Alternate Leaders #2 'Giorraíonn Beirt Bóthar'

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by V-J, Apr 11, 2015.

  1. V-J Resources From Westminster

    Sep 11, 2007


    Today, she was choosing to wear her countenance of benign, relaxed contempt. It was, she found, a frontage she had increasing need to resort to as she aged. The nature of events, both today and in the recent past, had almost pushed her into a Thatcher-era full-blown scowl, but perhaps her age had also hardened her expectations. Certainly, though, the last few years had already come perilously close to constitutional upheaval. There had been mutterings in certain quarters that the coalition had ‘gone too far’, and even that it was ‘pushing it’. Someone, who must remain nameless had even stated, in a frank moment, ‘You just watch it’. Goodness only knows what hostages to fortune Charles had laid down with his letter-writing, when, inevitably, they were released under some sort of awful ‘rule’ in a few decades. Fixed-term parliaments, ‘write-in’ votes, both personal and party list (she shuddered) at elections, power of recall, MPs having choice over the nature of their oaths… it was so dreadfully middle-class, the fixations of the chattering classes, but adopted by a lot of metropolitan Tories in Mr Davis’ party (Metropolitan Tories! What would Alec think!) albeit hand-in-hand with the Liberals, who of course were always troublemakers. It was all rather brash, rather Americane.

    And then when the coalition broke up, there came that dreadful, grotesque cattle market of the ‘debates’ – such a misnomer. All a huge shouting match, inevitable acrimony between Mr Davis and Mr Clegg over who was responsible for the demise of the coalition. This and that, the Tories wanted Britain out of the Euro, the Liberals had been irresponsible. Such a bore, so predictable. Mr Davis hadn’t endeared himself to people either. Such a rush with the unexpected dissolution! And such terrible chaos! It was ghastly. Such a terrible wave of disreputable - and so transparent – populism on the back of the economic depression. Mr Miliband had stood firm in the face of it, Mr Blair had approved of that. Yes, Mr Blair - all rather like a certain wave of misplaced emotion in 1997, was it not. A simulacrum of what had lead to this…

    She sighed lightly, as there was knocking without. The door opened, and the gentleman usher poked his head round the door.

    “Mr Adams, your Majesty,” he intoned, softly.

    “Very good. Do let him in.”

    “Yes, your Majesty.”

    She grasped the gilt arm of the chair and raised herself up to stand, as he retreated. She waited. After a short delay, Mr Adams briskly strode in, and at the appointed mark on the floor, gave the tiniest, most fractional, of nods. She offered her hand for him, which, after advancing, he shook. In truth, she never shook hands with anyone, she merely offered her hand, and they cupped it, very tentatively. Mr Adams, she found herself admitting, was no different in adhering to this unspoken rule.

    He was the first to broach the subject of why they were here, like a nervous teenager delivering a chat-up line in a club.

    “You must realise that I find myself in a difficult position here.”

    Her hand twitched, imperceptibly at her side, before she took a fractional intake of breath.


    “I – I would be lying if I said I expected to find myself in this situation when I first got into politics.”

    “Yes. Of course. But we all find ourselves in strange positions now and again, don’t we.”

    There was an uncomfortable silence for a few moments.

    “My party, and the movement it represents, regards this as purely an empty formality.”

    That was certainly the formula which they had agreed to, even in as many words, between them and her Private Secretary. But even formalities have to be observed. Perhaps Mr Adams didn’t understand, but she took it as unspoken an assumption as the sky being blue.

    “Yes, of course. But shall we sit down?”, she said, as she gestured generously to the assembled seating.

    Though alone, she found nothing threatening in Mr Adams. In truth, she found him to be rather like a very emphatic, but polite History teacher, probably at a secondary modern somewhere in East Anglia. The register of the full impact of the beard and the spectacles lead to her surreptitiously tossing a glance, as they motioned to sit, to investigate whether any elbow patches were present on his cheap suit – she wondered where one went to get suits when one was in Mr Adams’ position - though these sadly proved absent.

    He sat, with his hands on his lap, as if worried that the gilt might infect him. Again, he was the first to speak.

    “As I say – I never expected to find myself in this position.”

    “Of course. But shall we return to the business of inviting you to attempt to form a government.”

    “My party regards that as purely a formality. These rituals are hollow, they have no meaning to the Republican movement.”

    We all have to observe the formalities, Mr Adams. Don’t you understand? Everything has to keep ticking over, the proper order has to be maintained.

    “Of course, of course. But your party will also realise that very term encompasses something greater than it did a few months ago.”

    “True enough I believe. There has certainly been a decisive vote against austerity and the banks on both sides of the Sea.”

    She poured herself a cup of tea from a very elaborate silver tea service.

    “I’m told that all parties have certain ‘coming of age’ moments, Mr Adams.”

    He gave a rougeish smile. “That is what your Liberals believed after the last general election. But in as much as this is a historic, democratic vote for peace and self-determination throughout these islands, I would agree.”

    “Is it not then something of an opportunity for your party? You have always stated you wanted to achieve a united Ireland through the ballot box.”

    “That is what we have always campaigned upon. But we regarded these Isles united under Ireland as rather beyond the scope of our nationalism…”

    Her lip curled a little at the edge.

    “Perhaps a vote for a united British Isles, in a fashion, is not what you expected. I suppose it all rather depends upon perspective in a situation like this, does it not?”

    “A united Britain and Ireland? That’s certainly one point of view. I daresay Peter Robinson has been placed in an uncomfortable position, in any event.”

    “Quite. As I say, you must find yourself… under a certain amount of, pressure to, shall we say, seize an opportunity to influence events.”

    He clearly had a certain innate opposition to ever admitting being under pressure from anyone, but there was something, at the instinctive level, that made her sense he understood. He would surely have not been human if he hadn’t been tempted to launch himself wholeheartedly into this, to embrace the process and not just the forms. Her private office had agreed with him that he would be given the opportunity of the commission to form a government, find it impossible to do on principle, and then, after a short grace period, refuse decisively. It would be trumpeted as a great act of self-denial, him being courted by all the power of the British state and turning it down, in favour of Sinn Fein holding the balance of power in the Parliament. For her, a great act of political even-handedness. But real life, she had found, had rather a way of making its own plans.

    As indeed he had already said, he never expected to find himself in this position. It had indeed been a shock, after years of fruitlessly searching, that sections of the left had attached themselves to Sinn Fein as the force of opposition to austerity. But it had seemed so natural after what they had done in the Republic as the main opposition party – and likely the next government. They had acquired an aura of both radical chic and electoral credibility. The political deliberations of the republic had become an international economic concern, and he and his party subject of international focus. They were now not just a national factor in the Republic, but one of the leading European forces of opposition to austerity. Slowly, the left – lead by an awful rabble of Guardian columnists and the like of course - had flirted, then engaged in some heavy petting, and finally had launched themselves with gusto into the coitus of an organised pro-Sinn Fein write-in campaign throughout the UK. And all the time, at least until the debates, he had waved his hands with horror and dismissive, Ceausescu-like incomprehension at the prospect of Sinn Fein being placed into such a position. People were supposed to respect your electoral limits, your popular self-denial.

    But once Gerrymania had got fully into swing after he had been so strident, so principled, so clear in the first debate - the arcane rules of the television broadcasters were that party leaders had to stand, so it had to be he, not Mr McGuiness - he had offered some concessions to the new reality. The complete proliferation of lecterns had lead to speaking time being constrained. And Mr Adams had talked a ‘good craic’, clear, simple and direct. You want an end to austerity, and end to Brussells’ diktats, vote for me. At first it had all been so tentative; this surge was certainly helping them in Ulster, people had said. It couldn’t harm their chances in the province, they’d said. Gradually he had begun appearing at anti-austerity rallies on the mainland. He had uneasily appeared on television screens in Irish bars, drinking pints of Guinness. He had announced his intentions to stand for election as an MP once more, as ‘the stakes were so high in this election’.

    Suddenly, Gerry Adams had become the big media ‘narrative’ of the election – and goodness knows, didn’t the tabloids love that. It was only second to the Soviet Union re-forming and Stalin being reanimated. But sometimes there are moments of fortune, or chance, where even Heaven itself cannot stand in the way; both the British and European economies were in a tragic mess. The election result had shocked the world. It had shocked many of the people who had actually voted for Sinn Fein; a rag-tag of the angry left, the disaffected labouring classes, and Irish romanticists - and the ultimate product was that the Prime Minister had not stood a chance of re-forming his government with a majority in the new parliament. The notion of a grand coalition had been dismissed by Mr Miliband, though there were rumours that some had been willing to consider it, given the circumstances. In consequence, the leader of the second largest party - barely, for the new parliament was scattered and fractured so many ways - had consequently been invited to form a government…

    He offered but the tiniest concession to the new reality.

    “We have naturally been talking to the Scottish and Welsh nationalists and the Greens about a joint anti-austerity front in the new parliament.”

    “Of course. But if nobody could form a stable government there might have to be a second election. You could lose many of the gains you have made at this election.”

    He eyed her warily.

    “That could also place you in a difficult situation, could it not.”

    She took a delicate sip of tea.

    “The constitutional position of a defeated, or newly-installed, Prime Minister requesting an immediate second dissolution is ambiguous. There was a concern that Mr Heath might test it at one stage. I’m afraid I can’t comment on Mr Davis’ intentions. If all other options had indeed been exhausted, then, as you say, we could find ourselves in a difficult situation.”

    He raised himself up a little.

    “I think it’s right that I ask Morten to talk to the SNP as a matter of urgency over this issue. The new arrangement has to have stability; it has to be able to deliver.”

    “Very good.”

    “But we are just observing the formalities, of course. We are a serious and responsible party. But an Irish Republican party.”

    “Very good.”

    “Nonetheless, I’ll keep you fully informed of developments. I’m prepared to respect your position in this process.”

    “Of course.”

    “Well, I think we’ve just about concluded this, then, have we not?”

    “As you wish.”

    “Do I – I hope you won’t be offended if I don’t walk backwards, but that I have absolutely no intention of doing.”

    She sniffed a little at this lèse-majesté. Though one hardly imagined they would go full Disraeli, the fallout from the state visit had shocked them into a more sober position. She had so hoped that everyone would avoid grandstanding. Perhaps too much to ask after the raucous nature of their oath-taking for the new Parliament, but then again, that itself would have been been such an unthinkable step only a few years ago.

    “Oh? Oh, no, that tradition was discontinued some years ago now, I believe it was due to concerns over health and safety. Only my equerry and the Marshall of the Diplomatic Corps routinely do it now. And the Lord Chancellor, of course.”

    “Health and safety? Of course,” he said, with a smile and a flick of the head.

    “Always a great concern.”

    There was a small moment of enforced politeness, born out of his inability to determine if she was being sarcastic, before he rose from his seat, and she tentatively followed.

    “Well, as I say – I’ll keep your office informed of developments.”

    “Yes, thank you.”

    “I’ll be off now, so. Thank you,” he said, with emphasis.

    She gave a tiny, China doll nod of appreciation.

    “I’ll be back in touch. Shortly.”

    “I hope you make the right choices for your party.”

    “I hope my party makes the right choices for me,” he said, with a laugh, before they commenced the faux-shake routine once more, and the usher allowed him to affect his egress.

    As she sat again, sipping her lightly cooling tea, she recalled some constitutional abstract she must have read at some stage. ‘It’s the good chaps who keep things ticking over with their instant fixes’. Leaving aside the gender issue, she thought the sentiment rather too cavalier for her tastes. But still, things had been set in motion, and proper order had been maintained, the formalities adhered to. What, she pondered idly, will the country say of it all.

    What, for that matter, will Phillip say?
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2015
  2. Lord Roem Lord Mayor's Lord Roem.

    Mar 3, 2008
    Hell's bells Veej!

    This was excellent - slightly absurd, of course - but that's the point, quite clearly. A somewhat diffuse Parliament with a Sinn Fein-led anti-Austerity coalition on both sides of the Irish Sea, and the possibility of an Isles Federation coming along with it.

    A good characterideation of Gerry, and you've always managed to really get a superb voice for The Queen as well, I heard her voice very clearly in this.

    Bravo! And sorry for the delay on getting the graphic to you as well!
  3. Callan Absolutely Dire

    Nov 4, 2013
    Nicely done.

    The scenario feels a bit contrived to me (Britain's politics are now irrevocably European in their volatility), but this is very well executed; the characterisations are great and the scenario (and apparent outcome of it) are giving me much to think about.

    Anglo-Irish Reunification (most likely in the form of the suggested Federation) for me is kind of like BR's London expansionism in terms of the distance between my wanting it to happen and if and how it would work out.
  4. Some Bloke Well-Known Member

    Jun 13, 2008
    A small village in Arkhamshire.
    Gerry Adams as UK PM?!:eek:

    Well he can't be any worse than these austerity fanatics we're lumbered with here and now I suppose,
    at least Sinn Fein were honest about their attitudes to anyone outside their core base of support.
  5. Meadow but see, when Meadow does that, Monthly Donor

    Apr 8, 2010
    Oh, this is delicious. Much more fun than 'A BRITISH SYRIZA COMES OUT OF NOWHERE LED BY OWEN JONES AND JOHANN HARI', which is the poor man's version of this 'Britain goes all Greek and anti-austerity' trope. I agree you nail Brenda's voice, and the balance between 'this is absurd' and 'but how would it actually go' is a balance I often try to walk in my own work, so I can see how much effort you put in - believe me when I say it paid off.

    A write-in Sinn Fein government finds itself having to govern all of the UK... spectacular. I agree with Adams (and Jack) that some kind of federation of the Isles (interesting he calls them the British Isles, is this something he does IRL?) must surely be on the cards. I didn't quite catch who is running Ireland itself, but I gathered it's not SF - they're a 'national factor' but not the government?

    Great work, Veej - a very pleasant surprise to see this here and it did not disappoint.
    Heat likes this.
  6. Callan Absolutely Dire

    Nov 4, 2013
    IIRC, Taoiseach Enda Kenny doesn't have to call an election until 2016, so the Austerity Coalition is still going across the Irish Sea I'm guessing. At the moment Sinn Fein, OTL, is polling in joint first place in the polls in the Irish Republic.
  7. V-J Resources From Westminster

    Sep 11, 2007
    Thanks greatly for the graphic, and no worries about the delay. I should also thank Ulster (the poster, not the province) at this point.

    This was indeed intended purely as a concept piece, not me doing a rigorously, 100% plausible oneshot. The genesis was my joke touting of Gerry Adams being lecternised in the PMQs thread, and eventually I thought 'This is such a wonderfully hilarious concept why not actually do it, and take the whole concept of multi-party fragmentation to it's most absurd logical extent.' So yes, I don't make any claims for this being my the most rigorous piece. It's an entertainment with an element of plausibility, not a storybook piece of pseudo-academia.

    I'm really pleased you loved the characterisation. I tried quite hard to write them both as plausibly as possible.

    Thanks also for the praise. I'm glad the Politbrits are enjoying this. On the prospects for a new gubmint, see below.

    Again, tremendous praise and very pleasing. I left who is running Ireland slightly up in the air but it is indeed not Sinn Fein, I didn't want to spend too much time fleshing out the politics of Yurp at the expense of the main body of the thing.

    If you read closely, you'll note he isn't actually appointed as PM - he is simply invited to see whether he can form a government. (Hence why Gerry promises to keep in touch near the end.) This has rarely happened in recent history because who will be PM has been a fairly cut-and-dried affair, but Alec Douglas-Home was subject to it in 1963, as he was unsure at the time whether he had the support of his colleagues. (He did, but barely) In this case, Gerry is bound twice over by the principle of not wanting to actually be PM, and being in a very uncertain hung parliament situation.

    As Brenda notes in her ruminations, he has simply been invited to undertake this pro forma as well, there isn't any expectation that he or Sinn Fein will accept initially in principle, because, you know, the whole Irish Republican nationalism thing. It's therefore left hanging whether he'll even attempt to form a government or just refuse to do so, and I'd invite people to re-read it if they like with that in mind - there are subtleties which might not be picked-up the first time. This is really a situation which Sinn Fein has been thrown into in the main by events, not one they've conspired to create. There is consequently a large degree of uncertainty about what the hell they should actually do.

    This isn't OTL, or anything remotely like OTL, I'd just like to note. It's a much more economically tormented situation for one, and some of you may have picked up that Britain is in the Euro ITTL and the Miliband who is leading Labour isn't Our One. Sadly, I never quite got around to mentioning in passing the EU's interest in making Peter Mandelson Prime Minister of a grand coalition unity government after the coalition broke up - I might revise that actually, as it would throw the decisive rejection of the old party system into a new light.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2015
    Heat likes this.
  8. Pangur The Cat Donor

    Dec 28, 2010
    Cripes! Now this is very different to say the least of it from what you read here. I have no idea how you are going to make the numbers work (MPs) mind you. Please keep writing
  9. Turquoise Blue Blossoming Tibby!

    Sep 5, 2010
    Gerry Adams coming close to leading the UK. My God. :eek:
  10. Ulster Fights, is occasionally Right

    Jun 23, 2010
    Clue's in the name...
    Excellent stuff. Just a tad scary thinking about a world where Gerry's in a position to become Prime Minister, but still an excellent bit of work

    From memory he generally uses that old Sinn Fein favourite "these islands".
  11. Alex Richards A mapper I, from near Dar-bai. Donor

    Jun 8, 2009
    Empire of Nova Elysium
    That's a fantastic concept.

    One thing which does come to mind- constitutional precedent already exists for the largest party in a coalition not to supply the PM. Perhaps the formula to take, therefore, is that Nicola, Leanne or Caroline ends up as the PM with the backing of Sinn Fein.
  12. V-J Resources From Westminster

    Sep 11, 2007
    Just a oneshot I'm afraid. I intentionally wanted to leave the ending ambiguous, so it's up to the reader whether Sinn Fein ends up going with the 'Wooo, spring break!' or 'Never! Never! Never!' option.

    You know, I didn't think of this as a threatening scenario when I was writing it. But yeah, it's kind of scary when I look back in retrospect. God only knows what has happened on the right as well, I didn't even get into thinking about that.

    Pleased you liked it. I'm pleased you and Meadow have noted that, I certainly didn't when I was reviewing it - will change that if you don't mind.

    Thanks. And that's certainly an interesting one, and one I hadn't considered. It's a very, very fragmented and unclear situation though, a bit like what we're going to get next month on acid. As is discussed between Gerry and Brenda, a second election is a possibility, and on the whole Brenda finds the situation 'challenging'.
  13. Jape Seacombe Mod

    Feb 26, 2008
    Paradise 5
    Really entertaining piece Veej, great writing and similar to what Meadow said, an excellent example of "logical solutions to ridiculous problems".

    I feel a teeny bit bad for Adams which I think is a sign of good characterisation. Also liked the teeny nuggets of background Euro, MiliD and did I detect a functioning Liberal Party? So no Gang of Four?
  14. LancyIain Eternal Typist

    Jan 5, 2013
    Ipswich, England
    So what would he call them if he was giving a speech in some other islands (the Balearics, Canaries, New Zealand, whatever)? It would be confusing if he kept the same terminology!

    So ITTL have Sinn Fein already been taking their seats or is it just being contemplated that this unprecedented situation is leading everybody to think that they might do for the first time because they would now be the largest single party in the Commons? My first reading was that it is the latter, but I could have misunderstood. Regardless, it is an enjoyable read. Unlikely is an understatement, but I really do agree with earlier comments on the Queen; she sounds right to me.

    Regardless of whether Adams manages to form a government, the next session of Parliament would definitely be interesting. Clegg and David Davies almost certainly out after the defeat definitely adds to that.
  15. V-J Resources From Westminster

    Sep 11, 2007
    Thanks Jape, pleased you liked it. And no, they're our Lib Dems, red in tooth and claw. Brenda and Gerry just call them, and think of them, as the Liberals, due to their own idiosyncratic reasons which you can possibly guess at.

    They took their oaths, they're just not the OTL oaths you're required to take, which, in addition to the extraordinary situation, pushed them over the edge and into becoming sitting MPs.

    The coalition government gets really hot about 'open government' ITTL - I never noted this explicitly in the piece, but ITTL the Lib Dems had a bigger showing at the last election, the modernising wing of the Tories got hit by the Carswell bug, and David Davis also ended up being mildly receptive to it all - so all told there was a quite radical attitude to constitutional issues. The possibility of a more 'successful' Blair premiership ITTL may also offer part of the explanation of why so many people ended up thinking this way.
  16. Blackadder mk 2 Well-Known Member

    Feb 27, 2010
    I can't tell if Liberals if just the Queen and Adams forgetting that the 90s and 00s happened, or if there was no merge ITTL. David Miliband reaching the top implies that there was a change in the 90s, especially if Mandelson is in a position of influence and Blair managed a similar landslide in 1997. I'd say that maybe Brown ends up out of the picture, and there's a divide in the LibDems over whether to go with Tony or stay out? Hell, maybe Owen wins out and it's more the SDP having everyone leave it to join the Liberals.

    If Britain is in the Euro, I'm guessing there's already been a large divide among the Right over whether to leave it immediately or not, enough of a mental red line to leave the party rather than go into coalition? I can see the EU botching up their reputation by suggesting Mandelson lead a coalition of the established parties, likely enough to push people to go for the radical parties, from the Anti-Austerity Left in Sinn Fein, SNP, PC, and the Greens, to the Hard Right with an inflated UKIP acting as some sort of Leviathan in England where the Greens lack support. Wouldn't be surprised if any party was lucky to get more than 200 seats alone.

    I don't know if you said that Sinn Fein stood in seats outside of Norn Iron or not, or if they just backed their respective partners, but I can definitely see a backlash in the wings from the Right. DD is doomed, I wouldn't be surprised if 1997 looked like a pleasant sunny day compared to TTL's election, and Parliament will probably become highly acrimonious, at best.

    Great job, V-J, a really good piece of work.
  17. The Red A virulent, ignorant bigot

    Mar 30, 2008
    Occupied Scotland
    Great craic, great craic indeed. This is great and you're even greater.

    I like how the absurdity of the scenario isn't lost on the characters, and I think my favourite part may well be when the Queen implies that she needs protection from militant republicans. Seeing the impact that the SNP has had across the UK in the past week, the idea of a "foreign" party rising to power is very much in line with the old zeitgesit. I was watching a video of the GeRA recently where he speaks on Scottish independence but goes off on a tangent about the north of England and Westminster in general, I could almost imagine myself watching it from this surreal reality you've woven.
  18. Archdeacon of Dunwich Well-Known Member

    Nov 22, 2014
    Under the Sea
    Excellent prose! You really have a skill with dialogue and I really enjoy the whole awkwardness of the scenario. The ambiguity of the ending as well is great, allowing for multiple readings.

    Truly splendid! :)
  19. Thande A special man who knows these things Donor

    Jan 22, 2005
    God's Own County
    This resembles your last one-shot in that it is a good example of doing something totally ridiculous in a very serious way and somehow it works. Which is also what I'm going to try to do with my upcoming TLIAW (if I can ever finish the spreadsheet) so I hope I can emulate this balance!
  20. Ed Costello Like tickling a trout in the wild

    Dec 13, 2007
    Costa del Mersey
    I must echo the praise that has thus far been lavished on this; it's really quite wonderful. I'm afraid I'm in no state of mind to give constructive feedback, so I'll just add that I enjoyed this immensely.