Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Lord Roem, Nov 17, 2012.
A new production, coming soon from Lord Roem and Meadow.
Wow. The Mock poster looks awesome.
So in this TL, the Wilson is a Soviet spy rumor is true?
Is this the TL Meadow mentioned in a PM?
I have a guess as to the POD of this TL. Harold Wilson stays on as Prime Minister and the problems that Britain faces in the 1976-79 period mixed with the failing mental abilities of the Prime Minister leads to a coup by military officers to place Mountbatten in charge, probably with the latter being unwilling. Though I could just be horribly wrong.
Either way, I'm excited to see this, hoping to create my own TL set in the 60s and 70s after "With Nowhere Else To Turn", but I'm also hoping that it doesn't cut into the Joseph Chamberlain TL, a real treasure as I'm sure this one will be, though it seems that help from other sources was given e.g V-J, Kvasir and AndyC which only increases the chance of a very good TL being produced.
I have to say you're not very accurate in your guess, and this isn't the one I mentioned in a PM. I hope to launch that TL after Ted Short is finished (by Christmas, honest).
This is rather more of a caper than any TL I've previously worked on. Can't wait to see what everyone thinks.
Worth a try.
Either way, I will be looking forward to it.
Agent Lavender: The Flight of Harold Wilson
Prologue - Saturday 1st November 1975 - Midnight
“The damn thing is still on the blink!”
Joe Haines, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, bashed the top of the television with a snarl. Already midnight, it was still a matter of confusion to him why the First Lord of the Treasury had suddenly decided to take an interest in a statement from the Soviet Foreign Minister to the United Nations. Harold Wilson, a man whose views of international affairs were as parochial for all that they were Hobbesian, had blundered up from dinner half an hour ago and demanded that the latest tapes from the world service be put on. Since then, both Haines and Marcia had been trying to find clear signal within the rambling Georgian terrace as their paymaster paced backwards and forwards in front of the window.
It had been an unusual day for the Downing Street Private Office. Wilson, never a man prone to distraction, had been off-keel for most of the afternoon. He had barely spoken at Cabinet, seemingly content for Healey and Foot to vent their spleens at one another, leaving Callaghan as an unwilling mediator. Most of the meeting had seen the Prime Minister slumped unhappily in his chair, puffing away on the ubiquitous pipe, whilst stirling had fallen another quarter per-cent against the Deutschmark. Wilson had only stirred only twice during the entire two hour discussion, once to talk against Benn’s latest demands to deal with the crisis at Leyland, the other to re-read a telegram that had been passed over from the Foreign Office during breakfast. Outside immediate family, Haines and Marcia were the people who probably knew Harold Wilson’s mannerisms the best, yet a murmured conversation between the two had left both nonplussed as to what had sapped his energy so much over the past two weeks. It was clear to both of them that the Prime Minister had already made a decision to stand down prior to the next election, but with the Jubilee still almost two years away, neither of them were confident that he could make even to Christmas.
With the Baroness Falkender almost leaning out into the freezing November air, the signal finally cleared. Wilson’s reaction was immediate, rushing to an armchair and almost collapsing into it. As far as Haines could make out, he was devoting almost an obscene amount of attention to Gromyko’s speech. The Bank of England had released yet another warning of the financial situation and with the Department of Employment's latest warnings regarding the newest setback for the Social Contract, all seemed to point towards fiscal disaster. Meanwhile, the furore over the IRA hit on Hugh Fraser, which had spectacularly failed to kill the MP for Stafford and Stone whilst blowing his neighbour, Gordon Hamilton Fairley, one of the world’s leading cancer specialists, to smithereens, had contributed to a sense of the entire capital being under siege. As the weak light of the reading lamp illuminated Wilson’s yellowing skin and drooping jowls, both staffers shared a glance that was tinged with emotion. Being Prime Minister at a time of national crisis such as this would break any man, and whilst Harold had led Labour from the front since Hugh’s death, it was clear that he was fading away.
“...demand clarification from both President Ford and acting-Head of State Carlos to ensure that the democratic will of the Spanish people will be fully recognised...”
Haines sometimes wondered if there was a sweepstakes at the UN to see who could provide the most mismatched translator as the second or third most important man in the Kremlin mimed to a high-pitched woman’s Maritime Canadian accent. Wilson was now leaning forwards, his jaundiced nose almost touching the screen. The acrid tobacco smoke was obscuring Haines’ vision, but it was clear that the Prime Minister was less interested in the rhetoric as he was the audience. Despite everything, Wilson’s eyes had not lost any of their characteristic sparkle as they focused intently on the figure on the podium below the watchful eyes of the Secretary General.
Marcia and Haines shared another slightly concerned glance as Gromyko continued to pontificate about the situation in Madrid. The Baroness Falkender looked again at the carriage clock on the mantelpiece that had belonged to one of the Pitts as it chimed the quarter-hour. Whilst Wilson’s attention to matters in the Mediterranean was certainly a welcome change, the stock market seemed to represent a more pressing concern than package holidays to Torremolinos. She sighed again, clearly hoping that the Belarusian would just get on to whatever the Prime Minister was waiting for so she could get an early night.
“Marcia, what colour would you say that Mr Gromyko’s napkin is?”
The Prime Minister spoke suddenly but clearly, without turning his head from the television. Squirming slightly at Wilson’s terminal insistence on refraining from any vaguely aristocratic term, Williams squinted at the screen.
“I can’t really tell from this distance, it looks like lilac doesn’t it?”
It was indeed a strange flash of colour to see on the Politburo member’s otherwise utilitarian suit. The Private Secretary was not an expert on Russian tailoring, but the rather garish pocket-square sat rather tastelessly against the grey lapels and white shirt in such a way that seemed as if it was out to deliberately clash with the monochrome outfit.
“Could quite well be for a national festival or something? I suppose that could be why he is waving it about like that.”
Wilson looked up at the comment, eyes blank. Putting the pipe to one side, he stood up and headed back towards the desk and started jotting down on the pad next to the blotting paper. Haines knew the former civil servant’s handwriting better than anyone in Downing Street, but even she had to focus intently to make out that Wilson was scribbling down a reshuffle. To his surprise, Harold had omitted the position of Prime Minister from the draft.
“Could you get my overnight bag from the apartment, Marcia? Also, Joe, get the car ready.”
Both staffers jumped at the sudden change in tone and again shared a concerned glance at each other. Having an off-the-cuff reshuffle was one thing, leaving London in the dead of night was another thing entirely. Haines made to ask a question, but was quickly rebuffed by Falkender, who opened the door for the two of them to leave the office. The two walked nonplussed down the corridor, each mulling over the events of the past half-hour. Neither said anything.
Haines arrived back before Williams. The Government Car Service never slept and seemed to be the only workforce who weren’t threatening strike action at the moment. Haines knocked once and hearing nothing, entered Wilson’s office to witness the Prime Minister taking down a number of books from the shelf opposite the fireplace. The fire itself was burning somewhat brighter than it had been when Haines had left, with a few tell-tale fumes hinting that a load of papers had been dumped there at once.
“Joe, take these down to the car and load them in the back, tell them I shall be down shortly. I'll be heading off to Norwich for first thing in the morning.”
“Look, Harold, I don’t mind staying up to the small hours for you, but if you are going to take liberties like this, at least let me know the reasoning behind all this cloak and dagger nonsen...”
Wilson was not a man prone to sudden flashes of anger, but Haines had worked with often enough to detect the warning signs. He stopped his tirade just as the Prime Minister was making to retort and left the room, almost tripping over a carpet that had been the gift of the Shah of Persia.
“It would certainly add to the farce of the evening,” Haines thought to himself as he left the room.
James Harold Wilson smiled humourlessly to himself as his Press Secretary left the room. He surveyed his Kingdom for the last time, taking care to note the damp creeping up around the skirting board and the mousetrap left over in the corner. It had been a decent run of good luck all told, but the telegram he had received that morning, coupled with a hurried conversation with the former curator of the Courtauld Institute, had been enough to make the decision a fairly easy one. He would miss Mary and the children frightfully, but there was always a possibility of them joining him, if they wanted to. There was also the issue of informing the Palace. In some respects, calling Sir John to inform him of his resignation seemed like the sporting thing to do, but there was also the question of subtlety and he very much doubted that Five would be as diffident towards him as they had been in the past.
“Probably going to be raving about this, to be frank” he thought to himself as he toasted a bust of David Lloyd George with his final whisky of the day.
Grabbing his coat and a box of cigars from the desk, Wilson cast a contemplative eye around for a final survey, pausing only to think about informing the Cabinet.
“Oh, sod the lot of them...”
Looking good, I hope to see more.
Hmm... Interesting... Continue.
Nice work, and you've got my interest, but as a physicist, I couldn't quite keep from pointing out that, unless Harold Wilson is a mathematical object, it's rather unlikely that Five could be particularly differential towards him
Why do I have the feeling that Harold Wilson's resignation will not be going as it did IOTL and is about to become so much worse?
Either way, very interested now. Hope to see more soon you guys.
Good stuff so far. I hope I didn't give it away in my last post.
Looks like Peter was Wright all along...
This looks very good, great job so far!
WE WANT MORE!
Come in Number 6, your time is up.
So, were his trips to Moscow as part of the trade delegation in 1945 just business then?
(Sorry, looking into similar things for a now stilborn ATL).
I'm following this.
Chapter One - Saturday 1st November 1975 - 0200
Harold Wilson looked over at Nicholas Hampton, the man who two hours previously had been standing outside Number 10. In the back of the P5, it was difficult not to make eye contact with the man on occasion. Glancing forward again, Harold looked over the shoulder of Reg, the driver unlucky enough to have been the only one on duty when the Prime Minister had decided he fancied a late night jaunt to Norwich. Harold had frowned when the car pulled up. Reg couldn’t be more than twenty-five years old. He was sure he could see a whitehead starting to emerge just above the man’s collar. Turning to look out of the window, he cast his eyes not on the few cars still on the road at this time but on the street lights whisking by above them. They couldn’t be far now. There’d been a bit of a hoo-ha when he’d insisted he didn’t need a police escort, and he came within striking distance of talking Hampton out of coming with him, but the idea of sending the PM out in the middle of the night without any sort of bodyguard was simply not going to fly. Harold chewed the inside of his cheek fiercely, and his hands instinctively reached for his pipe and tobacco. As the key components were successfully extracted from his pockets, his mind wandered, and he felt his eyes closing as if by themselves. He suddenly remembered how it had felt to be young. He remembered brilliance. He remembered ambition. He remembered Oxford.
“It’s an excellent paper, just a little too long,” George Cole said, reclining in his chair.
Hal smiled politely, his eyes flicking over to the scene playing out in the Quadrangle, with the Stalinists having their usual shouting match with the Anarchists. “Such a waste of effort” he thought, “So much division when, collectively, we have the power to control the whole establishment...”
“Anyway, no question of you getting that First.” Cole said, bringing Hal back to the matter of academics. Easing himself out from behind the desk, the Reader in Economic History poured two generous glasses of Port. “Now, I wonder if you had any time to reconsider the matter we discussed yesterday...”
“I hereby declare the aforementioned James Harold Wilson duly elected as Member of Parliament for the Ormskirk County Constituency.”
A polite smattering of applause filled the Lancashire town hall as the newest beneficiary of Clem’s landslide walked to the podium. He looked out into the crowd, noting Mary smiling broadly at him, a downcast cluster of men in pinstripes sporting blue rosettes and, right at the back of the room, a clean shaven man who had dumped a ballot box in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal several hours ago. Agent Lupin nodded at him and raised an eyebrow. It was all James could do not to smile back.
“Honestly Harold, I really am pleased that you have decided to stand down on this whole issue.”
18 Frognal Gardens was shut fast against the cold, but a draft had managed to find its way in regardless, snapping at the Leader of the Labour Party’s trouser leg. He shivered slightly, turning the gas fire up a tad and settling back into the cracked leather armchair.
“I appreciate that, Hugh. Besides, you are quite right, it hardly serves us to make things difficult for ourselves when Mac the Knife is already flailing around trying to patch things up below the waterline.”
Hugh Gaitskell smiled broadly, as he was so prone to doing in private, downing his whisky in the process. “Could you get us another one?” he asked, “I don’t like sending you off in the cold like this without a decent amount of warmth in your belly.”
The Shadow Chancellor gathered the tumblers and headed over to the drinks Cabinet. As he poured out two generous measures of Bruichladdie, he looked out over to the black rise of Hampstead Heath, which rose forebodingly out of the inky blackness, just visible against the illumination provided by the bourgeois homes and villas. “Don’t think about it,” he thought, dropping in the tablet, “if you don’t think about it, there is always a remote chance it won’t actually happen.”
He grimaced as Hugh gratefully took the Scotch and held it to his eye.
“Well Harold, here is to a Labour victory!”
The Shadow Chancellor, feigning sincerity, brought his glass to Hugh’s and set a chime ringing out through the room.
“...and so the Labour Party takes office with the authority to govern, at any rate for a while.”
Richard Dimbleby’s dulcet tones were quickly silenced as the new Prime Minister designate turned of the television. His suite in the Adelphi Hotel, only ten minutes ago filled to the rafters with well-wishers, was now deathly silent, save for the muffled hubbub of the departing party workers and the gradually increasing press-pack assembling outside. Wilson signed to himself as the bakelite telephone started up, picking up the receiver before it had even begun to ring for a second time.
“Good morning Citizen.” he began, aware from the static that the call had originated from nearly a continent away. “You have no need to be concerned, it is a squeaker, but discipline is tight and should be sufficient for the next eighteen months at least.”
“You should be constantly aware of that Lavender. Just remember that we are here if you need us, Comrade. We’re always here. We’re here.”
“We’re here. We’re here, Prime Minister.”
Harold opened his eyes with a start and realised Reg had turned around and was addressing him directly. Squinting, Harold looked out of the window and saw signs of a country lane and a dilapidated cottage nearby. It was pitch black outside the car now and Hampton was outside stretching his legs, a look of resigned bewilderment on his face. Harold realised he didn’t have very much time, and sprang to life.
“Thank you, Reg,’ he began, leaning forward to the driver, “But that will be all for tonight. You can leave me here, and take Constable Hampton with you.”
Reg looked puzzled.
“I don’t know about that, sir, I can’t go back to London and say I’ve left you in the middle of nowhere - what is this address, anyway, sir, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Harold opened his door, exasperated, and got out of the car. He half-jogged round to the driver’s window and spoke again.
“Look, Reg, there’s no time to explain,” Hampton was walking towards them, “You too, Nick, you can head back to London for the night. I’m meeting an old friend here and he doesn’t like pomp and circumstance. I’ll be quite alright, you can come and get me in the morning.”
Hampton began to shake his head and Harold’s eyes darted around the bushes near the road. The policeman spoke.
“Prime Minister, I’m afraid there’s no way I can countenance such a move. We’ll happily accompany you to your friend’s home and wait outside if needs be, but even then I’d need to make sure you were entering a safe environment-”
“Fifty pounds!” Harold barked, “Each!” His fingers fumbled through his pockets, finding his wallet. It contained a great deal more cash than usual. He produced a wad of notes.
“A hundred each! There’s two hundred there, divide it amongst yourselves and I shan’t say a word. Just leave me here. Now!” he pleaded, the final word coming out more as a desperate hiss. Hampton frowned and Reg leant out of the car window to look at the bundle of money.
“I don’t know, Mr Wilson,” Reg began, “this all seems very-”
There was a sound of tinkling glass followed by the sickening splintering of bone as Reg suddenly slumped out of the open window. Harold cursed and threw himself to the ground, while Hampton span around, helplessly fumbling for his Browning until another soft thud sent him to the ground, a neat hole in his temple. Harold whimpered and cover his face with his hands. Such a waste, he thought. Such an utter, senseless waste. He heard a low whistle from the bushes. Taking a deep breath, he slowly but surely rose to his knees, then to his feet, putting his hands high in the air. A torch beam cut through the night and dazzled him for a moment. A strange, heavily accented voice came from its source.
“Lavenders blue, dilly dilly. Lavenders green.”
Harold swallowed and covered his eyes with his hands before replying in a soft, broken voice.
“When I am king, dilly dilly, red will be queen.”
The torchlight dipped down to his feet, allowing him to focus on the young, wiry man holding it as he emerged from the bush.
“Pleased to meet you, Agent Lavender. You can call us Lily and Tulip.”
“Yes, I’m Tulip and he’s Lily,” said a voice from directly behind him. Harold jumped with fright and span round to find a huge bear of a man with a full beard and thick woollen hat grinning at him.
“I see,” began Harold, “You’ll forgive me if I don’t particularly want to shake hands at this juncture.”
“The deaths were unfortunate, but Lily has always had a, what is the expression? Itchy trigger finger? Is this what you say?”
“In my whole life, I have never once said that,” replied the Prime Minister curtly. Tulip gave a polite smile.
“There was nothing else to do, Lavender. We should have been on our way to the cove thirty minutes ago. Your men were wasting time.”
Harold held his tongue. As valuable an asset as he was, he didn’t quite feel immune from a sock to the jaw that would come his way if he pushed Tulip any further. The man named Lily joined them in the middle of the road and picked up poor Hampton’s body. Tulip barked an order.
“Put him in that ditch. They will be looking for us anyway, but we will be long gone by the time they find him.”
Lily complied and did the same with Reg’s body after extracting it from the car. Harold breathed heavily and pulled out a cigar - no need to pretend he preferred his pipe anymore, he supposed - and offered the box to Tulip. The Russian laughed.
“No thank you, comrade. I do not blame you, though - you will not be able to smoke for quite some time once we are in transit.”
So it was to be a submarine, Harold thought. Spectacular. He’d had his fill of banging his head on low doorframes and the ubiquitous smell of oil from visits to Portsmouth and Barrow-in-Furness. He smiled politely at Tulip and lit his cigar, before gesturing up the road.
“Shall we go, then?” he remarked a little too casually given the situation, “We have approximately one hour before they wonder why Hampton hasn’t made contact.”
“Da,” replied Tulip simply, turning and pointing in the same direction Harold was, “we have about four kilometres to cover, and then it is a relatively easy journey down a cliff. I hope you are feeling energetic.”
As the man laughed and began walking, beckoning Lily as he did, Harold didn’t let them see the grimace on his face. He hadn’t felt energetic since June 1970.
“And he just took off?” Sir John Hunt said, straining to stay awake. It was already half past two in the morning.
“Essentially, yes,” Marcia replied.
“He has nothing scheduled overnight or tomorrow morning.”
Marcia pursed her lips in dissatisfaction.
“I know. That’s why I’m telling you I think this is odd.”
The senior civil servant made a noncommittal noise and walked back around his desk.
“I’ll phone around. See where Hampton - it is Hampton tonight, isn’t it? - I’ll see where Hampton reported they were headed.”
Marcia only nodded and turned on her heel. As she left the Cabinet Secretary’s office, she became lost in thoughts that unnerved her for reasons she couldn’t put her finger on.
Harold Wilson enjoyed a good ramble as much as the next man. But in the company of two psychopathic Russians, even a bracing journey across the Dales with a flask of tea would have been uncomfortable. As things stood, he was hiking over what he was sure was private land in brogues and an overnight bag that, looking back, he wasn’t sure he would even need. The moon was full and high in the sky, giving their escapade an eerie glow. As he squinted to avoid treading in cowpats, he tried to imagine what was next. Would the comrades greet him with a welcoming embrace and a radio broadcast? Would he take it? Or would his be a short trip to a cell where a charming man from the Caucasus stood waiting with a loaded Tokarev? He swallowed and assured himself that option did not seem particularly likely - it would be far simpler for Tulip and Lily to off him here and now. With a dark look he glanced at them both, but was satisfied that neither of them were holding their guns and all weapons appeared holstered.
“How much further?” he panted, trying to avoid thinking about de facto house arrest in some suburb of Moscow. Tulip stopped and turned round, calling back to him.
“Not very far. Maybe one, two kilometres. Come!” he barked the final syllable a little like an order, and Harold dutifully picked up the pace slightly. He was getting desperate for the loo, however, and he thought to himself that matters might have to come to a head before embarking on a cramped journey through the Baltic.
“Just a moment,” he called, hurrying over to the edge of the field they were in and undoing his flies. Tulip and Lily evidently didn’t hear him, continuing on towards the now just about visible clifftop. Harold sighed and relieved himself, allowing himself three shakes at the end (for what was this but a special occasion?) and turned back towards the two Russians.
Then someone shot them.
For the second time that night, Harold Wilson dived for cover as a gun spat death at his travelling companions, the first shot catching Tulip in the side of the head with a barrelful of buckshot and sending him sprawling into the dirt. Lily swore in Russian and drew his Makarov pistol, the bulky silencer visible in silhouette in the moonlit night. Harold rolled over into the bush, conscious that he was now lying in his own urine, an unpleasant situation to find oneself in but preferable to the shotgun blast that Lily received as he wildly fired into nothingness. He screamed for about a minute then fell silent. Harold thought his heart was going to leap out of his chest. A man with what looked like a Barbour, flat cap and double barreled shotgun walked towards the two bodies, shouting about trespassers and inspecting something that Harold couldn’t see. He surmised that it must’ve been Tulip’s body when the man stood up in shock and shouted back across the fields towards his house - the lights were on and Harold could see a figure standing in the doorway - in a loud, clear voice.
“Miriam, call an ambulance!” the farmer hollered, “I think I might’ve killed him!” The man span round as Lily gave another soft cry and Harold’s eyes darted towards the patch of ground where he lay. He was trying to reach for his Makarov, which had fallen a few feet from where he lay, but his arm was torn to ribbons and he was bleeding heavily from the neck. The farmer sprinted over to him.
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” he uttered, kneeling down, “Look, son, you and your friend had no right to be here, you understand? This is private property and when you come trampling along-”
“Yob tuboyo mat, zhopa...” spat Lily, before biting down hard with a loud cracking sound. His mouth foamed up and the farmer sprang to his feet before backing slowly away in horror.
“...Miriam...” he began, quietly, then spluttered into a full-throated roar as he sprinted to his home, “Miriam, forget the ambulance! Call the police! No, the army! Call the bloody government! There’s an invasion on!”
The nearby Prime Minister made a note to pass on the man’s concerns at the next opportunity, and rolled out of his bed of mud and human waste. Rising to his feet only once the farmhouse had turned out all its lights and, presumably, locked and barricaded all its doors, he looked about him, gave an apologetic glance towards Lily and Tulip, and started trudging towards an old barn. It appeared that, not for the first time, Harold Wilson was at the mercy of events.
Wow! This is gonna be shocking throughout the world!
Separate names with a comma.