Alternative Prime Ministers #5, "Flesh of my Flesh""

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by EdT, Jun 6, 2015.

  1. EdT Member

    Oct 16, 2004
    London UK
    This is the fifth in an occasional series of standalone vignettes about alternative British Prime Ministers. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 is here , Part 3 is here and Part 4 is here. As with the Killroy vignette, the picture that goes with this is a big spoiler- so if you want to be spoiled, just click on it to get the full thing. And yes, it is an ATL-version of this...


    "This is my country/The land that begat me,
    These windy spaces/Are surely my own.
    And those who here toil/In the sweat of their faces
    Are flesh of my flesh/And bone of my bone."


    Flashbulbs popped and cameras whirred as Mick stood at the threshold of 10 Downing St. “Are you going to give the Prime Minister a Glasgow kiss?” somebody, presumably from the tabloids, shouted; Mick ignored the question, and instead pasted a bland smile on his face. “I’m sure that the Prime Minister and I will have a very constructive preliminary discussion” he yelled over the din, before turning away from the nation’s- nations’ he corrected himself- media and slipping through the half-opened door.

    As he did so, he thought of his birth. Not his first birth in Edinburgh and what followed- the abusive foster parents, the drugs, the drink, the thieving – that all happened to a boy named Graeme, not me- but the day that Mick was born; the day that, aged fifteen, he walked into Grove’s chippy in Finnieston, got a job, and began to turn his life around. It had all been such a natural progression that day at Grove’s; compared to plucking up the courage to walk in and ask for a job, convincing dear, sweet old Peter Walsh to award him a Carnegie Scholarship had been simple. And then there was the Dialectic Society, and then Jim’s campaign in Govan… You’ve come a hell of long way since then laddie, he thought, smiling, a hell of a long way.

    As the great black door swung shut and blocked out the noise of the assembled media, Mick found that silence came as a blessed relief. “Good morning First Minister,” the Permanent Secretary said, holding out his hand to shake. “The Prime Minister felt an informal setting might be best to commence proceedings, so if you will follow me I shall take you through to his personal apartment.”

    “How thoughtful of him,” Mick said easily, shaking the proffered hand and allowing himself a slight moment of enjoyment at the other man’s surprise; his reputation as a political streetfighter meant that few people expected him to be so pleasant and courteous in person. “Care to show me the way?”

    They passed up the famous stairs in silence, and as they did so Mick lingered at the portrait of Lord North. His companion noticed the pause and cleared his throat diplomatically; after a moment Mick carried on climbing the steps. His point had been made. He probably expected me to spit at Thatcher, he thought, but even then she was never the real enemy. After what seemed like an endless series of stairs and corridors, the Permanent Secretary finally stopped at a door, knocked quietly, and entered. Mick followed, and was surprised to see the slightly decrepit Georgian finery suddenly give way to wooden beam flooring, colourful modern sofas and a brushed steel and granite kitchen unit. “The First Minister is here sir.”

    The Prime Minister got up from one of the sofas as they entered. He looks tired, Mick thought, but then he has every right to. I wouldn’t be sleeping well, if I was in his position. “Good morning, First Minister,” he said, with a weary smile, “please, sit. Can I get you something to drink?”

    Mick shook his head as he perched on the nearest sofa. “I’m fine, thanks. And please, no need for formality. Call me Mick- everyone else does, if not something worse.”

    The Prime Minister grunted. “Some of the personal attacks during the campaign were disgusting. I’m sorry about that; nothing to do with us, I assure you.”

    Mick waved his hand airily. “I’ve heard worse in my time Tim, believe me. Frankly, if Farage hadn’t said what he had done, we might not be having this conversation; it was a very close run thing in the end.”

    The Prime Minister looked thoughtful, doubtless pondering the few tens of thousands of votes that had signalled the end of the United Kingdom and his political career. Mick found his mind going further back though; back to when people much worse than Nigel Farage had not only told him that he had a punchable face, but had shown they meant it. Not me. It happened to Graeme. Yet if he could survive that, than he could survive anything. They’d always told him he’d never amount to anything; a wee Jakie trying to get a job in a chippy; a chipshop kid trying to get a university scholarship with no exams to show for it; a pikey upstart trying to take on Swinney, then the whole party hierarchy, then the whole Unionist establishment.

    And hadn’t he shown them? He’d shown them all. People had used to laugh at his certainty- it was scary, they used to say- but hadn’t he been right? They said the SNP could never fracture the Scottish Labour establishment; he’d won 50 seats of 59. They said the SNP could never win a majority at Holyrood- he’d done it. And had he not turned a 17% deficit into a referendum victory? Who could argue with success?

    Both men pulled themselves from their thoughts; Mick broke the silence first. He inclined his head towards the TV mounted on the wall, where Iain Glen was being menaced by some tentacled creature. “Is this Doctor Who?” I know you’re a massive fan- never got the bug myself. I heard you’d got yourself a cameo for the 50th anniversary.”

    The Prime Minister pursed his lips. “Probably my finest achievement in politics, now” he said, ruefully.

    Mick shrugged. “Scottish director, Scottish Doctor, filmed in Wales, funded mostly by English license fees- shows that we don’t need a Union to cooperate, doesn’t it?“

    His companion remained silent. “For what it’s worth Tim, I am sorry. You’re a good guy, for a Tory, and you shouldn’t have your premiership defined by this. I still don’t regret putting you in Downing St in 2010; you couldn’t have done that without us smashing Labour north of the border, and we wouldn’t have got that Holyrood Majority the year later without you Tory bogeymen to put the wind up us. You’re a better Prime Minister than Brown ever was; when I abolished the Education authorities and put the Charter Schools in place, Labour just mocked them as “Wee Free Schools”; but you made no bones about following our lead. I respected that- just like I respected you sending Duncan Smith up to Easterhouse. You’ve done more for England than those shower of shite Labourites ever did for Scotland.”

    The Prime Minister sighed. “Rhetoric aside, I respect you too Mick- but you broke up my country. I‘m only still sitting here in Downing St because nobody wants the humiliation of negotiating the settlement; Cameron, Osborne, Fox… they’re all circling, waiting for ink to dry so they can condemn me. The Mail’s practically calling me a traitor.”

    Mick removed his glasses. “Tim, you need to understand, I didn’t break up your country; I’ve given it back to you! You need to understand that you might have thought you were British, but you weren’t, not really; you haven’t been since you were writing Thatcher’s speeches and I was fresh off the streets helping Jim get elected in Govan. England’s a proud nation- embrace it! You’ll always have friends north of the border, and independence makes that more true than ever, as we can organise things the way we like it. A Social Scotland and an Entrepreneurial England, what a combination. We’ll even vote for you in Eurovision! Better Together, indeed.”

    He paused. “Besides, it could be worse- you could be sitting here talking to Alex instead of me…”

    Both men chuckled, and after a brief silence, the Prime Minister cleared his throat, nervously. “There’s one other thing before we get started. I want these negotiations to be amicable, with no hard feelings on either side, and I have an item I thought you might be personally interested in. Think of it as a token of goodwill.”

    He got up from the sofa and picked something up from the kitchen table, handing it Mick with a hint of nervousness. It was a manila folder; Mick looked at the Edinburgh City Council stamp on the front, then saw name printed on its cover: LOGAN, GRAEME. He looked up, sharply.

    “A lot of records were lost in a fire back in the ‘90s, but some of what was left was put in storage in Newcastle. We pulled some strings and recovered this for you,” the Prime Minister said. “It has information on your birth parents inside; I thought that maybe you’d like to contact them?” He smiled. “You’re father of a nation now; I’m sure they would be very proud of everything that you’ve achieved.”

    Mick looked at the folder for a long time. Finally he sighed, then carefully, reverently, handed it back to the Prime Minister. “Thank you Tim,” he breathed, “but the name doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. I haven’t been Graeme Logan since I was fifteen, and I walked into a chippy. That place was my parent, if I have any, and that’s why I bear its name. I’m Michael Grove. I am my own man, and I am the author of my own life story, as everyone should be.”

    He brightened. “Now, let’s talk about how we rip up the Treaty of Union, shall we?”
  2. Lord Roem Lord Mayor's Lord Roem.

    Mar 3, 2008
    Oh, oh!

    A delightful little skit Ed, and (not that I mind them) considerably less dark than some of your previous ones.

    Even though you blurred it out, I noticed the dread face of Gove in the opening caption and realised what you were going for - inspired.

    I know you have worked for him, but I've always been rather surprised that Gove doesn't talk up his Scottish heritage slightly more - he's always had a rather pleasant brogue about him that I think would play slightly better if he made more of it.

    Inspired - and welcome back!
  3. Thande Well Blade Runner got the ad screens right Donor

    Jan 22, 2005
    God's Own County
    Good to see you back with these, Ed.

    I at first thought you were doing the same kind of blank slate thing as Meadow did with Gove in 'Meet the New Boss', but I see this is more directly referenced to his actual background.
  4. Blackadder mk 2 Well-Known Member

    Feb 27, 2010
    You magnificent bastard.

    If I hadn't been looking through some old articles, I wouldn't have recognised it until Charter Schools. It goes to show the risks of adoption, a chance you'll be with a stable couple, another (albeit smaller by a fair bit) chance you could be with a dysfunction wreck of a family. I imagine his policy on adoption will be different from OTL, less focused on pushing for streamlining the process and more on checks and balances to ensure mistakes won't be made. I can see the career progression, from being a firm part of pushing Sillars into greater success, to becoming the insurgent to overthrow Swinney, forcing back Salmond, and then securing independence.

    I'm guessing Tim Bell found his way up the greasy pole, moving from media PR to the political stage, and he had a role in getting IDS to move to Easterhouse. A leader by 2001, given a two-term deal? Back to Scotland, it seems interesting that there was an earlier SNP landslide in 2010, even with Brown in office. The YES campaign ITTL would be fun to witness, especially as BetterTogether seemed to go a lot more negative in the personal sense, or at least Farage involved himself in the anti-YES efforts (I don't see him let into the official campaign, UKIP leader or rogue influential Tory backbencher).

    The best part was the brief look at his life before politics, the wreckage of his early years, his pushing himself towards success, involving himself in SNP politics, and finally achieving the dream. His struggle with deciding to turn down going after his birth parents, even without the step-parents he had IOTL, felt real as did his hopes for a good friendship with the RumpUK. I can see a good few "first Kinnock to go to university"-style speeches throughout his career, winning over the masses with his appeal to nationalism as a platform for which to bring the Scottish people to liberty and prosperity.
  5. EdT Member

    Oct 16, 2004
    London UK
    Thanks all! Glad people liked this; was a bit of a spur of the moment thing really but I quite liked the idea and thought that a cock-up at the Edinburgh City Council Child Services in the 1960s was a depressingly plausible, Thaxted-ish PoD, not to mention leading to an outcome where everyone was equally uncomfortable.

    Also, a bit clue as to the fact that it's an ATL- The Miliband brothers are not only on the same stage, but smiling at each other...

    The PM is actually Tim Collins; he's forgotten today really, but he only just lost to Farron by 200ish votes in 2005 and was very much a proto-Cameroon (both Shadow Education Secretary, of course...) who would have been a major contender to succeed Michael Howard had he been in the Commons. A very nice man- losing his seat hit him quite hard, sadly (as well it would, given his potential). I assumed that 2010 would be a Tory minority government, with no Coalition.

    FWIW I saw the sequence of events as being a bit the reverse of the OTL; Michael Grove's leadership of the SNP meant that they went for the left-alternative to Labour strategy rather earlier than IOTL, and led to an SNP general election sweep in 2010 leading to a Holyrood majority the following year, rather than vice versa...
  6. Meadow but see, when Meadow does that, Monthly Donor

    Apr 8, 2010
    Glorious. As Thande said, I did something similar with Gove in my 'Britain as a post-war Soviet Satellite' TL (though that's kind of a spoiler, but not really), so I did spot this when my mind began to process 'Mick'. But the worldbuilding - which you are a master of, and someone I nakedly seek to emulate - was excellent.

    A lot of the usual 'I remember when I did x and ousted y', but you make it all sound so human. As I think I said to Japhy a few months back, it takes real skill to make The Big Players in an ATL into living, breathing human beings rather than political androids who speak of nothing but whether they are left or right wing. Mick's journey - which didn't suffer from me knowing who he was all along - was powerful and real, and would have been perfectly acceptable as a summary of a non-AH fully-fledged fictional character in a novel.

    I'd like there to be more about 2015-16 negotiations for IndyScotland, I imagine it's a topic TLs will be written about in the coming years. Or perhaps not, if reality takes another couple of strange turns.

    The Miliband brothers still side by side in 2015 suggests Ed didn't win the leadership, though David might've done. Is there a hint I've missed as to who the LotO is (if indeed Labour are still the Opposition)?

    The highlight for me was 'the Tories do a lot for England' put in an actually positive way, that was pleasant - though of course relied on some of the good things they'd done being fictional ;)
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2015
  7. AlfieJ Tony Benn spitting image puppet

    May 30, 2012
    Ooooh this is excellent. Truly, truly excellent.
  8. LancyIain Eternal Typist

    Jan 5, 2013
    Ipswich, England
    It didn't take me long at all to twig who Mick was, even without having initially recognised him in the pocket poster. It took me longer to understand he was SNP First Minister of a soon to be independent Scotland. I just couldn't fit that into my head. I also didn't work out who the PM was.

    I must agree with Roem that this is more optimistic than some of the others in the series. It does make a good contrast in that respect. A fine piece of work.
  9. Thande Well Blade Runner got the ad screens right Donor

    Jan 22, 2005
    God's Own County
    It would be the man who somehow lost what was once one of the safest Tory seats in England (admittedly, it was lost to the Master) who lost the Union. Confusingly given Blackadder's post, I see he did actually work for Bell Pottinger at that!
  10. Geordie NAME OF OWNER

    Feb 12, 2008
    Jarrow-on-Tyne, or Farnborough, Hampshire
    Fantastic stuff, Ed.

    I must admit, I twigged on fairly quickly, but I think that's because I'm not politically aware enough to think of any other possible candidates for an adopted parliamentarian, never mind a Scotsman who could feasibly be answering to 'Mick'. Like Meadow's TL mentioned above, it's also a nice way of showing that what is, and has been, is not necessarily what had to happen, even for individuals, never mind nations. Obviously, some of your longer works have also shown this to great extent to, so I'm not surprised on that one, but it's still very well done. Beautifully done form start to finish, and I particularly liked the references to the Wee Free Schools. I hadn't managed to work out who Tim was, so well played on that front. Lovely bit of writing. It's amazing how much the characters manage to speak in such a short piece, with so little dialogue.

    Now I'll have to go back and read your other ones!
  11. Alex Richards A mapper I, from near Dar-bai. Donor

    Jun 8, 2009
    Empire of Nova Elysium
    Another fantastic little vignette there Ed.
  12. Techdread Loyal Oppositionist

    Jun 22, 2010
    City of Edinburgh
    Once again, you have shown that you are a true maestro of the standalone TL vignettes - bravo, sir!
  13. Archangel Battery-powered Bureaucrat

    Nov 14, 2007
    Interesting work, Ed!:)
  14. Blackadder mk 2 Well-Known Member

    Feb 27, 2010
    I just assumed David responded to Ed's idea of a leadership bid with a firm beating, putting the younger sibling back in their place.

    I was close enough. :p

    Going into speculation-mode, I'm guessing Howard's wobble over Cameron made Collins the beneficiary instead of Osborne, proving himself in front of Brown and having a greater sense of ambition leading him to run in the leadership election with Howard's backing. Cameron likely wouldn't run, but would be looking for the top-seat, which a YES vote would provide the opportunity for.

    Ah, so momentum built-up in the Blair years made it difficult for Brown to pull off anything big, especially in the midst of the financial crisis. Considering what the poster looks like, it seems that Labour's reaction to the SNP landslide in 2010 was the same as towards the LibDems IOTL up to 11. Easy to see how it can backfire, especially under Miliband the Elder's leadership. I imagine that the LibDems under Clegg (or whoever is the leader ITTL) are enjoying a far better position than OTL, against a Tory Party that lost Scotland, and a Labour Party under stagnation at best.
  15. Ed Costello Like tickling a trout in the wild

    Dec 13, 2007
    Costa del Mersey
    This was a great read, in an "I had no idea what's going on until the second-last line of the story" way. All of it works perfectly.

    It'd be really cool to see all your 'Alternate PM' vignettes collected in a volume of some sorts - might need a few more to make it viable, but IIRC you've already self-published 'FaBR' and 'A Greater Britain'. They'd make for really good 'gateway AH'.
  16. EdT Member

    Oct 16, 2004
    London UK
    Thanks, high praise indeed! I need to finish reading that TL actually; got a few parts in and was really enjoying it, then got distracted. I think it's rather fun (and a real challenge) in these little vignettes to fit as much world-building as possible; obviously when the PoD is considerably later there's less to play with, but a lot of the versimilitude is bound up in throwaway references to little bits of ATL oddness.

    Thanks. I figured Mick's journey would be a good one, which is one of the reasons why I was so keen to do the vignette; one thing that was left on the cutting-room floor was that, Rory Stewart-style, his life story had been optioned by Hollywood. I suppose it's trying to keep the actual politics to a minimum really, and trying to focus more on the feelings and emotions that the poltiical situation would engender in the players.

    Welll the photo dates from TTL's 2010 election, so it leaves the identity of the LOTO a bit vague (I assumed it was David, FWIW). I saw the vignette as being set pre 2015, btw; maybe 2013, after a 2012 referendum?

    For all that ITTL Michael Grove is definitely a lefty, I also assumed that thanks to his formative experiences at University he would be more virulently anti Labour than anti-Tory, on the old Polish German/Russian which to shoot first joke basis. Once the Tories are more or less irrelevant in Scotland then he essentially sees them as Eng Nats- plus he's smart enough to realise that the independence negotiations will be difficult and there's no point gratuitously pissing off HMG if he wants to get his objectives.

    I figured that if Collins kept his seat, he'd be able to offer much of what Cameron did IOTL while simultaneously being better established; the Collins leadership campaign was already in embryonic form IOTL when he lost his seat. I assume that Cameron had got a plumb job in the resulting shadow cabinet, going on to be a big beast in the resulting Collins Government; Foreign Secretary, perhaps?

    Really glad you liked it! That's exactly the plan, btw; I want to get either nine or twelve of these vignettes sorted before I collect them in a volume. Problem is that they're completely dependent on when inspiration strikes for me, so I can't guarantee steady progress. I'll get there in the end though!
  17. Blackadder mk 2 Well-Known Member

    Feb 27, 2010
    Ouch. That's literally "readying a victory-speech just before hearing that you've lost" levels of shock to deal with, I don't know if it's better or worse knowing that the guy who beat you managed to turn the seat into the safest LibDem seat. On the one hand, your opponent was at least the best at base-building, on the other you could have beaten him by a few hundred votes.

    EDIT: I'm interested in how a Collins government would look now. Would Osborne be kept as Shadow (and then actual) Chancellor, when he was promoted because Cameron said no and Howard favoured him? I think Cameron would be the type to enjoy being Foreign Secretary, being in government and doing things without a party to try and manage.

    Rosebury is a fun sort, if you can stand the tendency to moan from the sidelines, only to then refuse to involve himself in any actual solution that requires commitment. New Liberalism for a New Britain?
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2015
  18. Sideways Trans *space* woman. Note the antennae Donor

    Jun 9, 2014
    Ubiquitous Greater Cornwall
    I didn't see that coming! An excellent story and a fascinating premise. Thankyou