Building Jerusalem Mk2.0

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I shall not cease from mental fight

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand

'till we have built Jerusalem

In England's green and pleasant land

- Jerusalem


“Will Labour ever win an election again?”, people were asking. Many thought that under the current electoral system, it couldn’t be done, and that the Tories might just settle into becoming Britain’s version of the Japanese LDP, with their own internal factions. Britain might be becoming a dominant party system; in effect, a democratic one-party state.

The shadow of the early eighties was, it seemed, destined to cast a long way. After Labour’s defeat in 1979, the party had been torn between an increasingly radical (and vocal) activist left, and an establishment right which viewed the attempt to steer the party towards a purist interpretation of Socialism with horror. Although policy battles between the left and the right had been commonplace ever since the days of Gaitskell and Bevan in the 50’s, if not before, the increasing vehemence by which they were conducted by both sides by the early eighties created deep, intensely visible divisions. Sometimes Labour looked not so much like a fraternal singular body, but a mass of implacably opposed factions slugging it out for total dominance. The left accused the right of betrayal over policy, and upholding a party structure which was both Byzantine, undemocratic, and inherently favourable towards the leadership, at the exclusion of Labour‘s membership; The right accused the left of being dogmatic extremists who were entirely out of step with those who they claimed to represent and champion; and so on.

After Jim Callaghan’s resignation as party leader in 1980, this struggle assumed much more personal contours. Callaghan and his predecessor as leader, Harold Wilson, had often made party unity their dominant, if not sole objective; but they were gone. And in their place were those who had less interest in maintaining Party unity than pursuing their own brands of Labour policy. Tony Benn, on the left, was widely disliked and mistrusted even by those with ideological sympathy towards his position because of the supposed fanaticism of his supporters. The right, on the other hand, thought of him as a hypocrite who had been quite willing to serve under previous Labour governments whilst repudiating their policies. Denis Healey, the standard-bearer of the right was a political loner by instinct. In his case he also did not satisfy many of his natural supporters, who found him to be blunt and arrogant. When Healey was challenged as to why someone on the right of the party should vote for him, he reportedly replied “because you have nowhere else to go”. The questioner was later apparently tempted to send a note to Healey: “Have found somewhere else to go”

The Social Democratic Party was formed out of members of Labour’s right who thought that Labour had become a lost cause, a political dead weight, and that a new, centrist party could break the mould of British politics, skirting a middle-ground path between Socialist dogma on the left and the right-wing hard-line stance of Thatcherism. For a time, that looked to be a possibility, as the opinion poll ratings for the new party soared. With Labour mired in internal argument and the Thatcher government stuck in the economic doldrums, the SDP and its partners in the Liberal Party look set to truly break the mould. It was not, however, to be. Thatcher recovered her poise as the economy rose and the Falklands War was won, squeezing out the Alliance’s support amongst swing voters. Labour, adopting a manifesto which was described by one disapproving Shadow Cabinet member as “the longest suicide note in history”, and with the deeply uninspiring figure of Michael Foot as its leader, allowed Thatcher to actually increase her overall Commons majority at the 1983 general election to over a hundred. Labour were taken down to just over two hundred MPs; thanks to the electoral system, the Alliance gained no more than twenty-six MPs, despite polling competitively with Labour in terms of share of the national vote - under a proportional system, the Alliance would in all likelihood have become the official opposition, if not the actual government. (A BBC poll of voters on election day discovered that up to another twenty-five percent of people had considered voting for the Alliance, but thought that they had no chance of winning under the ‘First Past the Post’ electoral system.) The 1983 election had the effect of discrediting the hard left and engineering Labour’s slow move towards revival. The approach taken by Foot had clearly been decisively rejected by the electorate, and although the hard left argued that this was because the party had not been Socialist enough, few found that argument convincing. Labour had hung on only through a combination of sheer dumb luck and a favourable voting system.

Labour had to move back towards the centre, or die - although many may not have been consciously aware that they were taking such a move when they elected Foot’s replacement. Neil Kinnock had made his name as a maverick left-winger, and had never held ministerial office. Kinnock was, however, aware both of what needed to be done in terms of the internal working of the party and its policy platforms, and that it had to ‘refine’ its image with the media. Working against the far-left in the party, and attacking many sacred cows in policy such as across the board nationalisation, unilateral abandonment of nuclear weapons, and opposition to membership of the EEC, Kinnock was, however, never able to captivate his party or the public. Presenting a public image which was verbose and discursive, he was ill at ease in forwarding the case for voting Labour, and his attempts to shift the party to the centre opened him to the charge of a betrayal of principles and hypocrisy. Despite reducing the Conservative’s majorities in the 1987 and 1992 general elections – coming within a whisker of election in ’92 – Kinnock was never able to deliver the knockout blow.

So, was Labour really now destined to perpetual opposition? The party had lost four elections in a row. Much of what it had stood for had been demolished by the Thatcher and Major governments. Was the man who the party now turned to the man to lead them into office? Affable and confident, he certainly presented a different public image to Kinnock. Sound on his feet in the Commons, a long-standing member of the right of the party who had been entirely consistent in his advocacy of his beliefs – it was a good basis for leadership. Smith’s OMOV reform to Labour’s structure would also prove to lessen the suggestion that the party was a trade union dominated body, and since the disastrous impacts of the Maastricht Treaty and ‘Black Wednesday’, the Tories were in disarray and Labour was ahead in the polls. Perhaps Labour really was on course to win at the next election?
 
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Introduction

If the uninitiated are interested about what exactly the hell this is about, then this is a British political alt-hist based around the POD (Point of Divergence) that John Smith, Leader of the UK Labour Party between 1992 and 1994, does not die of a fatal heart attack as he did historically on the 12th of May, 1994.

Many of you may be aware that I attempted this timeline two years ago, but it ground to a halt as I wanted to devote more time and energy to it, and read up a little more on the subject matter. Although the basic premise remains the same, this will be a more taught timeline - in length rather than width - than originally intended. It will be shorter, more focused, and, altogether, a more sensibly manageable undertaking than envisaged two years ago. I hope it makes up in detail and plausibility what it lacks in style, excitement, and length.

The fear with TLs on contemporary politics is that they will be thinly-veiled wish-fulfilment and I hope that I have avoided that (As a Conservative writing about a Labour leader, admittedly not a difficult thing to do). A writer is by definition always guiding a narrative along a set path but I’ve gone with stuff I consider interesting and plausible rather than personally pleasing. I hope people don’t get too distressed by this either way.

Due to the length of the TL itself, the lack of time for butterflies to spread out fully, and the relative international peace and stability of the time period concerned, this TL will not focus that much on foreign events - although they won’t be wilfully excluded. By the time of the epilogue, for instance, there will have been an impact on American, Middle Eastern, and EU politics, just not massive ones. (Not that I would consider massive anyway) Anyone with little interest in British domestic politics can therefore safely skip this TL.

There isn’t an awful lot of the TL itself left to write at this stage. I restrained myself from launching until I had finished the main of it. In consequence, I can guarantee that v2.0 will be fully functional and anatomically correct.

Comments, criticisms, queries, observations and all the rest are not only welcome, but expected.

This timeline is dedicated to D.K - The path not taken.
 
I was just wondering about this one the other day - I'm glad to see it back, and I'm intrigued as to how different it will be, both from the original and from our own history...
 
Thanks all for the interest.

Here comes the slightly revised 1995, which charts previous events in a bit more detail. No major surprises for anyone who read the old thread, but could be worth going over again to soak up some of the new stuff.

Anyone operating the Green and Black forum skin - anyone? - seems to be more or less stuffed btw, as the forum always reads my stuff that I've typed up on Word as 'black', rather than 'automatic' for some reason. And don't get me started on fonts.
 
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CHAPTER I

DAYBREAK

1995


“This was open government, but the emphasis was more on ‘open’ than on ’government’.” - Harold Wilson’s opinion of John Russell’s Premiership

Taken from John Smith - A Life by Mark Stuart (Politicos, 2005)

Why had Smith been so successful as Labour leader in his first three years? [1] Why, indeed, had he been elected leader so overwhelmingly in 1992? Although simple questions, the answer is complex. Partly, perhaps, it was due to simple good fortune - that Smith had become leader at a time when the upheavals of the 1980s had ended, and when the party was generally at ease with itself politically. But this does not take into account that Smith had gone through a large upheaval in the shape of OMOV. [2] Smith’s battle for that reform had seen him risk his leadership, and go where no leader had gone before in terms of reform of the party. Not only, then, does a supposed lack of fire for reform of the party explain Smith’s success, but criticisms to that extent, many of which were heard at the margins from some of Smith’s shadow team, are intellectually limited. Smith was a cautious moderniser of his party, but a moderniser none the less. Perhaps that famed caution on the part of Smith explains some of his success. It was a caution - or, perhaps more neutrally, a judgement - formed out of decades of work in the Labour movement. Smith, perhaps more than any other Labour leader post-Attlee, had absolute confidence in his understanding of the Labour Party, its moods and ethos, its principles and symbols. Or, as Frank Dobson would famously say, “if John Smith was a piece of rock, and you broke him open, inside it would read ‘Labour’”. But allied to Smith’s unimpeachable Labour credentials was his determination to win power, his desire to take Labour forward, in short, his desire to lead. And, at that, lead in a very Labour way. Smith’s political heroes, in the shape of figures such as Attlee and Truman, pointed to this style, which moulded unassuming leadership with collegiality, but at the same time pushing decisively forward - in Attlee‘s case with a highly radical program. Smith’s leadership style was therefore a curious, but highly effective blend of inclusivity and direction. John Smith knew what he wanted, but he didn’t shout about it.

Smith’s first three years as leader, had, though, as we have seen, witnessed criticism amongst the party’s modernising wing; the criticism was that Smith was only resting on the expectation that 'one more heave' would take Labour into power, and that he had not taken up a distinct profile in the media. In retrospect, neither criticism is valid; the first two years of Smith’s leadership, he had been focused internally precisely because that would bolster the party’s chances at the election, and that internal focus had resulted in OMOV. 1995 was the year that Smith truly turned outward. It can perhaps be seen as the year in which Smith’s leadership in opposition turned from being one of healing the wounds of the 1992 defeat, and reforming the party and it’s policies, to directly taking on a government which was increasingly dispirited and prone to the attacks of the opposition. Following on from the recommendations of the Social Justice Commission, Smith launched himself into a new fight to persuade the electorate that Labour were fit for office, combining the Commission’s focuses of fighting unemployment and poverty with the electorate’s new found receptiveness to Labour’s economic credentials. Smith also took a much higher profile in the media, or in the words of Dobson, Smith began to "talk himself up" with the public with determination. As John Major’s premiership increasingly fell victim to its own contradictions, that determination would be put to the test against a revitalised Conservative Party, and, eventually, to the ultimate test of the ballot box two years later…

Taken from Conservatives in Crisis - the Conservative Party Since Thatcher by John Schulzberger (Penguin, 2008)

… John Major’s leadership of the Conservative Party had never been fully secure from almost the very point at which his famous election soapbox had been put into storage after the 1992 general election. The combined effects of pushing through Parliament ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, with the resultant polarisation of the party, ‘Black Wednesday’, and the Conservatives’ increasingly poor polling numbers, all set against a backdrop of a continually dwindling Commons majority - which had never been substantial to begin with - had made the Prime Minister politically anaemic. ‘Sleaze’, divisions within the Cabinet, substantial by-election defeats - all these and more combined to ask people not ‘if’, but ‘when’. Although Conservatives frequently reassured themselves with the knowledge that a Labour victory had been expected in 1992, and had yet not materialised when polling day had arrived, (and in doing so discounting the evidence which points to a likely Conservative lead going into the 1992 campaign which the polls simply failed to register) by 1995 the situation was too far gone to render such an argument plausible. There comes a point in examining polling data where an impartial observer can almost be assured of a defeat for that party at the next general election; the polls in the 1990-1992 period, where both parties were relatively level, clearly did not fall into this category. With Labour routinely achieving a twenty-point lead in MORI, Gallup, and ICM by 1994, such an observer coming to that conclusion would be on firmer ground. [3]

For the Prime Minister, the polling evidence, however, must have seemed a rather distant trouble compared to those which were more immediate. For there was an increasing prospect that John Major would not lead the Conservatives into the next election. Indeed, some considered such a prospect implausible - perhaps even, increasingly, the Prime Minister himself. The Prime Minister had already had a taste of his colleagues’ displeasure the previous year, as we have seen, when, after the disastrous European and local election results, a campaign had been struck up for a leadership ballot. [4] The vortex of rumour, speculation, and self-obsession within the party was perhaps the point at which Major’s premiership went from being simply terminally damaged, but yet limping forward, to being crippled. When Sir Anthony Meyer had challenged Margaret Thatcher in 1989 he had been decisively defeated, but he had also taken away the stigma of challenging a sitting Prime Minister openly, which would have fatal results for Thatcher a year later. A similar pattern can be seen with Christopher Gill’s leadership challenge of 1994, realised in November after a hot summer of briefing and speculation regarding Major’s position. The eventual culmination resulted in Gill receiving forty-six votes, with ten abstentions, and never was Major regarded as being in immediate danger by the press. Yet the press had interpreted the result as a severe blow to the authority of the Prime Minister. Increasing press speculation centred around Michael Heseltine as a possible replacement; as the Prime Ministers’ personal standing continued to degrade over the winter, so did Major’s mood…

Taken from The Telegraph, the 5th of April, 1995: 'Smith reshuffles Shadow Cabinet'

JOHN Smith reshuffled his front bench team yesterday, in a move which has been widely regarded as preparing Labour’s shadow cabinet for the possibility of a general election.

Frank Dobson becomes Shadow Home Secretary, after his acclaimed handling of Labour’s response to the ‘Homes for Votes’ affair in London. [5] Tony Blair, who Mr Dobson takes over from, replaces Jack Cunningham as Shadow Foreign Secretary. Mr Blair, although lacking in experience of his new brief, is widely regarded as strongly pro-European, and will be sure to support Mr Smith’s own convictions in that respect. It has been suggested that some in Labour’s higher circles have been disappointed by Mr Cunningham’s handling of Labour’s response to the Maastricht Treaty, [6] and the failure to fully exploit the Conservatives’ difficulties over that issue. Mr Cunningham has been transferred to take over the Northern Ireland brief from Kevin McNamara, who has left the opposition front bench over what are understood to be policy differences in relation to his brief.

In many respects, it is a cautious reshuffle. Gordon Brown remains as Shadow Chancellor, and David Clark, [7] Ann Taylor, David Blunkett, and Robin Cook [8] all similarly remain at their current shadow portfolios, suggesting that there is unlikely to be any significant changes in Labour’s overall direction over the coming months…

Taken from The Longman Companion to the Conservative Party since 1830 by N.J. Crowson, (Longman, 2001) ‘First 1995 Conservative Leadership Election’

Triggered by the continuing weakness of John Major’s leadership of the party. Major decided to directly confront his critics through a leadership election - probably pre-emptively - telling his MPs to "back me or sack me". Major was challenged by his Welsh Secretary, the right-wing eurosceptic John Redwood. The Sun famously called the contest "Redwood vs. Deadwood", although the result was close and was not a foregone conclusion. In the event, the move backfired even though Major won the contest. The election followed soon after huge losses in the local elections earlier in the month, [9] which was the most immediate trigger for the contest.

1995 - First Ballot (16th of May)

John Major 204
John Redwood 101 [10]
12 Spoilt Papers
9 Abstentions / Not Voting

Major wins, however more than 1/3rd of MPs vote against or abstain. Decides to resign.

Taken from The Tories - Conservatives and the Nation State 1922-1997 by Alan Clark, (Phoenix, 1998)

… Major had, statistically speaking, won. The arcane party rules demanded that a candidate receive at least 15% more than their nearest challenger - In addition to a simple majority - to prevent a second round - this Major easily achieved, winning against Redwood by a margin of over thirty percent. But, in another sense, the result was a serious blow to Major’s leadership; a knockout, as it happened. Well over a third of his colleagues had declined to ‘back’ him, and had instead opted, for whatever reasons - and many were surely voting for Redwood, on instruction, merely as a means by which to displace Major in favour of other preferred candidates - for the option of sacking him, or at least, failing to endorse him; one hundred and twenty-two, in all. This was serious.

A more strident figure would have been quite content to carry on under such circumstances. The Prime Minister remained personally popular in the country. [11] But Major was by now totally exhausted, and could be entirely forgiven for believing that the party should now be left to stew in it’s own juices. Major had talked of resignation before, more in a sense of personal frustration than anything else, but, now combined with the impact of Redwood - who, it must be remembered, drew from no greater status than that of Welsh Secretary - the decision was more or less out of his hands; Major was gleefully described by the press as ‘hamstrung’, or, more widely and confidently, ‘totally finished’. [12] As so often happens, the interpretation of a political event in the heat of the moment was more important than the actual real quality of it. Backbenchers began to feverishly talk of a replacement before the Prime Minister had even announced his intentions, such as they were. And those in Cabinet who were now already eyeing the succession clearly had no reason to attempt to dissuade him from his determined course of action …

Taken from The Longman Companion to the Labour Party, 1900-1998 by Harry Harmer, (Longman, 1999)

Commission on Social Justice - Independent commission, established by John Smith in 1992 to establish a fairer means of structuring the tax, benefits and social security regimes. The commission, chaired by Gordon Borrie, was composed of some figures from within the Labour Party, but also consisted of members from academia and from non-political backgrounds.

The commission examined aspects of welfare, housing, social policy, the tax system, education and skills, and local government. Much of the ethos of the commission‘s report, although not always it’s exact policy recommendations, would guide future Labour policy in these areas and set much of the tone that Labour would take into the future. Of particular note was its championing of ending poverty, welfare-to-work schemes, and a high-skill labour market. [13]

Taken from John Major - The Autobiography, (HarperCollins, 2000)

… as I had always believed in being even-handed with not just my party, but the public and ministerial colleagues. I had always made it plain that I had no wish to lead a divided party, a party that no longer was content with itself to allow me to continue.

No matter how powerful a Prime Minster may be, however threatening they may be able to paint themselves, they must always serve with the consent of the Cabinet, their party, the Sovereign, and the electorate. I have no doubt that had I wished to continue, my Cabinet colleagues would have supported me in such a decision, but a Prime Minister cannot dismiss or lessen the opinion of those outside the Cabinet Room of Downing Street. I believe that my decision was still correct, although I have often re-assessed it, and in some honesty, have sometimes wondered if I made the best choice in the circumstances. But the simple fact remains - when a Prime Minister has more than a third of his party, that is, well over a hundred backbenchers voting against him in anger, rather than in a true, full and open, well-mannered contest for a vacancy, then he is swimming against a rising tide. It would not have been in the interests of the country, my party, or, indeed, my own contentment to continue under such circumstances… [14]

Taken from The Tories - Conservatives and the Nation State 1922-1997 by Alan Clark, (Phoenix, 1998)

… Lamont, despite being a member of Redwood’s campaign team in the first contest, now declared. [15] Lamont had been for the most part pre-occupied for the most part with political difficulties of his own. Having been deselected by his party association in Kingston-Upon-Thames, he was searching for a new constituency, and, indeed, many suggested at the time that the bid was an attempt to ‘confirm’ a place in the next parliament by demonstrating his support in it. Certainly, if he had a good showing - sixty votes or so - a safe Tory seat surely beckoned. But some considered, however improbable it may seem in retrospect, that Lamont had a good chance of actually succeeding. Surely he could better Redwood? And then, with Clarke and Heseltine dividing over the left of the party, Lamont could emerge as the ‘unity’ candidate. Was this ever a serious prospect? Perhaps not. Certainly, however, Lamont’s first round tally was, for an ex-Chancellor who had been sacked purely because he had become an electoral liability, high. But Redwood’s public appeal was as, if not more limited, than Lamont’s. Lamont had gravitas. Lamont had respect in the party - of a peculiar sort, almost verging on the negative, but certainly present. Redwood was, by contrast, ‘flaky.’

There are hints, barely discernable in the overall durm und strang, but nevertheless present in this, of the fascination with Europe which was engulfing the party. For what was Lamont to the party, or the party to him? Lamont simply represented to Tory backbenchers a far more weightier Eurosceptic object than Redwood. Redwood had been useful in displacing Major. He had served that purpose well enough. But thanks in part to recent events, stock was now low for a man who was already, when he was mentioned at all, caricatured in the press as ‘the Vulcan’. As Redwood was to discover, the Parliamentary Conservative Party is an inconstant body.

Whatever his faults or qualities, Major was firmly of the past. Now, emboldened, the right sensed their chance to ‘re-claim’ the party. The alternative was unthinkable…[16]

Taken from John Smith - A Life by Mark Stuart (Politicos, 2005)

.. Although some have read into Smith’s political positioning in the run up to the general election a deliberate attempt to heal the divide between modernisers and traditionalists within the party, the stance Smith took was purely of his own creation and reflected his own deep political concerns. The mood of both policy thinking, as epitomised by the Social Justice Commission‘s report, and the general mood within the party at the time, neatly dovetailed with Smith’s own inclination of a strong economy together with a fair society. Marrying social justice and a concern for poverty reduction with a belief in a booming market economy was not a contrivance on the part of Smith for the benefit of party management, but something which he felt deeply and sincerely.

Despite this preface, however, the divide between the differing wings of the party was increasingly minimised, at least on policy terms if not on more ephemeral considerations of presentation. With perhaps the sole exception of taxation, the policies that were laid down under Smith’s leadership received the welcome of, by far and away, the mainstream of party and shadow cabinet opinion. The hesitancy of modernisers over Smith’s leadership would extend up to the general election, but much of the bitter arguments over what the party should commit to in policy terms seemed increasingly outmoded and fringe as time went on….

Taken from Portillo - the Unofficial Version by Tom Marham, (Politicos, 2000)

… During the first 1995 leadership election, Portillo had been tipped as the most likely member of the Cabinet to challenge Major. Days after Major’s resignation as leader, Portillo had met with John Redwood at Portillo’s Commons office. Redwood, having just resigned from the Cabinet, had said that he would join with Portillo as his number two if he so wished - but Portillo had to run with him on the first round. Portillo had declined - he had wanted Redwood to finish off Major, then to come in himself, a suggestion which Redwood was understandably contemptuous of. Portillo’s reticence was thrown wide open when it came to light that he had installed telephone lines in a potential campaign HQ in 11 Lord North Street, a fact which Major, in the Commons, would jokingly ascribe to the effects of telecoms privatisation. But the damage was done. Portillo came from the affair looking both gutless and disloyal, alienating much of the middle-ground support he would need for a successful challenge. [17] A Newsnight report, based on an interview with Portillo, suggesting that he believed he could be leader within six months had a similar effect. Party loyalists were not impressed.

Portillo had fully intended to enter the contest if Major fell. He did not believe, as some did, that the Tories would benefit from a spell in opposition. But by the time Major had been toppled, events had largely passed Portillo by. Redwood and Lamont had already formed around themselves a strong nucleus of support and momentum from the right, whilst Heseltine was clearly the anointed favourite of the leadership and the party establishment, and he quickly gained high profile endorsements from within Cabinet and from the press. And, even while Portillo began preparing himself for entry, the swift declaration of Lamont meant that the vote of the right would, if Portillo entered, be split at least three ways, a situation which would be compounded by Lady Thatcher’s endorsement of Lamont a few days after the announcement of his candidacy. [18] (Although the question necessarily arises as to whether this would have been so with Portillo in the contest) Redwood - who would entertain a strong dislike of Portillo ever after the above episode, which would be a key factor in his later endorsement of Ken Clarke - would never withdraw in his favour now - Heseltine would clearly and crucially gain the highest number of votes in the first round. In an open contest, should Heseltine win, would Portillo secure any significant advantage? Heseltine would surely not appoint him Foreign Secretary; Defence would surely go to Michael Mates. Although some of his friends suggest that his approaches to Heseltine were merely ‘probing’ and he was surprised at how high Heseltine was prepared to pay, the simpler explanation seems more likely; Portillo lost his nerve - again. That meant that the heir to Thatcher would have to do the unthinkable, and cut a deal with Heseltine; Portillo’s later ‘apostasy’ would be traced by some to this moment. Portillo bluffed. He expected, he told Heseltine, ample reward for not standing. If Heseltine wasn’t prepared to do that - then Portillo would stand against him, and would take a greater part of the Parliamentary party with him in a long contest, with no assurance that he would serve under Heseltine. He might even win. But Portillo craved office, and recognition. He had no wish to be a backbench rebel. Heseltine, above all, craved the Premiership, perhaps by this point almost at any price - the bluff worked…

… And yet despite all his misjudgements, despite all the accusations that would be thrown at him, Portillo would still come out on top, and as the acknowledged leader of the ‘serious’ right in Cabinet and the party. Could his opponents say as much about their success? …

Taken from The Longman Companion to the Conservative Party since 1830 by N.J. Crowson, (Longman, 2001) ‘Second 1995 Conservative Leadership Election’

Held after Major’s resignation. Heseltine was the overwhelming favourite, [19] particularly after Michael Portillo declined to run.

1995 - First Ballot (23rd of May)

Michael Heseltine 108
Malcolm Rifkind 55
Michael Howard 49 [20]
Kenneth Clarke 46 [21]
Norman Lamont 41
John Redwood 26
1 Abstention

No overall winner. Second round required. Rifkind, Howard and Clarke withdraw and endorse Heseltine. Redwood withdraws.

Taken from The Tories - Conservatives and the Nation State 1922-1997 by Alan Clark, (Phoenix, 1998)

… Redwood was asked - pro bono publico - to step down in favour of Lamont. Redwood hesitated. There was still a chance that something might ‘happen’ in the second round. But Lamont was flushed with success, and doubtless enjoying his renewed position as the toast of the Eurosceptic right, and ‘the heavies’ were sent in. Redwood relented. All now rested upon Lamont achieving first place in the second ballot. With that he would, surely, be unstoppable. It was unlikely, but against Heseltine and Clarke it was - just - possible…

Taken from The Longman Companion to the Conservative Party since 1830 by N.J. Crowson, (Longman, 2001) ‘Second 1995 Conservative Leadership Election’

The second ballot was viewed as a simple confirmation of Heseltine as leader, although there was interest in how much support Lamont could attract. Although Heseltine was convincingly elected, the ballot did demonstrate the power of eurosceptic opinion within the party as Lamont took nearly a hundred votes.

1995 - Second Ballot (30th of May)

Michael Heseltine 202
Norman Lamont 96
20 Spoilt Papers
8 Abstentions

Heseltine elected.

Taken from John Smith - A Life by Mark Stuart (Politicos, 2005)

… The arrival of Heseltine as Prime Minister had an immediate effect on the opinion polls, and in August a MORI/Times poll put the Tories at 34%, Labour at 40%, and the Lib Dems at 22%; the Tories’ highest poll rating recorded by any organisation for nearly two years. Despite this more upbeat mood for the Conservatives, the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election in late July, at the peak of Heseltine’s personal impact, was still badly lost to them, a factor which has often been cited as staying Heseltine’s hand in contemplating calling a snap general election. Smith’s steadiness during this period is notable, and a testament to his political nerves. Less experienced leaders might have panicked in such a situation and dived into some new policy offensive, but Smith did not.

Partly this was due to Smith’s priming of his famed ‘statement of first principles’ for the party conference later in the year, a process which, as we have seen, had already begun earlier in the year. Smith had always declared debate over Clause Four as “academic”, but Smith also recognised that the party ‘staying still’ in terms of it’s public image was not an option, and that Labour had to convince to public of its case. At the same time, Smith knew that he had to reconcile the desire of the ‘modernisers’, with the desire of the party as a whole to retain it’s basic identity as one committed to equality, ending poverty, and social justice, and Clause Four was the ultimate heritage symbol of that. It was characteristic of Smith that his solution appealed to both these desires - his ‘statement of first principles’ outlined a modern, compassionate vision, which, whilst rejecting the dogmatic language of Clause Four, was inclusive and made no claims to subvert that particular party totem. [22] Issued soon after Shadow Cabinet reshuffle in May, the ‘statement’ would draw wide support, and it was, unsurprisingly, adopted overwhelmingly by the annual party conference in the Autumn. In his speech to conference recommending the ‘statement’ Smith invited the party to “utilise it’s precious democratic tradition to speak directly to the public of Great Britain.”. The measure would be passed overwhelmingly, which was rightly interpreted as a triumph for Smith’s leadership. If there was any remaining hesitation in the public over the extent to which not just the Labour leadership, but the party itself had changed, then the passing of the statement easily dispelled such doubts…

Taken from The Tories - Conservatives and the Nation State 1922-1997 by Alan Clark, (Phoenix, 1998)

… The way Heseltine went about this was, in many ways, shameless. His closest cronies were showered with patronage. All members of his most immediate entourage* received high promotion - with the left capturing, crucially, the ‘strategic’ post of Party Chair - despite variable or limited service in the past or, indeed, the lingering air of scandal. But it was also expedient, and, for Heseltine, necessary. He was acutely sensitive to the right, particularly after his bargain with Portillo. [23] An election was visible on the horizon, and Heseltine needed to build up his ‘base’ as swiftly as possible. Political decency was a side concern. [24] Heseltine certainly had no wish to follow in the footsteps of his two immediate predecessors, whose downfalls he had been intimately - and, in the first case, extremely proactively - involved in. Clarke [25] was sent to the Foreign Office, a move which appealed to his ego [26] and indicated what was to come in respect of the government’s European policy. Rifkind was sidelined into the role of Deputy Prime Minister; doubtless an attempt to corral Clarke’s ambitions. Other ministers who had become a liability to him, such as Jonathon Aitken, [27] were quickly dispatched, as part of the wider impression that the government was ‘getting tough‘…

* Messers Hampson, Ottaway, Powell, and Mates. Keith Hampson was made Minister of State at Education; Mates became Defence Secretary; Ottaway became an Under Secretary at the DTI; Bill Powell became a Vice-Chair of the Party. Mates at least had five years as Chair of the Defence Select Committee to recommend his promotion; Ottaway, Powell and Hampson’s selection were more clearly influenced by other considerations.

Appendix



H E R M A J E S T Y ’ S G O V E R N M E N T




(The Cabinet, as composed under the Ministry of The Rt. Hon. Michael Heseltine, MP, July, 1995)



Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party - The Rt. Hon. Michael Heseltine, MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury - The Rt. Hon. Michael Portillo, MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs - The Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke, QC, MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department - The Rt. Hon. Michael Howard, QC, MP
Deputy Prime Minister, First Secretary of State, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons - The Rt. Hon. Malcolm Rifkind, QC, MP
Secretary of State for Education and Science - The Rt. Hon. William Waldegrave, MP
Secretary of State for Defence - The Rt. Hon. Michael Mates, MP
Secretary of State for Transport - The Rt. Hon. John Gummer, QC, MP
Secretary of State for Health - The Rt. Hon. Gillian Shepherd, MP
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade - The Rt. Hon. Ian Lang, MP
Secretary of State for the Environment - The Rt. Hon. Sir George Young, Bt., MP
Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food - The Rt. Hon. David Curry, MP
Secretary of State for Social Security - The Rt. Hon. Peter Lilley, MP
Secretary of State for Employment - The Rt. Hon. Virginia Bottomley, MP
Secretary of State for the Arts and National Heritage - The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Blatch of Hinchingbrooke, CBE, FRSA, PC
Secretary of State for Scotland - The Rt. Hon. Michael Forsyth, MP
Secretary of State for Wales - The Rt. Hon. Rod Richards, MP
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland - The Rt. Hon. Dr. Brian Mawhinney, MP
Chief Secretary to the Treasury - The Rt. Hon. Gerry Malone, MP
Lord Chancellor - The Rt. Hon. The Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, QC, PC
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Conservative Chief Whip - The Rt. Hon. Tristan Garel-Jones, MP
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for Competitiveness and Investment - The Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hanley, MP
Minister without Portfolio and Chairman of the Conservative Party - The Rt. Hon. Stephen Dorrell, MP
Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords - The Rt. Hon. The Viscount Cranborne, DL, PC

Notes and Clarifications


[1] You may note that I’ve completely ASBd away Smith’s second heart attack. I don’t think it’s realistic to have him suffer a second non-fatal heart attack and for him to continue in place; I think there’d be too much pressure on him to retire, not least from his family. So I think it’s more realistic if we deploy the ASBs, perversely enough. Considering its an ‘invisible’ health-related POD, I’m not too bothered about this, but it’s the only ASB I’ll be using in the TL. Smith’s overall health is not really changed from OTL.

[2] ‘OMOV’ - One Member, One Vote - was a major reform to Labour’s constitution which re-balanced the mechanism for electing the leader of the party away from the trade unions. In OTL, it is pretty much the only substantive thing Smith is remembered for as leader; here it will be painted much smaller in the overall scheme of things.

[3] Smith was already achieving such leads in OTL before he died; here they have continued in a similar fashion. They have not skyrocketed as they did under Blair, but they are still consistently significant.

[4] In OTL, the fallout from these elections was greatly mitigated for the Conservatives, as Smith’s death, the resultant public sympathy, and the media attention on Labour all combined to take the political fire off John Major; here the media is much more doggedly focused, and things get much more tense within the Tory ranks.

Gill was a Maastricht rebel and critic of Major in OTL; here he is more or less pressganged into standing against him.

[5] Dobson was a frontbench spokesman on matters relating to London from 1993 onwards.

[6] Not really; Smith just wants a steady hand at Northern Ireland, although Cunningham probably isn’t too happy about it all the same, albeit slightly placated perhaps by an assurance that he still matters will be promoted if anything ‘comes up’.

I did this reshuffle partly for plot reasons, partly because Smith kept the major portfolios almost totally unchanged during his time as leader - I suspect that there would be one big reshuffle in him before the election. What the results of it would be are of course entirely speculative, but Blair was reportedly offered a choice between the foreign affairs brief and home affairs in ‘92, but went for the latter - I can see him being amenable to moving across by this point after making his name in the less prestigious post. As doubtless more than one recent occupant of the post could testify, Home Secretaries often have a difficult ride in government; the Foreign Office is an easier department in some respects. Famous last words…

[7] David Clark was an ‘old’ Labour figure who held a number of Shadow Portfolios whilst Labour was in opposition, right up to 1997, principally that of Defence. In OTL, he was a very minor figure in the first Labour Cabinet, who was quickly sacked by Blair in his first reshuffle. Here, he is likely to play a much more significant role if Labour wins the next general election.

[8] Shadow Defence, Education, Health, and Trade and Industry Secretaries respectively.

[9] These elections are severe for the Conservatives, but not so much as in OTL; the difference here is that they follow on from six months of speculation and rumour following the first leadership challenge. That results in a contest two months earlier than in OTL, with much worse consequences for Major.

[10] In addition to the above mentioned speculation, there are a few reasons why Redwood does a little better here (twelve votes better, in fact) than in OTL. Tory MPs feel a bit more threatened by the prospect of losing to a Smith-lead Party than OTL’s Blair-lead Party; some also feel, on the other hand, more liberated to vote against Major as Smith is not doing quite as well as Blair did in OTL; combined with the continuing electoral disasters, it’s all a very pointed reminder to Tories in marginal seats, who have already been bricking themselves ever since Black Wednesday, if they needed one, that they haven’t won a single by-election now in over six years.

But above all, there’s the very notable fact that without Smith dying of a heart-attack as in OTL, Heseltine is still seen as a viable leadership contender, whereas in OTL, Smith’s death more or less put the kibosh on that notion because of the health implications. So one or two MPs favourable to the notion of a Heseltine takeover might decide he’s more credible here than in OTL; it’s enough to push Major over the edge.

[11] This is complete bollocks of course. Major was deeply unpopular; his approval poll ratings are reaching levels of historical unpopularity by this point. Clark is hardly the most scrupulously reliable of writers in some respects.

[12] In OTL, the journalistic consensus leading up this vote was that Redwood had to attract less than a hundred votes for Major to survive - in light of Major’s greater difficulties ITTL, that figure may even be reduced here. In OTL, Major survived in large part because his supporters vociferously said he had; that analysis is much less plausible here.

[13] A sub-debate about what Smith would have done if he had lived is how he would have responded to the recommendations of this commission, set up by himself at the beginning of the 1992 Parliament. The commission was designed to give some ideological and policy coherence to Labour in the run up to the general election, setting out a broad strategy for Labour in government.

In OTL Blair, immersed in electoral positioning at this point in time and not giving much of a care about policy, was not really interested in this report, and it more or less disappeared without a trace. Smith, by contrast, is sitting down to the hard work of policy by this stage and is positively evangelical about it, using it’s conclusions as a base for future policy strategy.

Perhaps ironically, the report is mostly stuff which could sit comfortably within the rubric of at least Brown-style new Labour; it emphasised economic competitiveness, welfare-to-work, ending poverty, learning and skills, and so on; I see distant echoes of the report in the way Brown positioned himself in opposition to Blair during the latter’s premiership in OTL, stressing some of the aforementioned issues above more Blairite concerns like public sector reform. Even when Brown speaks on these issues, I’m kind of reminded of the tenor of this report.

None of this is inconsistent, incidentally, with Smith’s thinking; in fact it entirely reinforces it. I’d go so far as to say that Smith’s political raison d’etre was, in fact, blending economic competitiveness with social justice - he was, remember, on the right of Labour, not the left. Smith greatly admired, for example, Germany and Japan, which he perceived to be models of this kind of approach.

So what emerges here is a blending of what we would know as Brownite stuff, with Smith’s own idiosyncratic policy thinking; the tone for Smith will be Brown-like, and we would be able to recognise many policy positions in the ATL as Brownite, but both Smith and Labour are still to the left of what we know as ‘new’ Labour, be it Brown or Blair-style.

[14] In OTL, Major has stated that he was only a few votes away from resigning in 1995, and that he had a minimum total of 215, below which would be immediate resigning territory. Major’s mood is also worse here than in OTL; his negativity over his prospects, which was already quite pronounced in OTL, is more severe.

[15] Lamont was continually mentioned as a stalking-horse candidate in OTL under Major, but in the event kept his powder dry for the duration; here he believes his big chance has come, and considering the lack of major opposition to Heseltine from more serious figures on the right, he makes quite a go of it.

[16] Well, unthinkable to Clark at least.

[17] Mr Miliband, take note…

All of this section is as per OTL, by the way, save obviously for the eventual culmination of ‘the deal’

[18] Thatcher was extremely radicalised at this point on the back of Maastricht, in addition to her general progress towards an anti-EU position after leaving office; in addition, the leadership field is extremely limited here, so she goes with the most ‘sound’ candidate on Europe, despite how unrealistic his prospects. Nevertheless, the endorsement helps Lamont.

[19] Why?

Well, for a start, the health factor is nowhere near as prominent as it was in OTL. Heseltine had a heart attack in 1993, which he had seemingly completely recovered from by 1994, but Smith’s second fatal heart attack raised serious questions about the advisability of putting someone with delicate health into a position of leadership, in effect mostly cutting away Heseltine as a serious leadership prospect. Here, that issue obviously does not arise.

Heseltine was very much seen as ‘the man’ waiting in the wings in 1994 - he was talked up hugely in the press - and even right up to this period in OTL. A lot of the prejudices regarding his conduct against Thatcher had dissipated by this point (as even Alan Clark concedes) and he had attracted some support from the Thatcherite right with his pit closure programme and post office privatisation plan. No-one else would have the breadth of his appeal in the party at this point, or the public stature to make them serious election-tackling material.

He is also ostensibly highly loyal to Major here, as he was in OTL; as stated, Michael Portillo’s camp makes the mistake of installing those telephone lines, as they also did in OTL. Heseltine probably receives Major’s tacit, if not explicit endorsement.

The only other genuine contenders are Clarke and Portillo; Portillo, I think, would stand a reasonable or moderate chance of winning if he runs; (but no more than that - I think Portillo would be riding a very unsteady horse in 1995) here, on balance, I decided to have him not do so. The above section is correct in that Portillo did fully intend to stand in the event of a clear opening, but I would note to readers that opinions of this sort can change quickly with the development of political events, and with his OTL mistakes during the first campaign, and with a Heseltine bandwagon opening up, I decided it would be plausible for him to cut a ‘dream ticket’ deal. This gives him a clear increase in status without any of the risks of running and potentially losing badly.

Clarke - well, Clarke is Clarke - the perpetual also-ran; appealing to some sections of the party, but too abrasive personally, politically idle, and unashamedly of the left of the party in his opinions for the vast majority. His public profile is also not quite as significant as it was in OTL by 1997, nor does he have his full OTL record on the economy to fall back on. In respect of those people who Clarke would naturally appeal to, Heseltine walks all over him in the credibility stakes.

[20] Michael Howard’s candidacy went absolutely nowhere in OTL’s 1997 contest for a variety of reasons - here he is a much more formidable contender, but the circumstances of the contest, with a significant split between the anti-Heseltine vote, do not favour him. (Or Rifkind and Clarke for that matter)

[21] Clarke probably gets a bit too excited and decides to have an impulsive lunge for the leadership (or whatever else is on offer) himself rather than simply endorsing Hezza, a bit similar to OTL’s 1997 contest. It’s not a hugely realistic run, but it does ‘put down a marker’.

[22] Smith thought of doing something very similar shortly before he died. Here, the statement is a means of directing the aims of the Social Justice Commission to the wider electorate in a single, snappy document, at the same time as showing that the party as a whole is behind those aims.

[23] Clark clearly takes this as a given.

[24] Maybe Hezza remembers how Thatcher’s Cabinet went wobbly on her at the critical moment?

The Department of Employment, btw, was merged at this point in OTL with Education - here Heseltine needs to keep more people sweet and so there’s an incentive for keeping the Cabinet larger. In consequence, the department will have a considerably longer lifespan ITTL.

[25] Although Clarke made a rival leadership bid, it hasn’t been viewed particularly seriously; Heseltine needs his allies, and Clarke is eager to oblige.

[26] Because it makes Clarke only the third man behind Rab Butler and Jim Callaghan to ever occupy all three of the Great Offices of State below the PM in the post-war period. (Foreign, Home, Chancellor of the Ex.)

[27] In OTL, Aitken (Chief Secretary to the Treasury) resigned at this time to deal with his, uh, ‘legal troubles’. Here the spin is that he is 'pushed' before he jumps.
 
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I failed to spot Gummer at Transport in v1 of the TL. Interesting concept. The man is/was an environmental fanatic and DoE would have been his natural home, or so I'd have thought. But that's a very minor point in the overall TL. Still, he would have been tasked with the privatisation of British Rail or has that...um...gone off the rails for the time being? No return for Lord Parkinson?

If BR is privatised with Railtrack and the 25 TOCs spun off, I'd expect Smith to have looked at immediate renationalisation of Railtrack at the very least. This would probably lead to wild stories about Labour wanting to renationalise everything. Given the very close links of RMT & ASLEF with the Labour Party (provision of grace and favour accommodation to key MPs etc), it cannot be too far from the agenda.

Then again you know where I work...

And of course with Heseltine as PM, there would be press speculation as who keels over first; Heseltine and Smith both have dodgy hearts. The line of succession for both parties would be of upmost importance. Prescott and Rifkind would technically be next in line for their respective parties but there would be plotters at the slightest whiff of trouble.

One question: with Major safely retired, is Currie going to come forward sooner?
 
Nice update. Still no real criticism, though you have put "it's" when you mean "its" in a few places. The TL itself though is great.

Thanks a lot! Yes, apostrophes are not my strong point, so expect one or two rogue instances here and there.

I failed to spot Gummer at Transport in v1 of the TL.

I am not entirely sure he was at Transport in the original TL, although I could be wrong.

Interesting concept. The man is/was an environmental fanatic and DoE would have been his natural home, or so I'd have thought.

He was at Environment from '93 onwards, but he gets switched over in this reshuffle. In OTL George Young got Transport in '95, while Gummer stayed at Environment until the election - I switched that over ITTL because Young had a long ministerial history at Environment, and seemed a more natural fit there in a cabinet which was more shaken up and in which the PM had more arm-room.

But that's a very minor point in the overall TL. Still, he would have been tasked with the privatisation of British Rail or has that...um...gone off the rails for the time being? No return for Lord Parkinson?

The basic legislation laying it all down was passed in 1993, so there's no changes to the basic framework of privatisation.

The choo choos will be dealt with in full in later updates, probably quite later on in the TL. Labour's policy atm is basically the stated policy of OTL -re-nationalise them, without quite knowing how to do that in practise. Labour ITTL is much more likely to hold onto that policy in practise than Blair, so expect changes there. Bizzarely, even Blair openly committed himself to "a publicly-owned railway system" before the election, but then guttted the policy in practise.

Smith was quite open about nationalisation - which is to say, 'we are not going to do it'. In fact one of the hallmarks of his early leadership was a bit of a crusade against it in the party. So the railways are really a big possible exception to that.

And of course with Heseltine as PM, there would be press speculation as who keels over first; Heseltine and Smith both have dodgy hearts. The line of succession for both parties would be of upmost importance. Prescott and Rifkind would technically be next in line for their respective parties but there would be plotters at the slightest whiff of trouble.

Yes, there will be later problems for Heseltine along those lines. More on that in future updates.

Madge Beckett is still Labour deputy leader btw, and doubtless will be until Smith steps down.

One question: with Major safely retired, is Currie going to come forward sooner?

Not before the election, no. Currie is, remember, still an MP, and it only came out in OTL when she revealed it. She may reveal it earlier than OTL, but not before '97.
 
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The choo choos will be dealt with in full in later updates, probably quite later on in the TL. Labour's policy atm is basically the stated policy of OTL -re-nationalise them, without quite knowing how to do that in practise. Labour ITTL is much more likely to hold onto that policy in practise than Blair, so expect changes there. Bizzarely, even Blair openly committed himself to "a publicly-owned railway system" before the election, but then guttted the policy in practise.

I do vaguely recall the whole Blair "Stakeholder Economy" policy development in 1996 where he outlined something along the lines of Trade Unions and Employers working more collaboratively in running of industry; the publicly-owned railway system would have been a natural extension of said policy (which I think emanated from IPPR rather than the Fabian mob). Certainly the Trade Unions at the time for the most part began dumping their hard-left leaders and replaced them with moderates although this trend was reversed from around 2001 onwards. The ASLEF punch-up never fails to raise a smile, nor does PCS (my union) when Serwotka was elected.

Nozza was in Transport before 1997 - or Steve Norris to the less familiar. But he was a MoS rather than a SoS as I recall. And the 1993 Railway Act did specify that the Railways were to be broken up by the Franchising Director at OPRAF had a lot more power. To sound like a complete anorak (it's my day job, honest), British Railways Board (BRB) took the decision to completely fractionalise the Railway Industry - they held many of the assets from privatisation including most crucially to the future of the Railways, the vast property portfolio of what was BR. In OTL, Prescott et al at DETR were never at ease with the fragmentation of BR and of course the high levels of subsidy despite the ambitious targets set in the 10 Year Transport Plan. Hence if Smith lives, and with Brown and Prescott egging him on, I could see BRB not acting quite so quickly and if there won't be an outright reversal on privatisation, there almost certainly will be divergence in this sector having so many knock on implications.
 
Here's a question I've wondered about- assuming the Tories suffer a slightly less catastrophic defeat in the next election- Labour getting a majority of 100ish rather than 179- will David Cameron be able to take his seat in 1997 that in OTL he was expected to win? Do you intend to have a future role for Cameron in the TL?
 
I do vaguely recall the whole Blair "Stakeholder Economy" policy development in 1996 where he outlined something along the lines of Trade Unions and Employers working more collaboratively in running of industry; the publicly-owned railway system would have been a natural extension of said policy

I think it was actually before that. Then Blair went mad on 'stakeholders.' The policy change happened around conference time 1996.

Nozza was in Transport before 1997 - or Steve Norris to the less familiar. But he was a MoS rather than a SoS as I recall.

Yeah, Norris was a parly sec for transport in London in OTL - since Heseltine took over he has been Minister of State for Transport. No2 in the department, effectively.

Hence if Smith lives, and with Brown and Prescott egging him on, I could see BRB not acting quite so quickly and if there won't be an outright reversal on privatisation, there almost certainly will be divergence in this sector having so many knock on implications.

Yeah, I recall that the TOC sell off went nowhere in OTL because nobody would buy a pup, which is to say, something which would be immediately taken back into the public by Labour - I'll PM you later on this and we'll thrash something out.

Here's a question I've wondered about- assuming the Tories suffer a slightly less catastrophic defeat in the next election- Labour getting a majority of 100ish rather than 179- will David Cameron be able to take his seat in 1997 that in OTL he was expected to win? Do you intend to have a future role for Cameron in the TL?

As of 1996 ITTL, David Cameron is the Conservative PPC for the Kent constituency of Ashford....

Yes, Cameron will figure in BJ although not as a first-rank player. His career will diverge quite signifigantly from OTL. He'll first pop up in the 1997 section, so keep your eyes peeled on that one.

(In OTL he was PPC for Stafford, but lost the seat narrowly - he was selected there after missing a selection meeting in Ashford in December 1994. ITTL, there are just enough butterflies for things turn out a little differently.)


Will post 1996 tommorow (no major revisions there) then it's onto 1997, part I on Friday.
 
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1996


Taken from John Smith - A Life by Mark Stuart (Politicos, 2005)

… The impact of Heseltine has been disputed by psephologists and commentators, but he was almost undoubtedly the impetus for increasing tensions within Labour’s frontbench. In particular, Blair, Straw, and other members of the shadow cabinet, as we have seen, were already uneasy about the course Smith had chosen to pursue, believing that he was essentially uncommitted to a serious reform of the party which was needed to ensure electoral victory. Although Smith had arguably risked his leadership over OMOV, and thereby had a proven tack record in reform, these modernisers remained unconvinced, and in particular after Heseltine’s election a fresh surge of unease ran through long-standing critics of Smith’s leadership. Straw in particular seems to have been considering renewing a call he had previously made several years before for a re-assessment of Clause Four in late 1995, although events would overtake him on that score. While Smith’s ‘statement’ appeased the modernisers for a time, it was no more than a temporary respite in a continuing saga over the direction - increasingly in particular the presentational direction - of the party. Brown’s disagreements with Smith over economic policy and how precisely to weight and couch the balance of redistribution in the next manifesto continued unabated, and some also privately questioned the wisdom of moving Blair in the reshuffle from a portfolio in which he was seen to be making an impact with the public over crime and disorder. Although the desire for something different never took on precise contours - Blair batted around the concept of ‘new’ Labour for a time, a vague and passing notion with few ideological details - the desire was still real and evident. Many had more serious worries about Smith as an individual, which went beyond his leadership itself. The extent to which Smith could realistically appeal to the large swathe of the electorate located in England was a continuing, if largely unexpressed concern for some. The notion of Smith being a ‘Celt’, who could not appeal to the South of England however, seems now seems rather eccentric when set against Smith’s public image. Even Smith’s accent seemed, at times, to be distinctly lacking in Scottish timbre. Perhaps these concerns at the time ran to a deeper, more visceral, instinctive distrust; a largely unfocused aversion to the (instinctively left-leaning) politics of Scottish Labour which ran behind Smith, and which was expressed most emphatically in Monklandsgate.

Monklands Council had come into being in the local government reforms of 1974. There was no single place called ‘Monklands‘; instead the council was comprised of various areas of Lanarkshire, principally the two towns of Coatbridge, which was predominantly Catholic, and Airdrie, which was mainly Protestant. Monklands was an altogether strange place, one which would have probably been deeply curious to an English observer, or even someone not acquainted with Central Scotland. In this area, Labour was completely dominant, to the effective exclusion of all other parties; Smith’s 1992 majority in Monklands East had been 15,712, with the SNP a very distant second. As so often in such places where pluralistic political competition is virtually unknown, potential malpractice was a constantly lingering concern. The fact that the area was so sharply divided religiously did nothing to ease this. A Labour insider was later to comment that the whole set of allegations were symptomatic of “machine politics at it’s worst.” Were they?

The allegations surrounding Monklands were based on three aspects; That Labour Councillors, from the predominantly Catholic Coatbridge had favoured that area over the mainly Protestant Airdrie; that projects and spending had been allocated accordingly; and that nepotism had been rife, including a two-tier application system for positions with the Council.

It is worth establishing that the story regarding Monklands of sectarianism was untrue at the basic level; the four suspended Labour Councillors, who had fallen out with the Labour leadership were all Catholics. Equally, the extent to which Coatbridge had been favoured is questionable; Coatbridge had the most available land, and excluding capital projects, Coatbridge and Airdrie receive roughly equal amounts of money. In respect of the application process, the Council pointed out that the notorious pink and green forms - apparently only available to favoured candidates - issue was moot, in so far as that green forms were entirely freely available to the public. The suggestions of nepotism was more closely studied. A local investigation concluded that, damagingly, twenty-two relatives of Councillors were employed, and that close relatives were apparently not even interviewed for seasonal jobs. But in an area like Monklands, where the Council formed one of the main employers, and the town was relatively closely-knit and of a fixed population. Large, extended families were common….

… Smith’s continued response to the affair had been t insist that it was a local matter, and to stay broadly clear of wading into the issue. This had drawn great criticism, not least from some Tory opponents, most notable David Shaw, the MP for Dover, who had vexatiously raised the question in the House. More than anything else, Monklandsgate raised questions about Smith’s style of leadership. Would it not have been better for Smith to have acted decisively in Monklands, even at the risk of being proven wrong to some extent later, than allow the issue to simmer? Such a suggestion ignores Smith’s fundamental belief in fairness and his lack of Kinnock-style high-handedness, which most people would now believe to have been his strongest suit. It seems implausible to ague that Smith impulsively embroiling himself in he affair directly would have strengthened, rather than weakened his position.

To clarify the issue, Smith wrote to Ian Lang, the Secretary of State for Scotland, asking for an inquiry into the issue under Section 211 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act of 1973. Lang responded that such powers were not provided for in the Act, and the fight went on. By January 1995, the Monklands authority had voted for hold it’s own investigation into the affair, to be chaired by Professor Robert Black, QC, chair of Scots Law at Edinburgh. [28] This was but a stop-gap measure; the inquiry’s powers were feeble, it’s budget truncated, and it lacked a proper judicial summing-up, which was replaced instead with a simple regurgitation of the evidence.

Partly, it had been suggested, to contrast with the weakness of this report, Lang finally ordered an inquiry, as Smith had originally requested. This was a much stronger business, head by William Nimmo Smith, QC, and with full power to summon witnesses. When the report concluded in February 1996, Nimmo Smith concluded that “There is no evidence that any appointment to paid office or employment with the Council .. Had been otherwise than on merit.” Aside from also rebuking David Shaw - “I regard his attitude as irresponsible“ - the other main conclusion that was a typical party coterie who were jealous of their power, albeit in slightly coded terms:

"I had a strong impression that here was a substance to the perception that political power was exercised by a small number of Coatbridge councillors. Councillor Brooks (Provost of the Council) in particular struck me as a strong-willed man who liked to control the exercise of power .. If power is exercised in such a way as to lead to a sense of exclusion, suspicions are more readily aroused and rumours and allegations gain currency."

Was this the sum total of Monklandsgate? That of a falling out between sections of a Labour grouping which had grown complacent? It seems hard to believe, and, certainly, the issue would rumble on in some form until after the next election. To this day, there are some who believe that Monklandsgate represented the ‘unfinest hour’ of Smith early leadership. But the Nimmo Smith report certainly allowed Smith to re-affirm his original position - that of non-involvement - and drew a line under the issue. As Smith had assumed a much higher profile in the media over the last year, indeed, it seemed as if he was now mainly concentrated on a serious, undisturbed challenge in the next general election.

One more surprise lay in wait for Smith, one which followed almost directly on the back of the easing of the circumstances surrounding Monklands. Four days after the publication of the Nimmo Smith report, on Saturday the 17th of February, a man was found unconscious and dishevelled in the garden of a semi-detached house in London, near Clapham Common. The occupants of the house became aware of the man’s presence around 11:30PM and alerted the police. When the police arrived, the man reported that he had no knowledge of how he had found himself in such circumstances, but that his wallet and car keys had been stolen, as well as several other peripheral items, and the man went with the police to report on the incident. At the station, the police reportedly found some drugs paraphernalia on the man’s person which he had no recollection of obtaining. The man was cautioned and released without charge.

This incident, minor in the telling, would have gone no further except for one crucial factor - the man involved was Ron Davies, the Shadow Welsh Secretary. The following day, the story was already beginning to seep out into the media, and journalists were already priming their newspapers for the Monday editions. Davies decided to telephone Smith (who was preparing to return from Munro Bagging in Scotland at the time) in the afternoon to give a basic account of what happened, and to arrange a meeting for Monday to provide for a full discussion over Davies’ future. Why Smith did that, and what precisely Davies said during this call has been a matter of debate, but the generally accepted line has been that Davies unintentionally mislead Smith over the precise nature of the incident. Smith himself was later recount how he had great sympathy for Davies. Smith was also unwilling to lose a valued member of the Shadow Cabinet who was, at the time of the incident, steering Labour’s policy formulations in respect of Welsh devolution; a critical job which would be disrupted by Davies’ resignation.

When the Monday papers were published, the notion that Davies had suffered a misfortune as a result of ‘cruising’ in the area he was located in was sufficiently firm for the press to openly publish it. What precisely befell Davies on that night has never fully emerged, but at their Monday meeting, Davies apparently provided Smith with a frank, if not totally full explanation of what he had been doing, and the two mutually agreed that Davies should resign. Derry Irvine, who sat in on the meeting, reports that Smith was very shocked over the whole business. I think John was rather taken by surprise, as many of us were. In those circumstances I think John resolved the situation very well.” Others have been quicker to point the finger of weak leadership at Smith over this issue, which, so they suggest should have been resolved on the Sunday, citing an apparent reticence on the part of Smith to return to deal with the situation.. Derry Irvine supports Smith: “I think to say that John had no hold there is quite untrue. I talked to John on that Sunday and he was already preparing to have to speak to Ann (Clwyd; Davies successor as Shadow Welsh Secretary [29]) on Monday or Tuesday. John was ready for that. He just didn’t want to prejudge the situation or do anything hasty. He wanted the full facts.”

This would be the last misfortune of any real significance Labour would face before the general election, and February 1996 would coincidentally represent one of the low points of Labour‘s standing in the polls under Heseltine. After their main impacts, Heseltine’s leadership would increasingly deteriorate and the focus would shift to the Tories’ increasing divisions. The extent to which either of these episodes damaged Labour is debatable. In all likelihood, the Tories were by that point too mired in the notion of ‘sleaze’ themselves to make that charge stick with anyone else; this was a time of much more notable ‘sleaze‘, in particular the Scott Report and the accusations surrounding Westminster Council. But some within Labour were clearly disquieted at Smith’s handling of Monklands; Smith had, so they believed, been hesitant and had misjudged the public mood. That, on balance, is unfair. However, the Davies affair and Monklandsgate did expose Labour’s vulnerabilities, vulnerabilities which different leadership could, certainly in the latter instance, have lessened. By this reading, Labour were ‘saved‘, ironically enough, by the very man that Davies had been shadowing in the Commons…

Taken from The Tories - Conservatives and the Nation State 1922-1997 by Alan Clark, (Phoenix, 1998)

Heseltine’s position had been upheld by a perception, part real, part imaginary, that he was the best chance the Tories had of winning the next election; indeed, that it was still conceivably possible to win the next election under the right leadership. MPs, largely satiated from their destruction of Major and eager for prospective advancement, had been understandably reluctant to criticise the new regime, and, much like in the 1990-1992 period, instead began to prepare themselves for the immanent prospect of a dissolution. In this unnatural atmosphere, Heseltine began to become more complacent and contemptuous in regards to backbench opinion than he was already naturally inclined to do.

This artificial effect, which served Heseltine well in his first months of office in the polls, would begin to unravel in the New Year. Partly due to Heseltine’s own poor judgement, and partly due to the realisation by his backbenchers of just how pronounced and determined his Europhilia was - which effectively put him to the left of Labour on the issue - the effect would be renew the internal argument mixed with briefing and counter-briefing which had so characterised Major’s last months.

For reasons which remain mostly elusive, Heseltine, upon his succession, had appointed as Welsh Secretary Roderick Richards, who up to that point had been a junior minister in the Welsh Office and had not yet served a full Parliament. Former Conservative Prime Ministers, in sharp contrast to their behaviour towards the more muscular Scottish Office, had always shunned the notion of appointing a Welshman to this position, preferring instead to see the role as an ‘incubator’ of future talent, or as a form of internal exile for opponents. Presumably Heseltine thought that a native of the Principality would be able to more effectively argue against the devolving of power, much as the Scottish Office was to begin doing in this period; perhaps he thought that Richards’ fluency in the Welsh tongue would be an effective device against the Nationalists in the north of Wales. Whatever the motive, this was an appointment which was ill-advised. Richards was already known for his prototypically Welsh personality, which would be impressive in operation within the whips office, but was less impressive in a Secretary of State. Enemies were quickly made.

When allegations began to appear in the press regarding extra-marital activities, therefore, it should have come as little surprise. The real surprise was his appointment. After the inevitable resignation, [30] came the inevitably renewed focus on the behaviour of Ministers, which the press, in it’s wisdom, found to be wanting. The press, which had previously been greatly taken by Heseltine, was released from this adoring slumber and this would trigger a renewed free-for all. Allegations and minor scandals of many years’ standing were re-heated and driven up anew. Mates’ prior instruction to Azil Nadir to not ‘let the bastards* get you down’ was again prominent. By surrounding himself in Cabinet and government with his close confidants at the expense of strong scruples over their personal behaviour, Heseltine had given the ‘sleaze’ suggestion more vigour than it deserved.

The resignation, minor in it’s overall scope, served to illustrate Heseltine’s lack of judgement. Richards was over-promoted, seemingly on no better basis than the fact that he could appeal - and this being utterly inconsequential in electoral terms - to the Celtic fringe in Wales, alongside an excessive desire to bind the Cabinet to Heseltine. Why, indeed had the whips office not alerted Heseltine to the potential liability in Richards’ promotion? An oversight? Unlikely. So who had orchestrated it? …

* H.M Revenue.

Taken from The Independent, the 11th of March, 1996 ‘Heseltine faces crisis on Euro decision’

Michael Heseltine's leadership faced fresh challenges over Europe last night as the anti-EU Referendum Party geared up to fight the government over it’s continued reluctance to commit to a referendum over the Euro, and backbenchers threatened a barrage of dissent if tomorrow's White Paper fails to take a tough line on reducing the powers of Brussels.

There have been calls from some senior Tories for the government to negotiate with the strongly anti-EU tycoon, Sir James Goldsmith, whose self-financed Referendum Party threatens Tories in marginals, and who has reportedly been in discussions with some sitting MPs over possible defection. Sir James has already began funding a series of advertisements in newspapers suggesting that Britain’s fundamental interests are ‘unsafe’ in the hands of the current government.

They reproduce a letter from Sir James to candidates and supporters stating that “Britain should resist further integration absolutely ... There should be a referendum, and it should be not on the Euro, but on the basic issue of our continued membership. Britain has been lead into a European construction which is diametrically opposed to that which was approved by the 1975 referendum.”

The Prime Minister is understood to have been reluctant to openly give a clear commitment to a referendum, believing that it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness in the face of increasing backbench pressure. The Chancellor, who meets today with fellow EU finance ministers to asses growth forecasts, upon which a successful launch of the Euro in 1999 would depend, is reported to be increasingly convinced that a referendum will be necessary. Mr Portillo has apparently resisted the notion of a commitment to a referendum up to this point on the grounds that it would suggest a clear aspiration to join the single currency in the future. [31]

Mr Portillo’s economic centrality and continued reservations do not appear to have reassured backbench Eurosceptic rebels. Christopher Gill, the MP for Ludlow, said that the government was “living on another planet”, and that it should “get real”, adding that “Increasing numbers of people are wondering what the exact policy of the government is at the moment. If it is current policy to prepare for entry into the Euro without a referendum, then the government should have the courage to say that.”

Taken from Whatever Happened to the Tories - The Conservatives Since 1945 by Ian Gilmour and Mark Garnett, (Fourth Estate, 1998) ‘Drifting with Dogma - Nearing the End’

The tendencies which plagued Heseltine from early 1996 onwards were, as we have seen, already well established in the minds of many back-bench MPs. Much of the existing prejudices regarding Heseltine had simmered for many years, and, despite him being clearly the only individual who could command the respect and ability to steer the party into the election, and despite the favourable ‘honeymoon’ Heseltine had enjoyed in late 1995, back-bench MPs became slowly but progressively incensed as what they saw as his ‘betrayal’, principally over European issues. Heseltine’s policy, which under the circumstances was eminently sensible, was to decide on entry to the Euro and its conditions at a later date, and focus on winning the next election. Heseltine was entirely correct in believing that the concessions which Major had often provided for the eurosceptic right had only emboldened them further, and was determined not to repeat his predecessor’s mistake. Eurosceptic backbenchers, however, whose heads at this point were governed by ideology rather than common sense, were unlikely to be swayed by Heseltine’s arguments. That was to engender precisely the kind of image of a ‘split party’ which would make the Tories unelectable. The behaviour of many of these individuals, some of them former Cabinet ministers, in caballing against Heseltine, contrasted poorly with Heseltine’s own behaviour under John Major, which had been exemplary.

There had already been examples of this before the New Year, such as when David Heathcoat-Amory had resigned from the government in October over the European issue. [32] As the far-right was abandoning Heseltine’s government, more reasonable MPs were abandoning the party. Emma Nicholson would defect to the Liberal Democrats in January, and would shortly be followed by Peter Thurnman. Both MPs cited the Nolan findings as their ‘breaking point’; [33] some of Heseltine’s more questionable appointments did not help to lessen the perception of ‘sleaze’ amongst the public. Some indeed, such as the new Welsh Secretary, Rod Richards, were forced to resign almost as soon as they had been appointed. Heseltine’s overall approach to the Cabinet was unwise and the ongoing anaemia from resignations would lessen Heseltine’s position in his battles with the right over Europe.

Although there had been consistent rumblings of discontent since Heseltine had taken over the party, the issue would in the event come to a head in May of 1996. Many backbench MPs had used the early part of the year in a guerrilla campaign of briefing and threats, in an attempt to force the Prime Minister to change the government’s policy, ably assited by the anti-government outpourings of Lord Tebbit in the press and the Lords. Michael Portillo, who had been appointed by Heseltine as Chancellor, and was widely considered to be over-promoted, [34] also seemed to join in this foolishness, and stories cluttered the press over the Spring about splits between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor. The fanaticism over Europe had begun to infect even the heart of government. This would reach it’s apogee in May 1996, two months after the Health Secretary, Virginia Bottomley, had told the House of Commons about a possible link between mad-cow disease, and the fatal human equivalent, Creutzfeld-Jakob’s disease.

In the 1980s the Thatcher government’s idolisation of the market and it’s dogmatism with regards to any hint of regulation had lead it, unlike much of the rest of the developed world, to take inadequate action against BSE in cows. This had two consequences: by 1996, Britain had some 180,000 infected cows, nearly twenty times the rest of the EU combined; and many territories not even in Europe, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and Kuwait had for many years banned the import of British beef. Quite sensibly, the EU, subsequent to Bottomley’s announcement, placed a world wide export ban on British beef. While the government declared that it would work as strenuously as possible to end the ban through the EU, whilst reducing the underlying problem of BSE, eurosceptic backbenchers, utterly abandoning all trace of reason and common sense, joined with the tabloid press in railing against what they luridly viewed as the government’s ‘appeasement’ of our European partners. [35] It is typical of this that nothing constructive was ventured by those vehemently opposed to the government’s action, merely that Britain should return to it’s utterly self-defeating Little Englandism of the Thatcher years in respect of Europe.

That was now provided for them in the unlikely shape of Sir James Goldsmith. While castigating ‘unelected Brussels bureaucrats, the eurosceptic right applauded the influence of this unelected foreign-based billionaire, who had decided to buy himself into politics à l‘Americaine, although American billionaires, whilst believing that their wealth entitles them to run the country, at least live there and pay taxes. Goldsmith was seldom in Britain and payed only nominal amounts of taxation. Sir James had earlier launched his Referendum Party as a vehicle for keeping the government to account on the European issue…

…Absurdly, Sir James’ lure now seemed irresistible to those few individuals who had totally abandoned any sort of moderation or political reason. In response to the government’s attitude over BSE, the chair of the backbench ‘92 group, Sir George Gardiner, would defect to the Referendum Party at the end of May, to be followed a week and a half later by the MP for Stroud, Roger Knapman. [36] Both of these individuals, prior to their crossing of the floor, had been deservedly obscure, but their defections, much like the ill-fated SDP many years before, sought to provoke similar action by their more senior ideological compatriots. Much like the SDP itself, that would prove to be a vain hope, despite Christopher Gill, the MP for Ludlow, and Sir Richard Body, MP for Holland with Boston, both of whom had a consistently extreme attitude towards the European issue, deciding to join their martyrdom, although in their cases this consisted of merely voluntarily resigning the whip. [37] Wisely, no other MPs decided to join them in the political wilderness. But the cumulative effect was that the Prime Minister was now heading a minority government; Heseltine would have to rely on the votes of the Ulster Unionist parties to remain in office.

In a move which combined the most deadly opportunistic timing with keen strategy, the Leader of the Opposition chose this moment to commit Labour to holding a referendum on the issue should it pursue entry in the life of the next Parliament. [38] That would placate critics within his own party whilst exacerbating those with the Conservatives: this was a move which threatened to tip the balance in the argument. The Conservative Chief Whip, Tristan Garel-Jones, was reported to have stated to the Prime Minister that the loyalty of up to twenty more MPs could perhaps not be counted on indefinitely. That in all likelihood would tip the balance and result in a prompt general election, something which the Prime Minister wished to avoid. [39] It was necessary that the Prime Minister make concessions if he wished to avoid further such defections. Consequently, the government stated in July that, in effect, it would feel bound to hold a referendum if it decided to join the single currency in the next parliament. This was a mistake on the Prime Minister’s part. It would have been better both for the country and for the Conservative Party, if he had held to his course and, if necessary, gone to the country in late 1996. The government was becoming patently unable to make effective decisions in the interests of the country as a whole. Heseltine would have had a better chance of victory if he had appealed directly to the country from a position of strength rather than cling to the possible impact of positive developments in the economy whilst vainly trying to placate the eurosceptics, who now pushed forward with their campaign with new vigour.Smith was seen as being all too correct when at Prime Ministers Questions he said that “The Prime Minister has been revealed to be not so much Tarzan, as the Jane to his party’s eurosceptics.” …[40]

Appendix



H E R M A J E S T Y ’ S G O V E R N M E N T



(The Cabinet, as composed under the Ministry of The Rt. Hon. Michael Heseltine, MP, February, 1996)



Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party - The Rt. Hon. Michael Heseltine, MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury - The Rt. Hon. Michael Portillo, MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs - The Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke, QC, MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department - The Rt. Hon. Michael Howard, QC, MP
Deputy Prime Minister, First Secretary of State, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons - The Rt. Hon. Malcolm Rifkind, QC, MP
Secretary of State for Education and Science - The Rt. Hon. William Waldegrave, MP
Secretary of State for Defence - The Rt. Hon. Michael Mates, MP
Secretary of State for Transport - The Rt. Hon. John Gummer, QC, MP
Secretary of State for Health - The Rt. Hon. Gillian Shepherd, MP
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade - The Rt. Hon. Ian Lang, MP
Secretary of State for the Environment - The Rt. Hon. Sir George Young, Bt., MP
Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food - The Rt. Hon. David Curry, MP
Secretary of State for Social Security - The Rt. Hon. Peter Lilley, MP
Secretary of State for Employment - The Rt. Hon. Virginia Bottomley, MP
Secretary of State for the Arts and National Heritage - The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Blatch of Hinchingbrooke, CBE, FRSA, PC
Secretary of State for Scotland - The Rt. Hon. Michael Forsyth, MP
Secretary of State for Wales - The Rt. Hon. Michael Jack, MP
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland - The Rt. Hon. Dr. Brian Mawhinney, MP
Chief Secretary to the Treasury - The Rt. Hon. Phillip Oppenheim, MP [41]
Lord Chancellor - The Rt. Hon. The Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, QC, PC
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Conservative Chief Whip - The Rt. Hon. Tristan Garel-Jones, MP
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for Competitiveness and Investment - The Rt. Hon. Gerry Malone, MP
Minister without Portfolio and Chairman of the Conservative Party - The Rt. Hon. Stephen Dorell, MP
Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords - The Rt. Hon. The Viscount Cranborne, DL, PC



Notes and Clarifications


[28] Almost all of this happened in OTL, albeit on a much earlier timescale; the Nimmo-Smith judgement is taken word-for-word from OTL.

[29] This is not as barmy as it might first sound; Clwyd had previously been Shadow Welsh Secretary (albeit briefly in the Smith-Kinnock interim period) and had served on the front bench under both Smith and Kinnock. She had attempted to run for Deputy Leader in 1992, but failed to get sufficient nominations in the face of the much more credible left-wing candidacies of Beckett and Prescott. She was also consistently the number two Welsh member behind Davies in Shadow Cabinet elections in this period*. So she would have a very strong - probably unassailable - claim to the Welsh portfolio should Davies resign at this point.

There’s also the handy fact that giving her it will fulfil Labour’s promise to have more women in Cabinet, and it balances out the right with the left. (Always something very important to Smith.) Naturally, she’s also very strongly in favour of devolution. In fact she’s possibly one member of the Shadow Cabinet who could give Smith a run for his money on that score.

The Davies incident, btw, happened in a broadly similar fashion in OTL two years later when he was Welsh Secretary, although the timing here is probably more of a nuisance.

In OTL the big row around this time for Labour was Harriet Harman’s (then a New Labour high-flyer and Shadow Health Secretary) decision to send her son to a selective grant-maintained school; I am guessing, with Labour more traditional, and her position within the shadow cabinet much more junior, she is more circumspect and chooses to send him to the Oratory, (which was grant-maintained, but not selective) as per his older brother.

*In OTL, for example, she came joint nineteenth in the 1994 elections. Alun Michael came twenty-seventh, with Rhodri Morgan a very distant fifty-first. On that performance, Morgan rather wisely decided not to contest the 1995 and 1996 elections. Davies was twelfth and then a rather incredible fourth (!) in 1995. Much the same sort of distribution will prevail here.

[30] And replaced by Michael Jack. Jack was a longstanding middle-ranking, well-regarded, pro-European minister in OTL who never made it to Cabinet because of his views on that issue - here he does. Like many Conservative Welsh Secretaries, he has no particular connection to Wales, but he does at least represent a Lancashire constituency.

[31] He held this line in OTL; here there is an obvious self-interest as well.

[32] As in OTL, although a little earlier here.

[33] But neither of them are accompanied by Alan Howarth in this TL, who is provided with a job under Heseltine, and who doubtless wouldn’t be particularly comfortable in Smith’s Labour Party anyway.

[34] Ah, you’ve got to love the bitchiness of Gilmour.

[35] In OTL, John Major, taking a more conciliatory line towards the eurosceptic right, took up an aggressive response to this, which at least partly assuaged the political damage. Heseltine does not, with negative political consequences.

[36] In OTL, Gardiner waited almost until the election before defecting; he had been a prominent backbench critic of Major and was eventually de-selected by his association, pushing him into the arms of Goldsmith. Here, with Major falling due to such backbench pressure, and the party shifting to the left, that process is speeded up, as is in consequence his defection.

Knapman’s history is probably more well known - after being defeated in 1997 as the sitting Conservative MP for Stroud, he made his way to UKIP, eventually becoming their leader; here he isn’t appointed a whip, as he was in OTL in 1995 (And it's pretty obvious he won't be appointed to anything else for the foreseeable future) and, combined with political developments, his frustration and the attraction in defection are increased.


[37] ITTL, Major is too weak to withdraw the whip from the Maastricht rebels at the end of 1994 - in consequence Gill and Body’s resignations have somewhat more or a sting to them for the government.

[38] There are disagreements over how Smith wanted to frame policy over the Euro, but by far the most convincing explanation I have seen is that he wanted to commit Labour to a referendum, and probably reasonably quickly too; here I have perhaps delayed that a little bit. About the only person who seems to believe that Smith would have decided to go into the Euro without a referendum - which would be politically implausible in the extreme, not just a very hard sell in the country, but in Labour as well - is Meghnad Desai, who in any case was not particularly close to Smith, and whose political judgement, IMO, is rather in doubt, since Smith himself had to sack him from his position on the Lords Treasury team not once, but twice - he was, primarily, an economist who just happened to be in politics and I don’t really trust his judgement here. Those closer to him, for example David Ward, stress that Smith was angling towards a referendum policy before he died.

A referendum policy makes the most political sense in a multitude of ways and fits, I believe, with JS’s overall pragmatism. It would be a very strange decision on JS’s part indeed if he put at risk Labour's first shot at government since the seventies over an issue as relatively peripheral and as divisive as the Euro. Despite perceptions to the contrary, Labour was just as divided, if not more so, over Maastricht as the Conservatives were; no referendum would mean a huge amount of Parliamentary bloodletting in Labour’s first term if entry was pursued - assuming of course that the policy did not deter people from voting Labour at the election to begin with. As with devolution, the obvious solution to all of this is to hold a consultative referendum.

[39] Historically, Heseltine wanted to wait until the last minute in the hope that the rising economy would help the Tories; I don’t see that changing here.

[40] JS was a very good Commons performer - I should really try to bring this out in future updates...

[41] Oppenheim is shooting up the ministerial ladder ITTL, and will have a slightly different career from OTL.
 
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I'm liking the notes on people's personal biases, as in v1.

Thanks. It's useful to remember that not everything is gospel, and I like to give a range of perspectives. One of the reasons for the title is because I wanted people to actually wonder if this was a better TL than OTL, and if so, how. People always lionise Smith, so there's a wee bit of irony there.

If anyone is wondering why 1995 is in a different font size to 1996, then you're in good company, because I'm wondering that myself. In the editing box, 1995 displays exactly like 1996, but the post itself is a font size smaller. No idea.

Edit: Oh wait, it appears to be just my forum skin. Very bizzare.
 
This is brilliant stuff- and the fact you spent a lot of time over it really shows in the details.

I always feel guilty not thinking of any probing questions to ask, but with that said, more please! The election will be very interesting.
 
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