Blue Skies in Camelot: An Alternate 60's and Beyond

I am wondering, if the cards are right since I do think it is early enough, if the New Orleans Jazz avoid moving to Utah (perhaps in exchange for an expansion team in Salt Lake City or the Stars or a few ABA teams surviving into the merger). I do have some ideas and PODs that would allow the team to remain for the time being, if you're interested
Chapter 108
Chapter 108: Anarchy in the UK - The Fight for (and against) Scottish Devolution

“Now is the Winter of our Discontent...” - William Shakespeare, Richard III​

Following Scotland’s historic and unprecedented championship victory in the 1974 World Cup, calls for increased autonomy and devolution of government for Alba grew louder, particularly within Scotland itself. Ever since the 1703 Act of Union which combined Scotland, England, and Wales into the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Scots had, along with the Welsh, been ruled from Westminster, in London. While most in Scotland were patriotic and proud to be part of the UK, there were many, even among these loyal to London, who believed that the time had come for Scotland to be granted additional autonomy - that it be allowed to elect a separate parliament from Westminster to be able to address Scottish concerns more locally. The combined movement for this devolution picked up immense steam from 1974, and a bill was proposed in the House of Commons by Labour MP and Shadow Secretary for Employment, Michael Foot in May of 1976 which would accomplish exactly that. Under Foot’s proposal, the position of Secretary of State for Scotland would be abolished and replaced by a new Parliament in Edinburgh, elected for and by the Scots themselves. Scotland would still have seats in Westminster to address fully national concerns, of course, but giving Scots this freedom of local governance would be a show of respect to Scotland’s place in the Kingdom, most agreed. In order to demonstrate the popularity of his bill in Scotland itself, Foot and the Labour Party organized a referendum in the country, asking citizens whether or not they were in support of devolution. After weeks of deliberation, the final vote revealed that 51.67% of Scots support such a move. With a majority of Scotland in favor, the bill proceeded to the floor and saw widespread support among Labour and the Liberal Party. Unfortunately for its proponents however, the bill had one very powerful enemy - Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

When the PM heard about Foot and others organizing the referendum, she tried to leverage her influence to have the vote’s rules set in such a way that England could vote on the resolution as well. Thatcher was absolutely, resolutely opposed to devolution to Scotland and Wales on purely ideological grounds. A staunch Tory as ever they came, Thatcher believed that such a move to localize government would threaten the unity of the Kingdom and serve to undermine national patriotic sentiments. After she failed to sway the vote to her side, Thatcher’s next tactic to undermine devolution came in questioning the referendum’s validity in the first place. She claimed that because only about 51% of the Scottish electorate turned out for the referendum, it could not be claimed as evidence of a “legitimate majority” of the people’s will. Thus Thatcher ordered her Conservative MP’s not to vote for the bill, and to argue at every opportunity against its supposed merits. Thatcher also accused Labour leader Denis Healey, perhaps fairly, of “pandering” to the Scottish National Party with his party’s support of the devolution bill in exchange for the SNP agreeing to back Labour in a future coalition against her Conservatives. Healey, ever the wily politician, dodged the claim by countering that Thatcher, by her actions, was “opposing the popular will” and called on her to enact devolution at once.

Though the argument for or against devolution had, by itself, been innocuous enough, it had the great misfortune of taking place at the height of British malaise in the late 1970’s. Across the sea in Northern Ireland, the Troubles were entering one of their bloodiest (if final) stages. Throughout the country, unemployment soared and wages stagnated. Few could find work and when they could, it was often demeaning, unfulfilling, or both. The stage was set for a great social upheaval in the country, and the argument over Scottish and Welsh devolution only served to add petrol to an already blazing fire of resentment.

Enter into this precarious situation Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who was, in 1977, celebrating her Silver Jubilee. Hoping to provide a much needed distraction from the state of the economy and increasingly political unrest and violence in the streets, the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, decided to embark on the most elaborate tour (in a short span of time) of the United Kingdom in the Monarchy’s history. Across three months, the Royal couple would visit 36 counties, beginning with record crowds turning out to meet them in Glasgow, Scotland, on May 17th. Unfortunately for the celebrations however, the parades and parties were also attended by protesters, many of whom tore down Union Jacks to hoist the Saltire of St. Andrew and waved signs and banners declaring “FUCK THE MILK SNATCHER” and “DEVOLUTION NOW!” The Queen and her husband were swiftly escorted away from the “unpleasantness” of the protests, and thereafter turned their trip toward England, where they were greeted by energetic crowds and fewer groups of shouting activists. Nonetheless, there were several major security scares during her Jubilee tour, not so much from Scottish devolutionists, who despite media portrayals of them, were actually largely peaceful and supported the monarchy, but rather from the Provisional IRA, who detonated seven bombs in London’s West End in January of that year, and would continue their “homefront” terror campaign throughout the year.

Despite the risks to her own personal safety, the Queen ignored calls to curtail her tour early, and saw it as her duty to rally the British people in their time of fear, as her father had during the Second World War. To some degree, this was successful. Her tour of the country and later, each of the Commonwealth Nations was widely celebrated and well received, even when she stopped in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in August, amidst some of the tightest security in history. Despite threats against her person, including a bomb threat called in on the dock where her ship landed, her Majesty spent hours shaking hands and greeting the crowds. Throughout Belfast during her three day stay, not a single person was killed, a momentary lull in the sectarian violence, but also a portent of the blossoming spring to come...

Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, the Queen’s silver jubilee may have given Britons a much needed dose of optimism, but it did not stem their growing dissatisfaction with Thatcher’s handling of the country’s various crises. As 1977 wore on and later gave way to ‘78, unrest and political anger washed out into the streets. In November, firefighters went on their first ever national strike, demanding a 30% wage increase to help them deal with the absolutely rampant inflation. Across the north of England, a deranged serial killer called the “Yorkshire Ripper” would strike terror into the hearts of millions, murdering at least a dozen women, mostly prostitutes, particularly around the city of Manchester. And in December, for the second tournament in a row (and after seeing Scotland victorious in ‘74, no less) England’s national football team failed to qualify for the World Cup. These events, combined with the already electric atmosphere caused what many pundits and historians have come to call the United Kingdom’s “Winter of Discontent.” Widespread protests brought thousands of trade unionists, university students and activists, and ordinary men and women to London and other major cities across the country. Some of these grew violent, with police and protesters clashing openly in the streets, leading Sid Vicious of the up-and-coming punk band the Sex Pistols to declare “the world may as well be fucking ending!”

Thatcher was desperate to restore a sense of order, to recuperate her and her party’s image, and bring about legislation to appear active on the issues, but all of this was not to be. The PM’s political capital among supporters had dwindled, and goodwill from the opposition had all but vanished. Healy, as leader of the opposition, smelled blood in the water, and having won assurances from the Scottish National Party and the Liberals to back him in the event of a hung parliament, he called a vote of no confidence on Thatcher’s government on December 12th, 1977. Thatcher, overestimating her support among the rank and file Tories, attempted to guarantee the motion’s failure by winning the endorsement of Enoch Powell and his small cabal of backers, who were still in self-imposed exile from the Conservatives after Randolph Churchill drove them from the party at the beginning of the decade. Powell offered his support, on the condition that Thatcher rescind her prior criticisms of him, which she did. This move backfired on the PM, however, as Powell’s endorsement wound up costing her a dozen or so votes from Tories to whom Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech from the decade prior had been anathema. When the vote on the motion was held, Thatcher lost by a single vote, 310 - 309. Devastated, the PM desperately tried to pivot into rallying conservative voters for the mandated general election, which would be held in February. Unfortunately for her, however, the die of history had already been cast against her. While Thatcher and her allies tried to argue that the Conservatives had “already begun to combat stagnation and corruption in the bloated halls of government”, the still ailing economy and stalled privatization initiatives told another story. Labour, meanwhile, organized in neighborhoods across the country, promising an end to the downturn, a return to prosperity, and a shift in focus from what leader Healy called “idle posturing and foreign gallivanting” to “an earnest effort for the good people of the Kingdom at home”. Labour’s program called for wage and price controls to combat inflation, similar to those employed by the Stanfield government across the Pond in Canada. It also proposed the introduction of a “wealth tax” on the country’s most affluent to help pay for increased subsidies to needed goods, education, and the National Health Service. While Healy’s calls for “price and wage controls” were seen by some in the trade movement as a betrayal, Healy and his backers argued that they were a “temporary measure” and would be removed as soon as inflation had been brought to heel. “This is a case,” Healy claimed. “Where we may learn from a conservative party, albeit, one made up of those wise Canadians.” This seeming swerve from the Labour gospel ultimately wasn’t enough to stop Healy’s momentum. With the support of devolutionists, traditional trade unions and workers, a resurgent left-wing intelligentsia and a wave of politically active and motivated youth, Denis Healy and his Labour Party would win the 1978 general election in a landslide.

1978 UK General Election Results:

635 Seats in the House of Commons
318 Seats Needed for a Majority

Labour Party - 341 Seats (Up from 297)
Conservative Party - 283 Seats (Down from 323)
Liberal Party - 11 Seats (Up from 8)

The “Winter of Discontent”, Thatcher’s defeat, and Healy’s ascendence to the Prime Ministership have since come to be seen as monumental moments in defining the end of the “Seesaw Seventies” in the United Kingdom. While Margaret Thatcher certainly tried to bring her country together, and restore prosperity to a land ravaged by stagnation and decline, her policies and philosophy were widely rejected by the British people, and marked a major defeat for monetarism and right-wing conservatism the world over. Today, if Thatcher is thought about at all by the general public, it is usually with a sense of scorn for the “hard times” of the 1970’s, or for her portrayal in V for Vendetta, an alternate history/sci-fi graphic novel series, written by Alan Moore in the 1980’s, which explores a world where Thatcher’s style of governance and (in that world successful) alliance with Enoch Powell mutates in Britain into a full-blown fascist, totalitarian state by the 2010’s. That being said, some historians have been kinder in their portrayals of “the Milk Snatcher”, arguing that while obviously controversial, her privatization policies issued a much needed challenge to the stagnating Keynesian consensus which had emerged following the Second World War, and energized supporters of laissez faire capitalism the world over, leading to the development of “neoliberalism”, a socially-liberal, fiscally conservative ideology which would grow into one of the world’s leading opposition to social democracy, alongside so called “Christian Democracy” movements. As for Healy and the country he’d just been elected to govern, 1978 would not be the end of Britain’s struggles in this new, post-war world, but with the smiling, clever bloke moving into 10 Downing Street, Britons began, at last, to feel a fledgling sense of optimism, and dare they say, hope for the future.

As Joe Strummer of the Clash said, “My mates and I wish Denis Healy and his lads the best. We’re getting sick of singing about how shite everything is. Who knows? They do their jobs, maybe in a few years we’ll be singing about... I dunno, girls or something.”

The Healy Ministry (February, 1978 - ???)
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service: Denis Healy
Chancellor of the Exchequer: James Callaghan
Lord Chancellor: The Lord Elwyn-Jones
Lord President of the Council: Michael Foot
Lord Privy Seal: The Lord Peart
Foreign Secretary: David Owen
Home Secretary: Merlyn Reese
Secretary of State for Defence: Fred Mulley
Secretary of State for Education and Science: Shirley Williams
Secretary of State for Employment: Tony Benn
Secretary of State for Energy: Albert Booth
Secretary of State for the Environment: Peter Shore
Secretary of State for Social Services: David Ennals
Secretary of State for Industry: Eric Varley
Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection: Roy Hattersley
Secretary of State for Trade: John Smith
Secretary of State for Transport: Bill Rodgers
Secretary of State for Scotland: Bruce Millan
Secretary of State for Wales: John Morris
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland: Roy Mason

Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: New Cabinet Departments and the Supreme Court
Great update! Though how did the 1978 World Cup go? I think I did mention sometime ago about the tournament nearly expanded to accommodate 24 teams which IRL it nearly did however for reasons it did not go ahead. The other idea is that, as what this other TL I found shows, was that it was nearly moved to Brazil and would've seen the expanded tournament seen then happen four years early than OTL. That would, hopefully, see the likes of England and Wales maybe qualify too and that would add more butterflies for the latter politics wise! :p

I know I sound like I'm asking for a retcon or that but it is worth an idea perhaps? :)
I kinda feel sorry for Maggie Tatcher. Her popularity plummeted, and she became the villain in the alternate V for Vendetta. Poor thing. Anyway, great chapter. I'm glad to see the story's back!
Margaret Thatcher gone...

Without knowing entirely why, huge numbers of working men from the North of England breathe sighs of relief.

Really good stuff @President_Lincoln :) Great to see this back, and looking forward to seeing what lies ahead.

It returns! Excited to see how things go for the new British government!
Hoping that the post-war consensus can continue to be a thing. With Thatcher's repudiation ITTL, it does seem that the British people have turned against neoliberal ideas, which should convince ambitious Tory politicos that a general middle-of-the-road course that keeps the welfare state is a favourable path.

But yeah, looking forward to seeing PM Healy :D
Man, I kinda felt bad for Margaret Thatcher ITTL...

Wonder what PM Healy will be like ITTL...

It was Thatcher's bad luck to be caught up in the Winter of Discontent, IMO...

BTW, "Anarchy in the UK" was a song sung and released by the British band The Sex Pistols in 1976 as part of their album Anarchy in the UK, so congrats for continuing the pattern, @President_Lincoln...

Overall, good chapter, and welcome back, @President_Lincoln...
So Thatcher's earlier rise to power put her in the same position as late 70s Labour eh?

It's rather interesting that the chief Anglophone nations of the world head into the 80s with a center-left spectrum in power as opposed to a more stridently right wing.
Great update about the UK. I wasn't expecting Thatcher to fall. Funny her being the villain in TTL V for Vendetta. I'm glad Labour's back in power and excited to see PM Healy. It looks like the Conservatives are losing power now with Thatcher out and Bush having lost the Presidential election. Did Bush and Thatcher get along when they were in office by the way? Obviously Reagan and Thatcher got along famously during the 80s. And what does new PM Healy think of the new President?
@President_Lincoln Thank you for the look at the UK, and for the irony of Mrs T's fall.

Hopefully Healey can reform the heavy industries and keep the UK as a manufacturing power. The Troubles might be negociated away esp if Scotland gets its parliament, perhaps N. Ireland gets her Assembley.

The General Eletions results:

1978 UK General Election Results:

635 Seats in the House of Commons
318 Seats Needed for a Majority

Labour Party - 341 Seats (Up from 297)
Conservative Party - 283 Seats (Down from 323)
Liberal Party - 11 Seats (Up from 8)

What happened to the smaller parties? Usally there is a smattering of them from N. Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.

Decent collection of talents Healy has in his Cabinet- wonder if Labour avoids the 'Gang of Four' split here?
Just a question after reading the UK Election update: Has Tony Blair been mentioned yet in the TL or been asked by the readers? How is he doing ITTL?

EDIT: Of course what I'm getting at is, what are the odds that we see a Tory Blair?
Last edited: