Keeping the British Liberal Party flag flying high

The coal industry was nationalised in 1943. The policy of Labour and Liberal led governments from the 1960s onwards was a gradual managed reduction in the number of coal mines and coal miners, with coal mines being closed only when they became exhausted.

A report by the National Coal Board, published in August 1985, proposed the closure of fifty- five unprofitable mines over the next two years. The cost of keeping them open would be too expensive. The report was discussed by the cabinet. Labour ministers opposed it, while Liberal ministers supported it.

The House of Commons debated a Conservative motion on Wednesday 27 November 1985, which condemned the government for its failure to act on the Coal Board report. The motion was defeated by 279 votes to 263. A government majority of 16, compared with its normal majority over Conservative of 190. Liberal MPs were split three ways. 75 voted with the Conservatives, 32 voted with Labour, and 44 abstained or were absent. Liberal ministers were also split three ways.

Roy Jenkins was the only Labour MP who voted for the motion. The following day he resigned the Labour Whip and from the Labour Party. He joined the Liberal Party and took the Liberal Whip. He said that he joined the Liberal Party because it was the only party of economic sanity. Also he could no longer be in a party led by a self confessed left wing socialist. His change of party had been widely expected for some years. It was a surprise that he took so long.
 
The Liberal Party was heavily criticised for its three way split on the vote on the Conservative motion on the National Coal Board report. The Tories and Labour also made much political capital over it.

Sarah Macleod spoke with a broad Glaswegian accent. In one Prime Minister's Question Time (PMQ) she answered a questiom from an English Conservative MP who said:
"I can'r understand what the Prime Minister is saying. She must learn to speak properly."

She replied calmly: "I am speaking with my natural accent. The honourable member has just shown the English arrogance that there is only one right English accent."

PMQs were broadcast on BBT radio, and that exchange was played in Labour party political and election broadcasts.

Under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1943, there must be a redistribution of seats in the House of Commons ten to fifteen years after the previous one. The last redistribution was in 1973, so the next one was due no later than 1988. The next general election must be no later than October 1988, and there was speculation that the Prime Minister would call an early election on the then current constituency boundaries, before redistribution. It was calculated that the new boundaries would benefit the Conservative Party, and be to the disadvantage of the Labour Party, because of population movements from inner cities to suburban and rural areas.
 
Peter Shore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and other Labour cabinet ministers, wanted to introduce a wealth tax in the April 1986 budget. The proposed rate would range from 0.5% on assets of £500,000 up to 5% on wealth of £5 million and over. This was opposed by Liberal cabinet ministers and the Liberal Party.
 
Just saying I enjoy this tl and the other ones you make but it could be way better formatted. Currently you have individual posts that vary from having multiple paragraphs to a few sentences and there are no threadmarks making this very hard to follow. Sometimes it's also hard to tell what is part of the tl and what is not. Again I enjoy this tl a lot but it and your other ones could be better formatted which would improve it a lot.
 
April 1986 budget, wealth tax
Just saying I enjoy this tl and the other ones you make but it could be way better formatted. Currently you have individual posts that vary from having multiple paragraphs to a few sentences and there are no threadmarks making this very hard to follow. Sometimes it's also hard to tell what is part of the tl and what is not. Again I enjoy this tl a lot but it and your other ones could be better formatted which would improve it a lot.
I'm glad you like this timeline, and thank you for your advice. The size of the posts depends on how much I've written in my notebook, and how much time I've got. I will add threadmarks. I don't know what you mean about it being hard to tell what is part of the tl, and what is not.

In his budget on 15 April 1986, Peter Shore introduced a wealth tax at the rates stated in my previous post. He also increased the higher rate of income tax from 45 pence to 55 pence in the pound. The standard rate of income tax remained unchanged at 30 pence in the pound, but the level at which it started was raised from £6,500 to £7,600. The duty on tobacco was increased in line with inflation. The Retail Price Index rose by 2.5 percent in the year March 1985 to March 1986. The duties on beer, wine and spirits stayed the same, but that on Scotch whisky was reduced by ten percent. This was very much welcomed by the Scottish whisky industry. Fuel duty was unchanged on small and medium cars and vans, and increased by five percent more than the rate of inflation on lorries, and large cars and vans. There were substantial increases in child benefit, retirement pensions and other social security benefits.

In the House of Commons p debate which followed, Denis Healey, the leader of the Liberal Party and Home Secretary, said that his party welcomed most of the budget, but condemned the increase in the higher rate of income tax, and the wealth tax which he condemned as economically illiterate and unworkable. His party would vote against them.

The Finance Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons. But in its Committee Stage in late April, that was in a Committee of the Whole House, Liberal MPs voted against the clauses increasing the higher rate of income tax, and introducing a wealth tax. So they were defeated. The Report Stage and Third Reading confirmed the votes in Committee. The bill became law in early May 1986.
 
May 1986 local elections, June 1986 general election
Labour did well in the local elections on 4 May 1986. They won control of Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh (for the first time), Norwich, Nottingham, and York city councils, and became the largest party on Bradford, Cardiff and Southampton city councils. The net gains and losses for the parties and Independents were as follows:
Labour: + 503
Conservative : - 174
Liberal: - 223
Independent: - 80
Plaid Cymru: - 12
SNP: - 30
Green: + 16.

Labour cabinet ministers and Labour National Executive Committee met in Chequers in the weekend of 6 and 7 May 1986, to discuss whether or not to call an early general election. They studied analyses of the local elections and the latest opinion polls. These showed the average percentage votes for each party, after don't knows were excluded, were as follows:
Labour: 35.5
Conservative: 34.6
Liberal: 26.8
Others: 3.1.
A Labour lead over Conservative of 0,9%.

The local elections and the opinion polls showed that in a general election, the Tories would gain seats from the Liberals, while Labour would take seats from the other two parties, and have close to an overall majority of seats in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister, Sarah Macleod, spoke strongly in favour of an early election. She argued that a bold and passionate Labour campaign would win the party a comfortable majority. The consensus of opinion was in favour of a June general election. Also the weekend media was full of speculation that Macleod would call an election.

At 11 am in the morning of Monday 8 May, Macleod announced at a media conference outside 10 Downing Street, that a general election would be held on Thursday 8 June 1986. Parliament would be dissolved on 20 May, and meet again on 20 June, after the general election. The Prime Minister's announcement was not a surprise. All the political parties were already on a general election footing.
 
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June 1986 general election
The Conservative Party leader, Margaret Thatcher, attacked Sarah Macleod for "plunging the country into a completely unnecessary election for partisan political advantage, and before the redistribution of seats." However "my party is ready for the fight, and to take on the responsibilities of government when we have won the election."

The Liberal leader, Denis Healey, also criticised the Prime Minister's decision to call a general election. He said that Liberal cabinet ministers had not been consulted about the decision. But Liberal ministers would not resign from the government. However the political situation after the election was as yet unknown.

Macleod said she called the election to give people the opportunity to decide the future government of the country, because Labour's coalition with the Liberal Party had in effect broken down.
 
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June 1986 general election, Conservative manifesto
Sixty two MPs retired from the House of Commons at the 1986 general election. Among the Conservatives were Julian Amery, Robert Carr, John Profumo and William Whitelaw. Labour MPs retiring included Harold Lever, Renee Short, the Social Welfare Secretary, and John Silkin. Among Liberal MPs retiring were Honor Balfour, Ivor Davies, and George Watson.

Roy Jenkins, who crossed from Labour to Liberal on 28 November 1985, was adopted as Liberal candidate for Cheltenham. This was the seat held by George Watson. Jenkins decided not to stand again in Hammersmith North where the Liberals came third in the 1983 general election.

The distinguished actress, Shirley Caitlin, was the Labour candidate for Streatham. (1) In the 1983 general election, the Conservative majority over Labour was 4.4%.

The Conservative election manifesto, Setting People Free was published on 16 May 1986. It promised substantial reductions in the standard and higher rates of income tax, paid for reductions in government expenditure. Government subsidies to industries in financial difficulties, and food subsidies, together with the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection, would be abolished. Council house tenants would be given the right to buy their homes at heavily discounted prices. The National Coal Board report on the future of the coal industry would be implemented in full. A National Curriculum would be imposed on state schools. They would be forbidden from promoting homosexuality, or teaching teaching homosexuality as a 'pretended family relationship'. The electricity, gas and telecommunication industries would be privatised. Railways would be modernised with the closure of unprofitable railway routes.

[1] She is known as Shirley Caitlin in OTL.
 
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I'm glad you like this timeline, and thank you for your advice. The size of the posts depends on how much I've written in my notebook, and how much time I've got. I will add threadmarks. I don't know what you mean about it being hard to tell what is part of the tl, and what is not.

In his budget on 15 April 1986, Peter Shore introduced a wealth tax at the rates stated in my previous post. He also increased the higher rate of income tax from 45 pence to 55 pence in the pound. The standard rate of income tax remained unchanged at 30 pence in the pound, but the level at which it started was raised from £6,500 to £7,600. The duty on tobacco was increased in line with inflation. The Retail Price Index rose by 2.5 percent in the year March 1985 to March 1986. The duties on beer, wine and spirits stayed the same, but that on Scotch whisky was reduced by ten percent. This was very much welcomed by the Scottish whisky industry. Fuel duty was unchanged on small and medium cars and vans, and increased by five percent more than the rate of inflation on lorries, and large cars and vans. There were substantial increases in child benefit, retirement pensions and other social security benefits.

In the House of Commons p debate which followed, Denis Healey, the leader of the Liberal Party and Home Secretary, said that his party welcomed most of the budget, but condemned the increase in the higher rate of income tax, and the wealth tax which he condemned as economically illiterate and unworkable. His party would vote against them.

The Finance Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons. But in its Committee Stage in late April, that was in a Committee of the Whole House, Liberal MPs voted against the clauses increasing the higher rate of income tax, and introducing a wealth tax. So they were defeated. The Report Stage and Third Reading confirmed the votes in thCommittee. The bill became law in early May 1986.
Sorry no administration puts a budget forward wlth out both partners being signed up to it in advance.
 
June 1986 general election Conservative manifesto, nuclear weapons
Sorry no administration puts a budget forward wlth out both partners being signed up to it in advance.
I didn't know that. Thank you for telling me. Therefore there was no increase in the higher rate of income tax, and wealth tax in the April 1986 budget. Otherwise the budget was as stated in post #3265. However Labour made it clear to the media that the Liberal ministers in the coalition government had blocked these taxes.

The Conservative Party general election manifesto also pledged that a Conservative government would keep Britain's independent nuclear deterrent. The atomic bomb was developed in the United States by the Brooklyn Project in the mid 1940s. The first tests were in the summer of 1947, in the New Mexico desert, and bombs were produced from later that year. The Soviet Union tested its own atomic bombs from 1951. Britain exploded its own atomic bomb in the Australian desert in 1953. By then the United States had developed the hydrogen bomb, as would Britain and the USSR later in the 1950s. Britain tested its first hydrogen bomb in the Australian desert in 1959.

Britain's nuclear weapons were initially designed to be dropped by aircraft, the 'V' Bomber Force. But the growing vulnerability of aircraft to anti-aircraft missiles, led to their replacement by submarine based nuclear weapons. In 1963, Britain acquired the American system of Polaris missiles.

The Conservative and Liberal parties were in favour of multi-later nuclear disarmament. But until that had been achieved, of keeping the British nuclear deterrent. So was the Labour Party, until the 1982 party conference voted by a decisive majority in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament.

Britain, China, France, the USA, and the USSR all have nuclear weapons.
 
The Labour Party manifesto was published on 18 May 1986. It promised that a Labour government would introduce a minimum wage, a wealth tax and increase the higher rate of income tax. No promises were made as regards the standard rate of income tax, though it was intended to increase personal allowances, and raise the starting level at which it was paid. An important promise in the manifesto was Best Start. This would be children's centres to help and support parents of young children. It was like Sure Start in OTL. ( 1) A payment of £10 would be made to parents, or foster parents, of children under six years old. This was similar to the Scottish child payment in OTL. (2)

Civil marriage would be extended to gay and lesbian couples. They would also be given the right to adopt or foster children. Fox hunting with hounds would be banned. Only the steel industry would be nationalised. Britain would unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons, and ask the United States to withdraw its nuclear weapons from British soil.

(1) See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sure_Start.

(2) See http://www.mygov.scot/scottish-child-payment.
 
AIDS happened in this timeline much the same as in OTL. In October 1985 the British government set up an advisory council on AIDS comprising gay rights organisations and AIDS charities, among others.

During the election campaign, Sarah Macleod visited an AIDS clinics in London, She spoke to the doctors and nurses, and sat by the beds of patients, held their hands and spoke softly to them. A reporter asked her: 'Will gay men who have sex go to Hell.'

'Certainly not.' She replied.

'Do you believe that gay sex is a sin?'

'I believe that all sex outside marriage is sinful, both gay and straight. The next Labour government will legislate to give gay and lesbian couples the right to civil marriage.'

'Should gay men use condoms?'

'I believe that they should refrain from sexual activity, but if they are in sexual relationship they should use condoms.'

This exchange was reported in the media as 'Macleod says gay sex is a sin.'

Denis Healey, the Liberal leader, also visited an AIDS clinic. Tory Party leader, Margaret Thatcher, refused. She said that she did not want to use people's suffering for political advantage, though it was widely believed that she knew she would not be wanted there.
 
The executives of Channel Four wanted television debates between the three main party leaders. So the British Broadcasting Trust (BBT) and Independent Television (ITV) followed. Healey and Macleod agreed to take part in the debates. Thatcher wanted to, but her political advisers argued against it, because opinion polls showed she was less popular than Macleod and Healey. However she ruled against them and got her way.

There were three debates, on consecutive Wednesday nights. People in the studio audiences asked the questions. On 17 May on BBT One, 24 May on ITV, and 31 May on Channel Four. Opinion polls immediately after the debates showed that a majority of those questioned said that Macleod or Healey were best, with Macleod having a slight edge, with Thatcher in third place. She was perceived as ghectoring and strident. She asserted that the choice in the general election was between Conservative freedom and Socialist tyranny. The Liberal Party was an irrelevance.

The party leaders were asked if the Scottish Parliament voted for a referendum, would they allow it to be held. Macleod and Healey said they would. Macleod referred to the additional powers in taxation and social welfare granted by the last L,abour government to the Scottish government and parliament, Thatcher said she would never allow such a referendum. The establishment of the Scottish Parliament and government was a serious mistake. A Conservative government would consider the possibility of taking away b those additional powers.

They were also asked about their national identity. Macleod said she was Scottish first and British second. Healey said he was British first, English second and Yorkshire third. Thatcher replied that she was British first and English second.
 
The party leaders were asked what they missed the most about being party leader, and in the case of Healey and Macleod being in government. Macleod said not spending time with Margaret Rennie, her beloved partner whom she intended to marry when it was legal, the love of her life and soul mate. Not going walking in the Scottish hills and mountains together, and to folk clubs in Scotland together.

Healey said he missed most not spending time with his beloved wife, Edna, and their children. Politicians should have a hinterland. Politics had never been the whole of his life. Besides his family, there was music, painting, photography and poetry. He played the piano, enjoyed water colour painting, and was a passionate photographer. He was fascinated by the poetry and personality of William Butler Yeats. (1)

Thatcher said that while her husband, Denis, and their children were dear to her, politics was most important. Serving her country as Leader of the Opposition, and she confidentially hoped as Prime Minister after the general election, by saving Britain from the Socialist/Liberal consensus which was leading it to ruin.

Opinion polls on 1 June, with only a week to polling day, showed the Liberal Party in second place behind Labour, with the Conservative Party in third place.

(1) This was as OTL as regards Healey. See his autobiography The Time of My Life , London: Penguin Group, 1989.
 
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The Conservative Party tried to limit the political damage in Scotland caused by the opinions expressed by Margaret Thatcher in the TV debate. They said that the party fully accepted the existence of the Scottish government and parliament, and that a Conservative government would not take any powers away from them. Opinion polls were showing the Conservative Party in fourth place in Scotland, behind Labour, Liberal and SNP. Middle class unionists were flocking from Conservative to Liberal.

Labour was tacking to nationalism to attract the soft SNP vote. The Saltire was prominently displayed at Labour election meetings, which closed with the fervent singing of Scotland the Brave . (1)

(1) See http://www.scottish-at-heart.com/scotland-the-brave.html.
 
Sarah Macleod enjoyed a triumphal campaign tour of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Starting in Inverness, and going anti-clockwise she spoke at election meetings in Cromarty, Dornoch, Wick, Thurso, Durness, Ullapool, then by ferry across The Minch to Stornoway and the Western Isles. From Stornoway she travelled south-west, speaking in Tarbert and Rodel. Then across the Sound of Harris to North Uist, where she spoke in Limvaddy, then south through Benbecula, and South Uist. There she spoke in Mingary and visited Flora MacDonald's birthplace nearby. She also visited the crofts where her parents where born and brought up. She said that her roots were in South Uist. She travelled back to Tarbert where she got a ferry to Uig on the Island of Skye. From there she went to Portree, Broadford, and Kyleakin, then by ferry across the strait to Kyle of Lochalsh. From there her journey was east to Fort Augustus, then south-west to Fort William. From there she went on a detour to visit Glenfinnan and the 65 feet high pillar, built to commemorate the arrival of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1645, to raise a Highland Army. From Fort William, she travelled to Inveraray, Rothesay, Dunoon, across the Firth of Clyde to Greenock and Port Glasgow, across the Clyde to Dumbarton and Glasgow. She was received with great enthusiasm everywhere. She spoke in Gaelic in places where that language was spoken.

A major feature of the Conservative election campaign was that under Labour and Liberal governments since 1964, Britain was falling behind its international competitors, such as France, Germany, Italy and Japan, and was economically stagnant. Labour was concerned about redistributing wealth, rather than creating it. A Tory government would unleash the enterprise of the British people.
 
Polling day was 8 June 1986. The average percentage votes for each party in the final opinion polls published in newspapers that morning were as follows:
Labour: 39.7
Liberal: 28.4
Conservative: 26.8
Others: 5.1
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Total: 100.0
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If repeated in the actual election results, Labour would have an small overall majority in the House of Commons. The Liberals would go up from third to second place, and the Conservatives fall from second to third place in the number of seats. Labour would gain seats from Conservatives and Liberals while Liberals would take seats from Conservatives. But these were opinion polls and could be wrong. They were not actual votes. The result of the election would depend on the results in 641 constituencies. Labour, or even the Liberals, might end up as the largest party without winning an overall majority.

In the 1979 general election in OTL, opinion polls showed James Callaghan as being more popular than Margaret Thatcher, but the Tories won the election. In this timeline, Thatcher was the least popular of the three main party leaders, but voters who did not want her to be Prime Minister, could vote Liberal. Compared with OTL, that party was polling a little more than double than in OTL, and was competitive in far more seats.

Polling stations were open from 7 am to 10 pm. Turnout was reported to be heavy. The election results programmes on BBT television and ITV began at 9.30 pm. Channel Four were broadcasting an ' alternative' election night programme featuring fairly well known comedians. The BBT programme team were David Dimbleby, Peter Snow and Robin Day, with David Butler was the psephological expert. Snow had three swingometers for Conservative/Labour, Conservative/Liberal, and Labour/ Liberal, and a board showing the target seats for each party.
 
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