Filling His Shoes: A British PM History

Healey 2
13. Denis Healey (Labour) March to October 1979 (2)
"He's a bastard but the people chose him". The coup fell after 6 days due to public power. Healey countered Mountbatten's message saying that this was not about politics or personalities but the nation. It was Healey said a choice between freedom or fascism. Whether it was wise or not to invoke those fears is debatable but it did the trick. Across the country television and radio stations were surrounded by pro democracy demonstrators. Union Flags flew across homes and towns and God Save the Queen echoed across the land.

But it were the events in London that were the most dramatic. 500,000 demonstrators marched on Downing Street and overwhelmed the small armed contingent which in all honesty surrendered easily due to their own humanity. An SAS unit entered the Rose Garden and quickly overcame those inside. 2 SAS men were killed and 5 injured, Mountbatten and Walker were incapacitated and quickly taken to a secure unit whilst the rest were arrested for high treason.

Healey returned to Downing Street and to a changed country. Despite his ebullient self on the inside he was a changed man.
 
Owen 1
14. David Owen (Labour then Labour/Liberal Coalition October 1979 to June 1984)
"He's spent too long in Healey's shadow". Owen was in some ways a reluctant Prime Minister. As Foreign Secretary he had played a big role on the world stage and really didn't have much to do with domestic affairs. But when it became apparent that neither Chancellor Roy Jenkins or Home Secretary Tony Crosland had the support to stand against Benn then Owen found himself forced to step in.

His first brief period as PM was dominated by trying to follow Healey's lead in restoring calm to the country. Calling an election in May 1980 he feared that he would join Churchill and Whitelaw as short lived premiers. Falling short of a majority by 6 seats he was counselled by Jenkins to approach David Steel's Liberals who has gained 15 seats mainly from disgruntled Tories.

Installing Steel as Deputy PM and Foreign Secretary was a masterstroke because Steel would be on international duty and the Liberal could be used as voting fodder...or that's what he thought. Owen had to deal with the doughty Alan Beth as Deputy Liberal Leader and Commons Leader.

The coalition worked fairly well. The only major challenge was the Falkands which was easily dealt with by Defence Secretary Lord Callaghan who had retired from the Commons in 1977 after realising he was never going to be PM.

Owen and Steel shared many concerns including how the political classes were regarded. This led to the "Campaign To Understand" where ministers travelled up and down the country to hear some pretty stringent views about politics and how it had to change.
 
Owen 2
15. David Owen (Labour/Liberal Coalition) (June 1984 to April 1987)
"Beware ye sins will find you out". Both Coalition parties maintained their share of the vote in the '84 election easily defeating Jim Prior's Conservatives. The major focus of the parliament was electoral reform following the results of the "Campaign To Understand" which stated that politics in the UK were dominated by two parties and that there was no new thinking.

The Jenkins Commission (who by now had retired to the Lords) recommended that a multi-candidate voting system be put into effect by Parliament. Both Owen and Steel were un-impressed by the that and offered a referendum followed by parliamentary discussion. The in 1987 everything changed.

In February 1987 the former Liberal Leader Lord Thorpe died from Pick's disease a form of dementia. Three weeks later the News Of The World ran an interview with a former Liberal MP called Peter Bissell who claimed that Thorpe had killed a man called Norman Scott in 1976 who was blackmailing Thorpe over a homosexual relationship they had in the early 1960's.

Steel who was Liberal chief whip at the time became the focus of attention over whether he knew anything about it. Initially he said no but as more allegations about Thorpe were made Steel eventually confessed he'd known about Thorpe's predilections as early as 1971 and that he did know about the murder.

The country was rocked. The press called it Britain's Watergate. Steel resigned as Liberal Leader and Deputy PM. The Liberals left the coalition leaving Owen with no majority. He battled on for a few weeks before throwing in the towel and asking the Queen for a dissolution.
 
Heseltine
16. Michael Heseltine (Conservative minority with Unionist confidence and supply) April 1987 to June 1991
"They've got him over a barrel" Heseltine finally achieved his ambition but at a cost. Despite the ongoing affects of what had become known as "Scottgate" Labour was still popular in the country but had been in power for over a decade and a sense of change was in the air.

Heseltine entered Downing Street some 5 seats short of a majority. Both the UUP and DUP offered support with some provisions specifically a "rethinking" of the Anglo-Irish agreement that had been signed in March 1983 and also a promise that the UK would hold a referendum on leaving the EEC.

This left Heseltine in a quandary. He was a unionist and a pro-European yet reliant on parties that were opposed to the latter. He dealt with this by forming a triumvirate of himself, Douglas Hurd as Foreign Secretary and in a surprising move a young MP called John Major as NI Secretary.

The thinking was that Major would use his skills at reaching consensus to mollify Paisley and Molyneux, Hurd would pacify Dublin and Brussels whilst Heseltine and his Commons Leader Ken Clarke would keep Parliament in line.

Ulster was the main focus for the '87 Parliament. There was a sense of "no more pussyfooting around" especially following the Brighton bombing of 1984 which had resulted in the death of the former Chancellor Lady Thatcher as well as the wife of Norman Tebbitt the Industry Secretary.

In January 1990 at a farm just over the Irish border 18 members of the IRA army council were killed including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness who each were shot at least 18 times. The official word was that it was a loyalist "hit squad" but the truth was it was the SAS.

Somehow the Heseltine government managed to prevent a huge diplomatic incident whilst stating that the time for peace in Northern Ireland was at hand. A series of talks took place between London, Belfast, Dublin and Brussels over a new "framework for Northern Ireland" which over a few years coalesced into the "Good Friday Agreement" Of 1994.

As this was going on the UK as a whole was preparing for a referendum on Europe which duly took place in June 1991 and resulted in a narrow leave vote. Heseltine resigned as PM.
 
Questions
Interesting timeline.

Some questions though:
How was Attlee able to seize the PM slot when he was lower on the pecking order than some? Luck? Splits at the top?

With the changes in PM I cannot see the Empire turning into the Commonwealth as per OTL due to the differing personnel involved. How is the ex-Empire ITTL?

Cannot see a Beeching Report ITTL, but I can see a better BR electrification plan in the 50's.

"the Department of Economic Affairs under Tony Benn" - I could see that applying a lot of Keynes and/or socialist solutions to the economy. Does the oil crisis still happen or since British politicians are different the responses to Middle East tensions go differently?

Does the UK have it's own nuclear and space programs?

"Lord Mountbatten (Military Dictatorship)" - the overthrow of this will kill off the NF and BNP I suspect. Wonder if it damaged the Royals?

"had the support to stand against Benn" - the Great PM Britain never had or a bullet dodged?

"The only major challenge was the Falkands" - would Labour have withdrawn the ships that protected the isles like the Tories did? I cannot see the same defensive review as under the Conservatives.

No SDP here? Steel's Liberals have done better than the OTL alliance it seems.

"he'd known about Thorpe's predilections as early as 1971 and that he did know about the murder." - and that's the end of Steel's career. Doubt he is getting a Peerage.

Why would the IRA target the Tory conference in 1984 when the party was not in power then?

"but the truth was it was the SAS." one way of dealing with it I guess.

"a referendum on Europe which duly took place in June 1991" - but was a binding Referendum? Tarzan might be able to wiggle out of it. Also I cannot see him 'doing a Cameron and running away. How long he would survive is another story, esp if he tries to get out of the referendum result.

If 1991 ITTL resembles OTL was there really that much support for leaving the EEC? UKIP itself was only founded in 1991 and was tiny. OTL support for Europe was generally quite high in the 1990s I have read. What's different ITTL? Stronger Commonwealth?

Looking forward to more.
 
Answers
Interesting timeline.

Some questions though:
How was Attlee able to seize the PM slot when he was lower on the pecking order than some? Luck? Splits at the top?

With the changes in PM I cannot see the Empire turning into the Commonwealth as per OTL due to the differing personnel involved. How is the ex-Empire ITTL?

Cannot see a Beeching Report ITTL, but I can see a better BR electrification plan in the 50's.

"the Department of Economic Affairs under Tony Benn" - I could see that applying a lot of Keynes and/or socialist solutions to the economy. Does the oil crisis still happen or since British politicians are different the responses to Middle East tensions go differently?

Does the UK have it's own nuclear and space programs?

"Lord Mountbatten (Military Dictatorship)" - the overthrow of this will kill off the NF and BNP I suspect. Wonder if it damaged the Royals?

"had the support to stand against Benn" - the Great PM Britain never had or a bullet dodged?

"The only major challenge was the Falkands" - would Labour have withdrawn the ships that protected the isles like the Tories did? I cannot see the same defensive review as under the Conservatives.

No SDP here? Steel's Liberals have done better than the OTL alliance it seems.

"he'd known about Thorpe's predilections as early as 1971 and that he did know about the murder." - and that's the end of Steel's career. Doubt he is getting a Peerage.

Why would the IRA target the Tory conference in 1984 when the party was not in power then?

"but the truth was it was the SAS." one way of dealing with it I guess.

"a referendum on Europe which duly took place in June 1991" - but was a binding Referendum? Tarzan might be able to wiggle out of it. Also I cannot see him 'doing a Cameron and running away. How long he would survive is another story, esp if he tries to get out of the referendum result.

If 1991 ITTL resembles OTL was there really that much support for leaving the EEC? UKIP itself was only founded in 1991 and was tiny. OTL support for Europe was generally quite high in the 1990s I have read. What's different ITTL? Stronger Commonwealth?

Looking forward to more.
Wow! I'll try to answer them.

1. With Attlee it was a case of both. Despite his mild appearance he did have a tendency to go for the jugular in real life
2. The Empire again would have become the Commonwealth. It was during Attlee's Premiership that India was given independence and partitioned. It's plausible that the rest would have followed suit.
3. Electrification would have happened in the 50's and the Beeching disgrace would never have happened
4.Nuclear Yes, Space No.
5.With Mountbatten the second Healey and first Owen Governments would have made it clear that the Royals were not involved yet the "Diana effect" would have started in the late 70's and early 80's
6. The great PM we never had.
7. ITTL timeline the UK would fighting to keep some pretence of a minor world power. The defence review wouldn't have gone ahead.
8.Benn at the DEA would have worked like a maniac to keep the UK out of any involvement in the Middle East.
9 With Owen as PM Labour would have adopted a more 'social-democratic" demeanour
10. As we know IRL Steel did know about the allegations about Cyril Smith and was expelled from the Lib-Dems so ITTL Steel is in deep sh*t
11. IRL the Tories under Thatcher cracked down on the IRA so ITTL the attack was driven by a "what if the tories win" scenario
12. The SAS may have jumped at jumped at the chance to cut the head of the IRA's leadership
13. It would have been a binding referendum and Tarzan would have been honour bound to resign
14. The Commonwealth would have been stronger as would the "special relationship"

Thanks for the compliments and the questions.
 
Hurd 1
17. Douglas Hurd (Conservative minority with Unionist confidence and support) June 1991 to March 1992 (1)
"He's just there to get things ready for Labour: Hurd was going to use what time he has as Prime Minister to the fullest. Promoting Major to Foreign Secretary and Clarke to Trade Secretary Hurd created the notion of "Global Britain" extolling Britain's abilities to the world where at home he made Tebbitt Home Secretary and Norman Fowler as NI Secretary and tasked them with "putting things to right"

When Hurd was legally bound to call an election he must have thought "it was fun while it lasted"
 
Comments 1
The Conservatives have got Britain out of the EEC, probably strengthen Commonwealth ties and trade deals, and are cracking down in Northern Ireland. If the economy has not tanked from the Brexit yet, then there is a good chance they will get re-elected.

Good luck Douglas, you are going to need it!
 
Hurd
The Conservatives have got Britain out of the EEC, probably strengthen Commonwealth ties and trade deals, and are cracking down in Northern Ireland. If the economy has not tanked from the Brexit yet, then there is a good chance they will get re-elected.

Good luck Douglas, you are going to need it!

18. Doulas Hurd (Conservative) March 1992 to August 1995 (2)

"A political
Houdini" It was a foregone conclusion that Hurd would have to scrabble for Unionist votes if he had any chance of staying in Downing Street but a 14 seat majority scotched that idea. It was theorised that Hurd's "Global Britain" strategy had paid enough dividends to give him the win.

Yet he couldn't bask in the glory for long. The euphoria and shock of the leave vote was quickly being replaced by a new issue, that of the 'brexiteers' vs the 'remoaners' The tabloid presses used both terms with glee and wild abandon and slavishly followed the intricacies of parliamentary debates over the subject.

Hurd's slender majority didn't help matters as the hardcore brexiteers such as Bill Cash led defeat after defeat on every possible vote on every possible subject. Labour under John Smith watched on.. Hurd has attempted to circumvent this but creating a cabinet balanced as much as possible between leavers and stayers including the surprising addition of Michael Portillo as Home Secretary counter balanced by Major at the Foreign Office and Clarke as Chancellor.

Elsewhere the 'peace process in Northern Ireland' became bogged own in talks about talks, recriminations accusations and more violence such as a bomb in Omagh at Christmas 1993 killing 37 people. This brutal act by a group calling themselves "The Real IRA" led to unionist and nationalist demands for a security overhaul. Hurd responded by creating a new post of "Northern Ireland Security Secretary" given to William Hague working alongside Patrick Mayhew as Northern Ireland Secretary.

The economy wasn't booming as expected but increasing investment from abroad particularly the USA and the Far East was staring to pay dividends. Then one hot night in the Summer of 1995 an Ambulance was called to Downing Street...
 
Comments 2
Obviously Hurd is going to have to step down as PM, but one hopes Hurd survives so he can sit in the Lords in his old age and eat popcorn watching the mess his successors make of it all.

The knife fight for the Top Job is going to be vicious....

Wishing John Smith a long and health life too. He'd have been an interesting PM.
 
Portillo
19. Michael Portillo (Conservative) August 1995 to March 1997

"The right man for the job". Hurd's heart attack shocked the nation and while he would recover and later enter the Lords it was evident his career in front line politics was over. Elected in an hastily convened vote and later confirmed at the conference in October, Portillo made it clear that it was "Britain First".

Titling the cabinet in a more Eurosceptic direction including the surprising arrival of Bill Cash as Chief Whip, William Hague as Foreign Secretary and John Redwood as Chancellor Portillo made it clear to Brussels and to his "remoaner" backbenchers that if necessary there would be a "hard Brexit" which came to pass as we left the EU on New Year's Day 1997 to the regret of Europe and the anger of many.

It's possible that what happened next was triggered by the above but there was no proof. It had been rumoured that Portillo was Gay or at the least bi-sexual. Private Eye was contacted by a former House of Commons intern saying that he had had an affair with Portillo whilst he was Home Secretary..

We had Scottgate and now we had Portillogate. More lurid allegations came to light stemming back to Cambridge where it was said that Portillo was known as "The Porterhouse Pork-Sworder"

Portillo eventually confirmed he has had homosexual tendencies but was firmly hetero-sexual. Some applied his honesty but many were repulsed and with a general election imminent many traditional supporters would turn away which happened.
 
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Comments 3
Nice that Hurd survived here.

Portillo being brought down by his past is not surprising, and he indeed might survive, but I suspect country is ready for a change since the Tories have been in power since 1987.

Labour sorting Brexit will be interesting since the Tories where unable to put a deal together. Wonder how they solve the NI border question?

What is going on with the SNP/Plaid/Green etc while all this mess is going on?
 
Smith 1
Nice that Hurd survived here.

Portillo being brought down by his past is not surprising, and he indeed might survive, but I suspect country is ready for a change since the Tories have been in power since 1987.

Labour sorting Brexit will be interesting since the Tories where unable to put a deal together. Wonder how they solve the NI border question?

What is going on with the SNP/Plaid/Green etc while all this mess is going on?
Ask and ye shall receive...

19. John Smith (Labour) March 1997 to March 2007 Part 1

"Legacy...och!" Smith was very much the stability man. His legal background couple with his reliable bank manager appearance gave many voters both left and right a sense of comfort. Yes the UK was out of the EU and as Smith said there can "be no turning back" and that he was determined to "make Britain Great once again"

With a left right balance of the Cabinet of Straw at the Home Office, Blair as Foreign Secretary, Cook at Trade and Industry, Prescott as the new Infrastructure Secretary and Bryan Gould at the Treasury Smith set his stall out. Gould's first move was to give the Bank of England control over interest rates while Prescott embarked on a programme of revitalising the rail networks.

Blair was also busy forging a friendship with Bill Clinton, indeed the US president saw more of Tony than John who was busy in the first few months trying to find an agreement in Ulster. He along with NI Secretary Mowlam and NI security Secretary Mandelson along with Bertie Ahern embarked on a whirlwind set of whistle-stop meetings between London, Belfast, Dublin and Brussels with Blair keeping Clinton onside to persuade all those involved to sign up. Somehow this happened and the "Stormont Pact" was sealed in November 1997

Before that Smith had to deal with the fallout of Diana's death. He tone and mood reflected the grief and confusion of the UK but he scotched the idea of 'the people's princess' suggested by Alastair Campbell.

Devolution was another major issue. The idea of "devo-max" where Scotland, Wales and NI were given independence over the vast majority of their affairs became part of the lexicon. The only exceptions being Foreign, Defence and the majority of finances although all three parliament could change income tax by 2p (With Northern Ireland the PSNI selections were overseen by and independent board.
 
Comments 5 and Questions 2
Hopefully the Stormont Pact will not rely on the Parties of NI and give them the ability to block the Assembly forming unlike OTL.

Since rail privatisation is unlikely to have happened here and no Beeching as we know it I bet BR was in profit in the 80’s onwards, Prescott will have an easier time than anyone OTL.

Did this UK pick up another parts like Malta who wanted to join in the 50’s? Or any of the islands etc?

Is there a West Indian Federation or West African one for that matter? If so then (or even if not if the ties are greater) trade deals might be easier to do. Perhaps a Monarchs tour of her domains might be an idea, esp in the wake of Diana- I take it Lady Spencer did not get the huge funeral of OTL then?

With Owen in charge in the 80’s was there a bigger, better reaction to HIV/AIDS and therefore folk like Freddie Mercury survived?

As I recall in the 97 period the world economy was doing well post Cold War, so is that the same ITTL? That will help Labour post-Brexit a lot.

Looking forward to more.
 
Smith 2
John Smith Part 2

"The 2001 election was a foregone conclusion. Labour lost one seat to the Tories but still had a majority of 95. The Tory leader Malcolm Rifkind resigned quickly to be replaced by Anne Widdecombe.

Labour's second term was initially to be dominated by what became known as "The Homeland Project" a set of plans to roll out municipal changes across the country. These included:

1. Community hubs comprising libraries, council offices, doctors, chemists and utility shops where bills could be paid linked to mini and major interchanges.

2. A medium sized nuclear reactor in each major city.

3. The creation of a "National Bank" Which was the old Girobank in new colours

This would cost money so in his first budget after the election Gould announced that those earning over £100,000 a year would pay 4p more on income tax while increasing the tax raising abilities of the regional parliaments to 3p in the pound.

The prospects seemed fair...Then came September the 11th.

Smith was at the TUC conference when news broke. Making a quick speech he returned to London and chaired an emergency cabinet meeting. Smith called US President Dole to offer full support . This resulted in the invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001 and the eventual death of Bin Laden at Tora Bora.

Dole wanted to attack Iraq as well but Smith refused point blank to send troops in. Blair as Foreign Secretary bore the brunt of Dole's rage

Labour entered the 2005 election in good shape.
 
Comments 6 and Questions 3
"Tory leader Malcolm Rifkind resigned quickly to be replaced by Anne Widdecombe." - shifting to the right then unfortunately.

Wonder where Farage is?

"1. Community hubs." - Surprised Labour have not promised high speed internet for everyone yet. Still more libraries is great.

How are Labour doing on tuition fees/grants/ more students going to Uni?

"2. A medium sized nuclear reactor in each major city." - this seems like a REALLY bad plan. It also seems oddly unlikely given Labours general opposition to nuclear power? A proposal and work on rolling out Green tech instead. Massive off-shore wind farms, mandatory solar on all new builds, and flat roof of adequate construction, tidal and hydro plants etc. I could see from Labour in 2001.

"3. The creation of a "National Bank" Which was the old Girobank in new colours" - easier than nationalising one or two.

"Then came September the 11th." - a pity changed circumstances did not avoid this tragedy.

"Smith called US President Dole" - Dole heh? Interesting.

"the invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001" - I would imagine Smith has an exit plan he can sell to the public and without Iraq is likely to keep them onside ITTL.

"Smith refused point blank to send troops in." - did the US go into Iraq anyway?

No Iraq invasion has massive butterflies on the US economy and the whole 2007/8 crash. If there is no Iraq then there is more govt. money around, and people feel better about the economy esp with a quick victory over Bin Laden.

How do Labour stand on legalising cannabis?
 
Smith 3
"Tory leader Malcolm Rifkind resigned quickly to be replaced by Anne Widdecombe." - shifting to the right then unfortunately.

Wonder where Farage is?

"1. Community hubs." - Surprised Labour have not promised high speed internet for everyone yet. Still more libraries is great.

How are Labour doing on tuition fees/grants/ more students going to Uni?

"2. A medium sized nuclear reactor in each major city." - this seems like a REALLY bad plan. It also seems oddly unlikely given Labours general opposition to nuclear power? A proposal and work on rolling out Green tech instead. Massive off-shore wind farms, mandatory solar on all new builds, and flat roof of adequate construction, tidal and hydro plants etc. I could see from Labour in 2001.

"3. The creation of a "National Bank" Which was the old Girobank in new colours" - easier than nationalising one or two.

"Then came September the 11th." - a pity changed circumstances did not avoid this tragedy.

"Smith called US President Dole" - Dole heh? Interesting.

"the invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001" - I would imagine Smith has an exit plan he can sell to the public and without Iraq is likely to keep them onside ITTL.

"Smith refused point blank to send troops in." - did the US go into Iraq anyway?

No Iraq invasion has massive butterflies on the US economy and the whole 2007/8 crash. If there is no Iraq then there is more govt. money around, and people feel better about the economy esp with a quick victory over Bin Laden.

How do Labour stand on legalising cannabis?
John Smith Part 3

2005 was really steady as she goes. Some of the 'shires' went back to blue under Widdy's leadership but barely made a dent in Labour. She was replaced by Michael Howard. Smith was now thinking about his legacy as Prime Minister and how he wanted to leave the UK. The nuclear plan was controversial with a protest group called "Just Stop Nuclear" forming with support from the Green Party and irritating Londoners by blocking roads but Smith knew that there was no chance of "green energy" powering the UK at that time and nuclear would still be needed for at least 30 years. He along with the new Climate Change and Energy Secretary Ben Bradshaw oversaw the creation of the Renewable Energies Research Agency (RERA) to examine how the change could be made.

2006 saw the start of a new move towards high speed internet rolled out to 6 cities. London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and Bristol with more coming on line in subsequent years.

Prehaps the most contentious plan of the period was to make richer students pay for university fees. This led to a wave of strikes and sit ins across the country no doubt fuelled by cannabis which was made a class A drug but the government held firm and stated that from 2009 all students who's family income was £40,000 or more per year would pay full whack.

But it was abroad that the real trouble started. The US' invasion of Iraq was quickly followed by plans to deal with Iran. Smith knew this would be disastrous and tried to persuade Dole not to do it but Dole angrily rejected what he saw as "that fat commie bastard" telling him what to do.

The US used Iraq as a staging post to invade and the results were inevitable. Iranian forces were fanatical and strewn the sands with blood. Soon the effects were felt abroad. The immense effort by the US to keep the offensive going led to financial centres around the world being affected and what became knows and "The Second Great Depression" started in 2006

Smith and Gould put forward a radical new spending plan to protect the UK as much as possible. VAT was cut to 12%. Each working adult got a £200 cost of living payment every 3 months with disabled people getting £300 and along with Bradshaw created a windfall tax on the energy companies which drew in £1.2 billion. Three banks, Northern Rock, Santander and Clydesdale nearly went under and had to be nationalised.

That certainly helped insulate the UK but for Smith it was his last major achievement (if it can be called that). The truth is that since 2004 Smith's heart had been problematic and he had spent time in hospital. A heart flutter in late 2006 couldn't be hidden and Smith announced his intention to retire on New Years Day 2007.

His final address to the Commons was a remarkable affair with men and women in tears and a 5 minute standing ovation at the end.
 
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