacher is the man to beat. If Meacher's anger is matched by that of other senior Alternative politicians, if they realise that they are in a battle for their own survival. It may be possible that this period of in-fighting is followed by a renewal - the glue that held the left together during the dark days of the Junta.” - Socialist In-Fighting, Nick Robinson’s News Blog (2008)

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    Meacher rounded on those making personal attacks against McDonnell
     
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    Wikibox: RISE Party
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    The Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalist Party, RISE; is a pro-Scottish independence, eco-socialist political party. It is also the main sponsor of the independence movement in Scotland on the left focusing on the creation of a Scottish Republic. Its current president is Alex Neil and its secretary-general is Elaine Smith. The party is a member of the European Free Alliance.

    RISE, is considered to have strong links to the SNLA, with senior figures including Tommy Sheridan, Jim Sillars and Margo MacDonald having been members. It played an important role in Scottish politics through anti-Junta resistance and in the transition to democracy. Gaining a key position during the 2000's, it became a coalition partner in various Scottish governments. It currently has approximately 13,000 members.

    In the 2005 election RISE obtained 13 seats, becoming the joint largest Scottish party and joint fourth largest caucus in the House of Commons. Since then RISE has opted for a "pact" (called the Pact of the Tay) with the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Ecology Party.

    RISE became part of all four Scottish Provincial Governments, including leading the Government of Eastern Scotland. The other three Presidencies were assumed by the SNP.
     
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    Chapter 38: There is no Alternative Pt.2
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    The Fire Brigades Union was one of the Alternative's most powerful unions

    “Senior MP Matt Wrack on Monday announced that he was backing Meacher, 68, touching off a fresh round of mudslinging. Yaqoob, a 36-year-old rising star in the party, lamented that the Socialists are "angrier at other Socialists than against the right." Meacher has promised to maintain an alliance with the centrist SDP to keep Tim Collins out of Downing Street. But both Abbott and Yaqoob maintain that the financial crisis has vindicated their view that a clear leftist approach is needed. While Abbott could still win the vote, her ability to lead would be crippled without the support of Communist Party and trade union barons.”
    - British Socialists in disarray after bitter leadership battle, Laure Bretton, Reuters (2008)

    The Alternative’s leadership election became increasingly bitter, as well as divides between pro-SDP and anti-SDP wings of the party, there was also a cultural difference between “the writers and the fighters” as Diane Abbott put it. Abbott was the only one of the four candidates to see action during the Junta years, leading various raids against Junta forces in North London. Meacher on the other hand had been arrested for giving a subversive lecture and spent most of the Junta years in Belmarsh reading, writing and discussing with his fellow political prisoners, it was hardly a cushy life but better than being hunted every day. This lack of toughness was also attributed to the third candidates, Yaqoob and Eno, neither of which had been openly political before the Junta fell, allies of Abbott argued none of the other three candidates had skin in the game the same way she did.

    Abbott’s opponents, especially Yaqoob supporters, argued this would be a good thing, they said the party needed to move away from it’s militant terrorist image. Yaqoob argued she could make a clean break from the Alternative’s paramilitary past as a young woman with no links to the Red Brigades or history of violence. Eno too argued that a military structure led by old generals was no way to organise a mass movement. This argument of modernising the party was especially popular with the party’s younger grassroots members, people who had been teenagers under the general strike and were voting for the first time, more concerned with their rent costs rather than which party ran the Federal Committee.

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    Many younger members were opting for Yaqoob or Eno

    Unfortunately for these younger members, the party’s confusing web of alliances and delegates meant they could have very little say without the backing of party bosses or union big-shots both Yaqoob and Eno were effectively locked out of the conversation as endorsements rolled in for Meacher or Abbott, the election was quickly becoming a two horse race. Meacher’s campaign especially was ruthlessly organised, not only did he have the backing of McDonnell, and all the infrastructure he brought, but also most of the major unions. Whilst he consolidated power amongst the upper echelons of the party, Abbott’s broader, but smaller and more divided base of support, struggled to compete.

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    Abbott was backed by smaller, more militant constituent organisations

    At the party’s federal conference, delegates convened to officially elect a new leader, with General Secretary Ken Loach overseeing proceedings. As expected Eno was the first to be eliminated, only gaining 12 delegates from various Libertarian Socialist organisations. Yaqoob was the next to be eliminated, whilst she gained a respectable 40 delegates, she still shriveled in comparison to Meacher’s 90 and Abbott’s 57. With Eno and Yaqoob defeated the battle for the Alternative came down to the main two. Yaqoob’s elimination was met with cheers in Downing Street, Yaqoob had been the most hostile to the SDP, Meacher or Abbott they could work with.

    “The bitter battle to lead the socialists tightened between Michael Meacher and Diane Abbott. Alternative MP Jon Lansman told the BBC the election was "too close to call". The two candidates' contrasting styles have been as much of a factor in the battle to lead the party as have their policy platforms. Meacher, who is backed by outgoing leader John McDonnell, came out ahead in a first round of voting by delegates, winning 45 percent of the vote. But third-place contender, MP Salma Yaqoob, threw her support behind Diane Abbott, after she was knocked out of the race with 20 percent of the vote. If all her supporters follow suit, that would give Abbott, who garnered 28 percent, enough votes to overtake Meacher.” - BBC News Bulletin (2008)

    In the gap between the next round of voting several candidates came out to speak. In her speech, Yaqoob would officially endorse Abbott, whilst McDonnell and retiring Deputy Leader Lynne Jones would both give barnstorming speeches in favour of Meacher. Many of Yaqoob’s delegates broke with their preferred leader, publicly announcing their support for Meacher - the McDonnell effect seemed to be working for Meacher as his praetorian guard of union shop stewards knew how to whip a meeting in the right direction. After several hours of debate and three rounds of voting, the final results were in.

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    By a margin of 56% to 44% Meacher had defeated Abbott, fear of a National government, coupled with the influence of the party establishment had granted Meacher a victory. Now came the task of sewing the Alternative back together, as his first act Meacher announced he would be appointing Abbott his deputy in a magnanimous display of unity, his second act was to confirm to the huddle of journalists that he would be maintaining support for the Johnson administration with his eyes “laser focused on 2009 and delivering a socialist alternative for the British people''. Meacher had made history in a very small way, he was the first major party leader to be elected and hand over power in the democratic Britain, maybe there was hope for democracy.

    “In his victory speech Meacher denied he would pull his support for the Johnson Government.:"There are major differences of view about the government direction of travel which will be debated at the election in 2009." Mr Meacher criticised a £9bn round of City bonuses "while a quarter of the population is living in poverty", and demanded a new foreign policy. "It is not sustainable to remain as an American glove puppet." He called for a new climate change policy and an "end to fighting for Middle East oil". He said a he would push a "negotiated, not a military, settlement'' to increased tensions with Iran. "I would not put a single UK soldier or RAF pilot in such a mad affair," he told delegates. Mr Meacher urged an immediate rise in the minimum rate to £6 an hour, with an increase "soon" after that to £7 an hour.” - Meacher wins Alternative leadership race, Matthew Tempest, The Guardian (2008)

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    The 68 year old former lecturer was now Britain's leading leftist
     
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    Chapter 39: Your Fired
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    An empty Woolworths in Tudor, a failed new town, west of Luton

    “The building has stopped in Newton. Where a year ago the development was rising out of dusty farmland, now it is an eerie cross between a ghost town and an abandoned building site. The earth-movers and dumper trucks have disappeared from this brand new town that was meant to house 60,000. Where there were once dozens of cranes, only four remain. Half-built Newton is now the sorry symbol of an economy with Europe's second worst unemployment rate as Britain enters deep recession. "If I had known it was going to be this bad, I would never have opened," said James Neighbour in his hardware store on the ground floor of an apartment block. His is one of a dozen or so commercial units that are not bricked up. "The way things are going in this country, I can't imagine when anyone will start building again," he said.”
    - Building boom reduced to ruins by collapse of Britain's economic miracle, Giles Tremlet, The Guardian (2009)

    Britain's housing market crash had dragged down the bank, now it was dragging down the high-street. Two of the most notable casualties were the Woolworth's Group of high-street shops, JD sport, one of Britain's leading sportswear companies and Marks and Spencer, a prestige food company. Nearly 4,000 high street shops were shutting up shop up and down the country, leaving Britain's high-streets a deserted ghost town. This had a devastating feedback loop as the shutting of shops led retail property values to plummet, dragging Britain’s property market further into the abyss. Many of the high street chains brought thousands of jobs down with them, in the first quarter of 2009 unemployment jumped by over 1.1 million, many of these unemployed being young people who worked in the various department stores and high-street shops. The Government also announced it was scrapping the expansion of Heathrow and Stansted airports, putting thousands out of work overnight.

    Britain wasn’t the only country suffering, as economic woes spread across the EU, especially Southern EU nations like Greece, Spain and Italy. The European Central Bank was scrabbling to respond. The ECB cut interest rates to a record low of 1% and announced a record quantitative easing programme of over 80 billion euros. In Britain, Chancellor Simon Hughes unveiled a £14 billion loan guarantee for British businesses amid rumours that chains are large as Sainsbury's were at risk of going under. To oversee a raft of measures to keep British business afloat, Prime Minister Alan Johnson announced he would be appointing self made millionaire and “Apprentice” Star Alan Sugar as the Government's “business tsar”.

    Sugar’s appointment raised eyebrows amongst Britain’s business community. Sugar was a self-made man, a rarity under the class-obsessed toffs of Junta era businessmen. Sugar was also best known for the standoffish character he played on the reality TV show “The Apprentice”, the show had been going for over five seasons, with over 8 million average views making Sugar one of Britain’s greatest reality TV stars. Sugar’s no nonsense aggressive persona was certainly popular with the British people, and with the election a few months away Johnson had an eye on the polls as well as the balance sheet. Only time would tell if Sugar’s appointment was a jolt of business expertise, or a cheap stunt by a desperate government clutching at straws.

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    Alan Sugar - The British Berlusconi?

    “Multi-millionaire businessman Sir Alan Sugar has been made business tsar by Alan Johnson. Having made his fortune through Amstrad, his profile has rocketed through his starring role in BBC's The Apprentice. Famed for his "You're Fired" catchphrase, Sir Alan said that the prime minister should stay in his job. "A lot has gone on in the past few weeks, and he is resolute in his position and is going to see out his governance" he said. "We need to get the economy moving again and, as far as I'm concerned, you couldn't have a better person to do that. "Having had the pleasure of meeting past First Lords I can tell you, for what it's worth, that this fellow should stay in place." "What needs to be sorted out is the economic climate, small businesses and other enterprises." He will work with Chancellor Simon Hughes in an expanded Treasury.”
    - Sir Alan hired in government role, BBC News Bulletin (2009)

    Sugar had an exciting first few weeks on the job as whilst the largest banks were gobbling up various savings banks, for some this injection of cash still wasn’t enough, both HBOS and Lloyds banks went under within the same week after shares in both organisations plunged by over 70%. The Treasury called it, Britain was officially in recession. Under Simon Hughes the Treasury dropped another bank bailout package totalling over 12 billion euros. Lloyds going under was particularly worrying for Britain's city politics as more and more assets were being pooled in the “big three” banks of RBS, HSBC and Barclays. Whilst the country was suffering a small handful of mostly National supporting men were becoming very wealthy and very powerful, buying up cheap assets in the billions.

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    The post-Junta establishment still owed a few favours to wealthy friends

    The bailouts did seem to work, at least in the short term, no more banks went under and no more major retailers shut their doors. A positive way of thinking of it was that the worst was over, a more pessimistic person might think that Britain had hit rock bottom. With the major line that controlled the economy no longer going down, Johnson could finally take stock of the political situation and it wasn’t pretty. COCTI reported paramilitary activity by groups like Civil Assistance and SNLA dissidents had shot up by over 50% with unemployed frustrated young men signing up to chuck bombs at the people they didn’t like. Civil Assistance particularly saw a brefet of new recruits in working class neighbourhoods of East London and Manchester, violent clashes in the streets between political youths reached their highest extent since the 2005 election.

    In the respectable world of electoral politics the crisis seemed to have benefited the SDP with a rally round the flag effect, Johnson’s personal approval ratings had shot back up, these factors combined with the disarray in the Alternative had the SDP polling around 42%, to National’s 39% and the Alternative’s 5%, still whilst Johnson was still ahead in the polls the SDP/SA bloc would no longer be able to constitute a majority on their own, with the country increasingly polarised and no clear bloc looking likely to win a definitive election, the election was looking to be a bloodbath. Johnson had a few months to get his act together, then he had to answer to the cruel gods of the electorate.

    “Prime Minister Alan Johnson came to power in 2005 when Britain was riding high, its economy growing. He rode the wave to push through an aggressive social agenda, legalising gay marriage and promoting gender equality. Today, he governs a country with 17 percent unemployment, the second highest in the eurozone, because of the collapse of a building boom. Many Brits are wondering if he has what it takes to combat the crisis. Mr. Johnson, 58, is a Social Democrat visionary with an old entrenched economy. In an hour long interview at Downing Street, Mr. Johnson explained how Britain could confront its economic crisis. His strategy is to invest in Britain's future without moving an inch to infringe on worker’s rights, and while extending benefits.” - Britain’s Leader Sees Investment as Means to Ease Job Losses, Rachel Donadio, New York Times (2009)

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    Johnson's solutions to the unemployment crisis were expensive
     
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    Wikibox: Two Unicorns
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    Two Unicorns is a 2010 British satirical dark comedy film, directed by Chris Morris in his directorial debut. The film, a satire following a group of homegrown terrorists from Glasgow, stars Sean Biggerstaff, Euan Morton, Billy Boyd, Laura Main and Martin Compston.

    Plot

    A group of radicalised young Scots aspire to be SNLA dissident fighters. They are Ollie (Sean Biggerstaff), who is critical of British society and capitalism; his very dim-witted cousin Will (Euan Morton); Barry (Billy Boyd), a bad-tempered and rash English socialist; and the naive Freya (Laura Main), who tries to train crows to be used as bombers. While Ollie and Will travel to an SNLA-affiliated training camp in the Scottish Highlands. Barry recruits a fifth member, Harry (Martin Compston). The training trip ends in disaster when Ollie attempts to shoot down a passing plane and destroys part of the camp; the pair are forced to flee. But, Ollie uses the experience to assert authority on his return to Glasgow.

    The group disagrees about what the target should be. Barry wants to bomb a local church, while Freya suggests blowing up a tea shop because it represents “British imperialism”. Ollie’s nationalist but pacifist brother visits him and tries to talk him out of doing anything violent. Ollie mocks him, and squirts him with a water pistol, making him flee.

    After the group begins production of the explosives, Harry is left alone to watch the safe house as Barry takes Will and Freya out to a field for a test detonation. When they return, they find Harry dancing with an oblivious neighbour (Julia Davis). The group suspects they have been compromised and transport their volatile explosives to a new location in grocery bags. Freya trips up while crossing a field and is killed in the explosion. This angers Ollie, who berates the others and leaves. Freya's head is found, tipping off the authorities, and Ollie visits the others to tell them. They reconcile, and Ollie decides to target the upcoming London Marathon due to having access to mascot costumes. Meanwhile, armed police raid Ollie's brother's house.


    The group drive to London in their costumes and prepare to attack. Will expresses doubts about the morality of their plot, but Ollie convinces him to go through with it. A police officer approaches the group, but is satisfied and leaves after a brief conversation. Harry loses his nerve and tries to alert the officer, but is killed when Barry detonates his bomb remotely. The remaining three panic and run away, and the police start searching for them.

    Ollie has a change of heart, feeling guilt about manipulating Will into dying for a cause he does not understand, and attempts to prevent the attack. Police snipers receive Ollie’s description and shoot at him, but shoot a bystander in a Wookiee costume instead. Will is cornered by police in a kebab shop and takes the staff hostage. Ollie contacts Will from his mobile phone and convinces him to let all but one of the hostages go. Barry finds Ollie during the phone call, snatches the phone and swallows the SIM card, but, as Barry begins to choke, a passer-by performs the Heimlich manoeuvre, forcing Ollie to flee before Barry's explosives are detonated.

    Ollie hurries to a nearby mobile phone store to buy a new SIM card to contact Will, but leaves empty handed due to the convoluted signup process. He spots a colleague (Craig Parkinson) and borrows his phone. He attempts to talk Will down, but his call is interrupted when the police charge in and kill the remaining hostage whom they mistake for Will. Confused, Will detonates his bomb, killing everyone in the kebab shop.

    Distraught, Ollie walks into a nearby tea shop and detonates his bomb. In an epilogue, it is revealed that the police later arrested Ollie's innocent brother as a terrorist. They deflect responsibility for shooting the hostage and bystander; and that Ollie killed Matt Lygate when misfiring his rocket in the Highland camp.
     
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