"The Commonwealth of Britain" - Republican UK Wikibox TL

This is really interesting! Interesting to know the undercurrents that are influencing things, the problem with reading something episodically is that you can forget whats happened not so long ago.

Tommy Sheppard might be an interesting figure that you could play with. He was a member of Labour for a long time, has the money and connections to finance his own election campaigns (Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridge's donated money to his SNP deputy leadership campaign) and has razor-sharp political instincts (one of the only SNP MPs I met who predicted the outcome of the 2017 election). I've always thought that if the Brownites had been slightly stronger in the Labour party he might be high up in Scottish Labour by now. Hell, he might have even won a seat in the 1992 election depending on your PoD.
 
2010, Part 2, Against the Current
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Issues of bribery and corruption scandals led to all-time low in Parliament and the main parties

“Many used the cash for influence scandal as an argument for the corruption of the Commonwealth system, but under the old system you could have seen un-elected lords taking personal payments. Whilst the acceptance of party political donations for influence is corrupt and deplorable, the kind of mass personal corruption we see in other western countries would be near impossible to pull off the Commonwealth.”
- Frequently Asked Questions in Anti-Bribery and Corruption, David Lawler, (2012)

The “Cash for Influence” scandal was yet another corruption scandal within the Commonwealth, however instead of affecting Labour like the expenses scandal had, the coalition was at the receiving end of the scandal. Taguri’s confession resignation over a £6,000 donation was just the tip of the iceberg, senior Conservative aides Peter Cruddas and Sarah Southern were caught attempting to circumvent the Commonwealth’s strict donation rules, offering access to Michael Howard and George Osborne for as much as £100,000. The most high profile scandal involved David Laws, who was recorded boasting he could influence Government policy, in return for £2,000 a day donations.

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With the departure of David Laws, the coalition had lost one of its strongest defenders

Eager to get ahead of the narrative Davey immediately fired Laws from the cabinet and suspended him from the party, replacing him instead with his ally Danny Alexander. The situation was difficult for the Lib Dems, they had always portrayed themselves as the anti-corruption parties, and above the “dirty tricks” of the two main parties, the scandal had firmly placed them as yet another party of the cosy Westminster elite.

The scandal came at the worst time, just when the Commonwealth needed stability, alongside increasing violence in Northern Ireland, there had been a string of incidents in England, including a mass shooting in Cumbria and knife attacks in inner London. Most notably of these was the Mayor of Newham Stephen Timms being stabbed at an event in Newham. Timms was approached by 21-year-old Roshonara Choudhry, during an event at in Beckton, East London. She acted as though she was going to shake his hand, and then stabbed him twice in his abdomen with a 6-inch kitchen knife, before a staffer disarmed her. Choudhry made "very full admissions" to the police. She said that Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader of al-Qaeda had influenced her through sermons. She said her attack was to punish Timms for supporting the Iraq War, and revenge for the Iraqi people. She said she attacked Timms "because I'm a Muslim and all Muslims are brothers and sisters". She confessed she was "trying to kill him", and said "I wasn't going to stop stabbing him until someone made me." Timms suffered life-threatening wounds: lacerations to the left lobe of his liver, and a perforation to his stomach. A senior police officer said he "was fortunate not to have been killed". He underwent emergency surgery at the Royal London Hospital.

The Chilcott inquiry had inflamed tensions over Iraq, especially in Muslim communities in Inner London. On Newham council Timms was supported by a coalition of Labour and Liberal Councillors, the Respect Party formed the official opposition. This led to controversy where a Respect Councillor refused to stand during a minute of reflection and prayer for Timms’ health.

“A student was today sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting to stab to death a borough Mayor for supporting the Iraq war. Roshonara Choudhry was jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years at the Old Bailey. The Judge convicted Choudhry, on three charges after a short trial. She ordered her team not to challenge the prosecution's case because she did not recognise the jurisdiction of the British court. The Old Bailey jury took 15 minutes to return unanimous verdicts on the attempted murder charge. Mr Justice Cooke, said she would continue to be a danger to members of parliament for the foreseeable future: "You said you ruined the rest of your life. You said it was worth it. You said you wanted to be a martyr." If Choudhry had succeeded in killing Timms, the judge would have given her a whole-life sentence, meaning she would never be released. Cooke added. "You intended to kill in a political cause and to strike at those in government by doing so. You did so as a matter of deliberate decision-making, however skewed your reasons." - Roshonara Choudhry jailed for life over MP attack, Vikram Dodd, The Guardian (2010)

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CCTV of Choundhry before the attack

On a backdrop of violence, and a perception of the Government losing control, it fell to Vince Cable to prevent the coalition's second ever budget. Highlights included raising the personal allowance a further £1,500 to £10,0000, meaning 600,000 people would no longer have to pay income tax. This was paid for by lowering the threshold of the higher rate of tax from £35,000 to £33,000, bringing 800,000 people into the higher rate. Cable also raised national insurance employee contribution from 12% to 14%.

The most controversial part of the budget was a slashing of corporation tax from 28% to 19%, one of the largest cuts to corporation tax in recent memory. All in all the coalition had cut £75 billion of taxes during a global financial crisis. Labour leader David Miliband was critical of the Chancellor on the cuts to corporation tax, saying: "An enterprise zone proposal dusted off from the 1980s cannot undo the damage of a deficit plan that goes too far and too fast. It didn't work then, it won't work now." Milliband's objection wasn't to spending and tax cuts, which he broadly supported. Instead he criticised the Government for being too aggressive with cuts. Miliband's tacit support of tax cuts was a gift to the Greens and SNP and further enraged the Labour left.

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Yorkshire Senator Jon Trickett led the Labour-Left's opposition to the tax cuts

The budget represented the strain in the coalition, Lib Dem grassroots were chomping for concessions from the Tories, Cable got this through agreements to take the lowest earners out of tax. Many Liberal Democrat members were still displeased, the corporation tax cuts were a typical Tory move, many activists worried the party was on the brink of collapse, the BBC’s “poll of polls” in June had them on just 14%, or only 90 seats, below the 100 seat “danger zone”.

“In the coalition negotiations in 2008, David Willetts is reported to have told his wife: "I've killed the Liberal Democrats." The parties signed off the final agreement in 2008. It seems the fate of the Liberal Democrats might have been sealed. After two years in coalition, the party's poll rating had fallen by 5%. Three months on and three weeks before Lord Browne's report on Higher Education and Student Finance, it had nearly halved to 11%. There is evidence that the electorate may have already made up its mind. In some polls the party had ratings as low as 8% by the close of 2010. The Liberal Democrats had surrendered their mantle as the party of protest and were now the main focus of public anger and distrust. Over the first years of the coalition the party's poll rating remained static with little sign of it ever reaching the dizzy heights of 20%. Rather than fighting Labour for third-party status like in 2008, they were battling UKIP for third place in England and Wales. While in Scotland the "Unionist Pact" caused the SNP to eclipse the Liberal Democrats.” - From Coalition to Catastrophe, Andrew Russell (2015)

The Liberal Democrats needed a way to reclaim their radicalism, after months of negotiations with Osborne and Howard the Lib Dems threw down the gauntlet, Foreign Secretary Chris Huhne demanded the withdrawal of all British troops from Afghanistan before the 2014 Presidential Election. If the Conservatives refused, the Lib Dems would walk. Howard was sympathetic to the demands, although he supported the war, he was generally an isolationist, their role in Afghanistan had been to defeat the Taliban, the Taliban were defeated and thus should come home. Osborne was more weary, naturally a humanitarian interventionist, Osborne was concerned about a vacuum in Afghanistan, and the reaction of the US and other British allies. However the Lib Dems were unwilling to budge, polling showed Labour now had a narrow lead of 4 points, if Osborne went to the polls he would risk being one of Britain's shortest lived Prime Ministers. Eventually he made his decision...

“Defence Secretary Simon Hughes has described the Commonwealth's defence budget as "chaotic and disorganised". In a Daily Telegraph interview, Mr Hughes blames the previous Labour government for what he calls the "horrendous" situation at the MoD. The remarks follow a disagreement between Osborne and Hughes over cuts to defence spending and Afghanistan withdrawal. Mr Hughes said defence was the "most chaotic, most disorganised, most over-committed" budget he had seen. He told the Telegraph: "We are going to have a bunch of kit that makes us well prepared to fight the Russians on the north German plain. That's not a war we are likely to face." The Defence Secretary said there was little the coalition could do about the situation. "We are bound into contracts and that's just a fact of life," he said. The Defence Secretary has entered this tense debate, and warned it could bring an end to the coalition.” - Defence Budget Chaotic, BBC (2010)

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Trident renewal was coming soon, another chink in the coalition's armour

How and why did the Liberal Democrats take a more interventionist approach to Foreign Policy between 2005-2010? (30 Marks) - A Level Politics Exam (2019)
 
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2010, Part 2, The two Obamas
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Osborne appeared on Andrew Marr to defend his Afghan plan the day after his announcement. Marr accused him of having a "yellow gun" to his head. Osborne denied this.

“Osborne was not about to go as far and fast as suggested by his "wild men", but he had decided that it was time for Britain to make a dignified exit from Afghanistan. His Foreign Secretary, Chris Huhne, was horrified at the cost of the war, which broke £20 billion in 2010. As far as Huhne was concerned, the sooner Britain got out the better. Public support for the war had also dropped. In July 2009, 30 per cent were prepared to support continuing Britain's involvement in the war beyond six months. One year on, that number had fallen to 21 per cent. I was vital, that Britain did not cut and run as it had done in Iraq. It was also imperative that the United States was not left in the lurch. political support for the war was also collapsing within the NATO alliance. In December 2009 France announced that it was withdrawing its forces from ISAF. In January the Dutch Government fell after trying to extend the ISAF mission for its forces. The new Government pulled out of Afghanistan six months later. Canada was already on schedule to withdraw its combat forces in 2010.”
- Unwinnable, Theo Farrell, (2017)

In a joint Downing Street press conference, Prime Minister Osborne, Foreign Secretary Huhne and Defence Secretary Hughes had an announcement to make. Britain would withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan by the 2014 Presidential Election. They had been eager to make the announcement before the G8 meeting in Ottawa just a few weeks later. Nearly 300 Commonwealth forces personnel had died since the Afghan mission began in 2001. During the 2008 election campaign, the Lib Dems had said they would like to see troops brought back during the course of the 2008-2011 Parliament, but they negotiated up to the 2014 election. Simon Hughes said "We can't be there for another five years, having been there for nine years already. But one thing we should be clear about - Britain should have a long-term relationship with Afghanistan. This includes helping to train their troops and their civil society, long after the vast bulk of troops have gone home." Chris Huhne aides said they were working on a new timetable for bringing troops home. The announcement was a victory for the Lib Dems. President Howard said his mind was now "fully focused" on how to bring British forces out of Afghanistan". The coalition's announcement came after as three Commonwealth soldiers who died in an accident in Afghanistan were named by the Ministry of Defence.

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The MoD had its first third party Minister ever

Another victory for the Lib Dems came with the scrapping of ASBOs, a big lib dem policy. The Government said it was "time to move beyond" Asbos. The coalition announced the end of their use nationally, although nations and regions could still use them locally. Launching a review of the system, Home Secretary Chris Grayling said it was time to "stop tolerating" bad behaviour. More than half of Asbos were breached from 2000 to 2008, government figures showed. But Labour, which devised Asbos, said they had made a "huge contribution" to cutting crime. Former Home Secretary Derry Irvine brought in the Asbo to deal with persistent minor offenders. It imposed restrictions, such as banning people from a local area or preventing them from swearing in public. If an offender breached their asbo, they could face jail. Deputy PM Davey said he wanted a review of the powers because police should be able to use their "common sense" to deal with anti-social behaviour. Punishments should be "rehabilitative and restorative", rather than "criminalising", he argued. Anti-social behaviour orders promised so much but, in the eyes of the coalition government, had delivered so little.

In international affairs, President Howard was travelling to his first G8 meeting since his re-election in 2009. Howard was now the second most senior G8 leader, having led the Commonwealth since 2004, the only G8 leader more senior than him was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Belisconi, who had been first elected PM in 1994. However Belisconi’s premiership had been broken several times, and Howard was the longest serving continuous G8 leader.

“Micheal Howard suggests a timetable for pulling our troops out of Afghanistan. The other G8 leaders in Toronto appear to fall in with his plan 24 hours later. Is our pumped-up President ahead of the curve, influencing the G8 leadership as the most experienced member of the group? Or is this the interpretation of these events they hope we'll accept? The subjects discussed at these summit meetings - and the likely conclusions reached - are usually fixed in advance. America decides what countries will discuss and agree. If it didn't suit America to fix a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan, Howard wouldn't have raised the topic. Obama has enough nasty, real surprises to handle. So why allow Howard to appear as if he's dictating a new line on Afghanistan? Because it helps Obama. After winning the presidency, he had announced his hope to bring troops home from Afghanistan in June 2011. He realises this isn't possible any more, but his shift can be presented as the preference of the U.S.'s coalition allies.” - Is Michael just a stooge for Obama?, Peter MacKay, Daily Mail (2010)

The main thrust of the meeting was on economic issues. Micheal Howard said there is "no difference" between the US and Commonwealth on his plans for cuts. US President Barack Obama had before warned G20 leaders not to withdraw economic stimulus packages too early. Howard, who backed spending cuts, said the US accepted that those with the biggest deficits had to "speed up the process of dealing with them". US Treasury Secretary Summers told other finance ministers that Europe should focus on growth, as well as cuts. President Obama warned European leaders they had to learn from the "mistakes of the past. He argued when stimulus was withdrawn it resulted in renewed economic hardships and recession". Asked if he thought Obama was nervous about the Commonwealth's plans to cut spending Howard said: "No. In the British case, the Americans and others accept that those of us with the biggest deficits have to speed up the process of dealing with them. Because the big risk to our economies is actually not dealing with the deficits. There's no difference between us and the Americans on that."

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As usual protesters descended on the G8 and G20 meetings. Caricatures of Howard would appear frequently, he became the face of austerity not just in Britain but around the world

This was the main division in the G8, the pro-stimulus camp led by Obama and the anti-stimulus camp led by Howard and Merkel. Howard’s previous position on the foreign stage had already alienated him from allies in the EU. His support for international austerity soured the relationship with the new US President. Personally the two had little in common. Howard was over 20 years older and was an old fashioned rural Tory, whereas Obama was from a different generation and politically came of age in inner Chicago. This isn’t to mention the fundamental philosophical differences between the two men. Howard had hoped some of the Obama magic would rub off on him, but instead he found a cold shoulder.

“Good afternoon, everybody. Please have a seat. It is my great pleasure to deliver this conference with President Howard on his G8 since his reelection. We have concluded some excellent discussions. Mr. President, we can never say it enough. The United States and the Commonwealth of Britain enjoy a special relationship. We celebrate a common heritage. We cherish common values. And we speak a common language — most of the time. We honour the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform who have served together, bled together, and even lay at rest together. This friendship allows us to have each other's back. But also to speak out when we believe our friends are making mistakes. President Howard and myself have had some frank conversations about the world's economic future. I will say now what I said to President Howard. Above all, our alliance thrives because it advances our common interests. When the United States and the Commonwealth of Britain stand together on the economy, our people are more secure and they are more prosperous. For the global economy to survive we need British stimulus.” - Barrack Obama, G8 Joint Press Conference (2010)

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One of the people to speak out in Howard's defence was the US Minority Leader, Republican John Boehner

Opposition parties did not hesitate to take advantage of Howard’s embarrassment.Labour’s Deputy Leader in the House of Commons, Sadiq Khan gleefully needled Deputy PM Davey at PMQs. Khan pointed out the coalition's estrangement from the allies and the international liberal world order. Khan particularly attacked the Government on the issue of international tax avoidance.

Khan pointed out that in several days of meetings, Howard didn't mention tax avoidance once. Khan said Labour would write new rules to tackle corporate tax avoidance if it won the next election. stating the party would fight for an international agreement. In a brutal PMQs, Khan told Parliament the government had "got to act" on the "massive" issue. He said if the Government didn't make a deal, they would be unable to would order multinational firms to be more transparent about the money they made. Khan used the example of Google's tax practices. Google's sales in the Commonwealth were worth nearly £3bn, but routed its earnings through Dublin. In 2009 it paid less than £5m in Commonwealth corporation tax. Many saw Khan's pitch on tax avoidance as a way to appeal to the left ahead of Miliband's departure.

“Khan is quick on his feet, colloquial and irreverent. He has the sort of confidence that teeters on the brink of arrogance without quite tipping over. When I listen to the tape afterwards, he talks so fast that I have to replay it at a slower speed – but he still speaks quicker than most people. With the tapes slowed down he sounds a bit like Ed Miliband, for they share a similar cadence and rhythm of speech. He was the former Environment Secretary's campaign manager during the primary. Khan is quick to emphasise the qualities Miliband's campaign made much of. "We can be aggressive, and get the job done, but it's not difficult to have manners and be nice and not brief against rivals." He talks a lot about the importance in politics of empathy. He goes on to say "We are all ordinary people, and we surround ourselves with normal people. You can have all the focus groups in the world, but unless you're mixing with normal people, how do you know what different kinds of people will think?” - Sadiq Khan, Another British Obama?, Decca Aitkenhead, The Guardian (2010)

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Many expected Khan to become Britain's first ethnic minority Prime Minister

‘Party leaders are the crucial factor in whether or not a political party is successful.’ How far do you agree with this view of what determines the success of a political
Party? (30 Marks) - A Level Politics Exam (2019)
 
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2010, Part 3, Consequences New
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Prime Minister Osborne joined Howard for the first few days of his India trip, including visiting a new JCB factory in Pune

“The rest of the world seems enthused about India. In 2010 President Obama and President Michael Howard of the Commonwealth of Britain both led large delegations to India. Relationships between the two countries cooled slightly after Britain's transition into Commonwealth, but trade and relationships have improved in the early 2010s, helped by Howard's strong support of India over its conflict with Pakistan. Businesses in their countries are excited about India's prospects. India's trade officials are among the most active in the world these days. They travel all over the Middle East, African and Latin America, as well as Europe and Asia, to strike bilateral deals. The world is responding. In Britain chancellor Vince Cable said in 2010 that "India's policies of trade and investment are regenerating it. This allows it to regain an influence it had three centuries ago.”
- The Growth Map, Jim O’Neill (2011)

After the G8 meeting concluded, Howard continued with his international diplomatic blitz, catching a flight to Bangalore for his diplomatic tour of the Indian subcontinent. Howard’s hawkish stance towards Iran had also soured relationships with Pakistan. Howard was a strong supporter of India and had got on well with Prime Minister Sushma Swaraj.

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Howard's hawkish declarations abroad caused headaches for his dovish Defence Secretary Simon Hughes, who supported detente with Pakistan and Iran

During his trip to India, Howard warned Pakistan not to have any relationship with groups that "promote the export of terror". He said that he would be raising the issue with his Indian counterpart Swaraj when they held talks in Delhi on Thursday. This caused friction with Huhne, his more pacifist Foreign Secretary. Huhne insisted he was talking about Pakistan as a country, not its government. He said that the main message was for Pakistan to shut "terror groups" down. "We should be very, very clear with Pakistan that we want to see a strong, stable and democratic Pakistan," Howard told reporters. "We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan." His remarks followed the leaking of documents on WikiLeaks. The documents alleged Pakistan's Intelligence agency was helping the Afghan insurgency.

Howard’s aggressive stances abroad directly clashed with the tolerant modern image the coalition was trying to put on at home, relations with Iran were still incredibly strained. The fact Howard came down so strongly for a pro-India position only served to further sour relationships with Muslim majority countries. Huhne and Howard actively contradicting each other on the international stage was a humiliation for the coalition. Liam Fox, Premier of the South West and standard bearer of the Tory right called on Howard to give Huhne the sack. The tension didn’t help when senior Lib Dems were recorded attacking Howard and Osborne

“Senior Lib Dems have apologised after reporters caught them criticising their Conservative colleagues. In new Daily Telegraph revelations, Scottish Senator Alistair Carmichael attacked Prime Minister George Osborne. Reports recorded Lynne Featherstone suggesting Michael Howard could not be trusted - which she later denied. Senior Conservative Senator Justine Greening dismissed the row and insisted there were "deep bonds" between the two parties. Three Daily Telegraph reporters, posing as constituents, taped conversations with Liberal Democrat politicians. Labour has seized on the revelations as evidence that the coalition is a "sham". Senior Lib Dem and Tory ministers insist such tensions are inevitable when two parties work together. Lynne Featherstone, who told the two fake constituents "I don't want you to trust Michael Howard" has told the BBC she is "embarrassed" by the comments. The Haringey Mayor said it was "not a question of me trusting the President, of course I do".” - Lib Dems apologise over taped Tory criticism, BBC (2010)

This wasn’t the only thing dragging down the flagging coalition. Despite complaints from MPs for all parties, Education Secretary Micheal Gove announced the Department for Education would be scrapping free milk for under-fives. Although Osborne had feared it would remind voters of the "Thatcher milk snatcher" episode of the 1970s. Howard was eager for the policy and pushed for it in the cabinet. The idea of cutting free milk had been the brainchild of the junior health minister, Philip Hammond. Many were surprised when Hammond received the full backing of the President and the Education Secretary. Gove took to the air to defend the idea, saying it was essential to save money. The government received opposition to the measure from the media, parents and nurseries. In an article in the Guardian, Gove said: "Abolition of the scheme is likely to be controversial. Particularly as this will affect some children in low-income families. This should not prevent us from ending an ineffective universal measure given the state of public finances and the need to make savings." Gove said that the cost of running the scheme in England this year was £45m and would rise to £55m in 2011-12. He said the programme did not "provide value for money in difficult times" and had "become outdated". Michael Howard became the new milk snatcher.

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With the scrapping of free milk for under-5s the link between Thatcherism and Howardism was complete

It was at this time Britain’s First President Tony Blair published his memoirs “The Stagecoach”. The memoirs were incredibly scathing of senior Labour officials and documented the fraught relationship between Blair and Brown during the early days of the Commonwealth. Blair said his Prime Minister, Gordon Brown could be "maddening" and accused him of lacking "emotional intelligence". In his memoirs, he called Brown a "brilliant" PM but claimed he put him under "relentless" pressure as he tried to take over from him as President. Blair revealed the pressure put on him not to seek a second term as President. Blair also revealed his "anguish" over Commonwealth deaths in the Iraq war. Brownite Senator Glenis Willmott accused Blair of "putting the knife" into his successor. Describing one row, Blair said Brown threatened to challenge him in the 2004 Primary if Blair did not agree to drop reforms to the state pension. In the book, Blair described his colleague as a "strange guy" who, while he had "enormous ability", had "no instinct at the human, gut level". He added: "Political calculation, yes. Political feelings, no. Analytical intelligence, absolutely. Emotional intelligence, zero." But he said it would have been "well nigh impossible" to stop Brown taking over, due to his power base within the party and media.

“Tony Blair has admitted his relationship with Gordon Brown was "going on impossible". He describes his former rival as "maddening" in his new book. Political Editor Gary Gibbon has learned Brown told friends of Mr Brown "not to retaliate right now". Tony Blair has admitted his relationship with Gordon Brown was "very very difficult" in his memoirs. The former President says he believes "for sure" that Labour could have won the Presidential Election in 2010. But he added: "The relationship with Gordon was very very difficult but it was also very close. Even though towards the end it was hard going on impossible, for a large part of time we were in government he was an immense source of strength." Mr Blair also talks about the threat posed by Iran's nuclear strategy. He says he would not shy away from considering military action if he were still in Downing Street. Channel 4 News Political Editor Gary Gibbon has learned that Gordon Brown has consulted allies and told them "not to retaliate right now".” - Tony Blair: Brown became 'impossible', Extract from Channel 4 News (2010)

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The two giants of the 99 Commonwealth were now defeated retired men, leaving a vacuum at the top of Labour

What might have a meteoric event in another life had little impact on Commonwealth politics. Blair was a man of contradictions, a radical reformist on one hand, but also the man who committed the country to war and lost his Presidency in just five years. Blair’s power-base in the Labour Party had been greatly diminished since his departure, with David Miliband remaining the only senior Blairite, all other senior figures in the party like Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman or Ed Balls were some flavour of Brownite. Most in the press saw Blair’s condemnations as the bitter outbursts of a political loser. With Brown retiring from front-line politics the words had even less effect.

Blair’s memoirs were not the political hand-grenade the coalition had hoped for, despite Miliband’s imminent resignation, the unpopularity of austerity and the chaos in the Government had allowed Labour to slowly creep up in the polls. In polling for the 2011 election the Conservatives only led Labour by one point, polling on 32% and 31% respectively. The Liberal Democrats polling had collapsed down to an average of 16%, UKIP, the Greens and the BNP were all tied on an average of 5%. The polling showed a coalition Government in trouble. With only eight months to go until the election unless something radically changed Osborne might end up as the Commonwealth’s shortest-lived Prime Minister.

“Elections are shaped by two things: trust in party leaders and trust in their policies. The polls have shown that the Conservatives have done particularly well in the first battle over the last few years. George Osborne is more popular in polls than his party. But the policy contest between the two parties has always been more close-fought. Today's poll suggests it remains tight. The economy remains a defining issue and one on which the Conservatives keep a narrow upper hand. In total, 42% of voters pick economic issues as the ones that will most affect their decision on how to vote next month. That includes 22% who look at general economic competence, 9% who cite the specific handling of the economic crisis and 5% who pick tax as an issue. On all three of these economic issues the Tories keep a small lead over Labour as the party with the best policies. On most others, especially public services, Labour has recovered the advantage.” - Labour is squeezing Tory lead, The Guardian (2010)

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After his surprisingly strong performance in the Presidential Primary, some began a campaign to draft Ed Miliband as Labour's PM candidate

‘When it comes to foreign affairs, the President is more powerful than the Foreign Secretary.’ Analyse and evaluate this statement. (30 Marks) - A Level Politics Exam (2019)
 
Quick Question: what was the reason the commonwealth formed again?
"The Diana Crisis", I purposefully don't go into much detail to avoid becoming ASB, but essentially it is revealed that the royal family had a strong hand in the death of Princess Diana, this leads to mass outrage at the royals, which PM Tony Blair takes advantage of to boost his own power, a referendum on the Commonwealth goes through in 1998 with sweeping constitutional change and in 1999 the Commonwealth officially forms and elections take place.
 
"The Diana Crisis", I purposefully don't go into much detail to avoid becoming ASB, but essentially it is revealed that the royal family had a strong hand in the death of Princess Diana, this leads to mass outrage at the royals, which PM Tony Blair takes advantage of to boost his own power, a referendum on the Commonwealth goes through in 1998 with sweeping constitutional change and in 1999 the Commonwealth officially forms and elections take place.
Thank you.

Yes, I can believe that to be the only thing that would cause the dissolution of the royal family.

Do any of the other Commonwealth realms still have the royal family as the head of state?
 
Thank you.

Yes, I can believe that to be the only thing that would cause the dissolution of the royal family.

Do any of the other Commonwealth realms still have the royal family as the head of state?
Yes, all the other major Commonwealth realms still have the Queen as Head of State (although Australia is scheduled to have a referendum on becoming a republic soon). The Queen spends most of her time between Canada and Windsor Castle
 
2010 Part 4, Rebels with a Cause New
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The "Browne Report" formed the Government's justification for tuition reform

“The government's proposed reforms followed an independent review of HE funding. The previous Labour government instigated the investigation in 2008. Lord Browne's report published in 2010 recommended placing more of the burden on "successful" graduates. The headline being graduates would only make repayments on earnings £20,000 and above. In November 2010, following votes in the Commons and the Lords, President Howard cleared changes to tuition fees for 2012. Tuition fees would be the first major tests of devolved education policy, as Scotland, Wales and the North East would break with the national Government.”
- Tuition Fees, Politics.cw (2018)

As 2010 came to a close the coalition faced further embarrassment as Howard signed the Higher Education Act and £6,000 tuition fees became the law of the land. Labour controlled Governments in Scotland and Wales announced they would maintain free tuition for residents of their region. The Labour/Green run North East Government also announced they would be scrapping tuition fees. The Welsh Government under Premier Alun Michael went one step further, Michael announced it would be scrapping tuition fees for out of region Commonwealth citizens, meaning students from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland could all get tuition free education in Wales.

Many hailed this as a move of genius on Michael’s part. Wales had been facing a “brain drain” over the last few years as many of its young people moved to English cities for university and never returned. Not only did this policy encourage Welsh students to stay, it also allowed Welsh universities to poach students with the offer of free education. Wales saw near immediate results, top Welsh universities like Cardiff and Swansea began to climb up in the league tables. If thousands of Labour-voting young people moved to Cardiff and voted for Michael, that was just a coincidental upside.

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Wales remained a Labour Stronghold, Micheal had the largest majority of any Labour Premier

“The Welsh Government will meet the cost of extra fees for Welsh students attending any Commonwealth university. This freezes the cost at £3,290. Welsh students attending Welsh universities will face no fees. English people who wish to study at Welsh universities would also face no tuition fees as a gambit to attract top talent. It means the Welsh government has joined Scotland and the North East in breaking away from the coalition government. Wales' decision has been credited to Premier Michael and Plaid Education Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones. In Scotland, students, if they attend a Scottish university, pay no fees at all although they still charge tuition fees to English students. In Northern Ireland, a decision has yet to be taken. It's expected that the Assembly will keep fees below the dramatic increase planned for England. Bills for free regional tuition have been tabled in the Yorkshire and the North West Parliaments but the Conservative Governments are expected to vote them down.”
- Wales' tuition fee plans cause howls of Westminster outrage, Tracy McVeigh, The Guardian (2010)

The image of student protesters applauding in Cardiff was strongly contrasted with the sit-ins and protests outside the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. The issue of tuition fees was an embarrassment for the National Government but it also allowed the various nations and regions to assert themselves. The misalignment on education policy would be just one example of the growing gulf between Labour and Conservative controlled regions. Alun Michael became the unlikely hero of the student movement, and as usual whenever any politician reached the national spotlight, whispers about the Presidency began.

The coalition tried to reclaim the story when Transport Secretary Greg Clark revealed plans for £7bn of investment into Britain’s railways. A former SDP member, Clark was a classical Tory “wet” more comfortable in the coalition than with many of his Conservative colleagues. Clark announced the purchase of over 1,500 new carriages to tackle overcrowding and electrification of some lines. However Clark came under criticism as only 600 of the new carriages would be available by 2015. This was less than the 1,400 promised by the Brown Government. Clark also announced he would be delaying Thameslink by two years. Labour MP Rosie Winterton called the plans "nothing more than one long series of delays". Proposals to modernise the London-Swansea line were still on hold. Clark announced the investment would be complete in 2020. The lack of investment in Wales connection whilst billions were spent on Thameslink was another example of growing discontent between London and the Regions. Passengers were also outraged to find they would face above-inflation rises in ticket prices to help pay for the investments. "Commuters will see their fares rise by 4% above inflation next year. They now face waits of up to a decade for the new trains that will ease overcrowding and speed up journeys," said Senator John Healey.

In more “wet” coalition policies Justice Secretary David Heath’s legislation to grant prisoners serving less than five years the vote passed to howls of protest from UKIP and BNP MPs. BNP MP Richard Branbrook even tried to seize the mace in protest but was blocked by the Sergeant at arms. Over 20 Conservative MPs joined with UKIP and BNP MPs to vote against the measure. Privately Home Secretary Chris Grayling was staunchly against the bill and threatened to resign, only being talked down by Vice President Michael Ancram who promised him Howard would veto the bill and force an extra reading. The calculation being Osborne wouldn’t risk the embarrassment of overruling his own President.

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The relationship between Howard and Osborne slowly shifted from cordial to an all-encompassing power struggle

“Osborne's contribution to this government and Howard's Presidency was seminal. Like Howard he grew in stature over the years, recovering from his personal errors of judgement early on. Notably, the failure to win a clear victory in the 2008 election. He was responsible for much of the strategic and tactical thinking of the Government. Osborne would overrule Howard when he thought he was being too ideological or his judgement was wrong. The most instinctive political operator in Howard's team. Osborne also possessed the quickest and subtlest mind. Howard was always the more senior, as when he prevented Osborne from reducing the top rate of income tax to 35% in the 2011 budget. Osborne presented Howard from laying into the Lib Dems and gaining tactical advantage. He gave them cover and succour when wounded for much of 2011.”
- Osborne at 10, Anthony Seldon (2015)

Grayling’s calculation didn’t pay off. The bill passed with the support of all major parties, Howard vetoed the bill stating he couldn’t “in good conscious” support the bill. The ball was now in Osborne’s court for the fourth reading. Osborne supported the bill and if he whipped against it the fragile coalition would most likely collapse, on the other hand if he whipped in favour of the bill he would be overruling a Conservative President, Labour and the press would have a field day.

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Osborne Ally Senator Michael Fallon aggressively took to the airways to support overruling Howard

Osborne announced his MPs would be voting aye and overruling Howard, despite a larger rebellion of nearly 30 MPs the overrule passed comfortably, for the first time since Osborne’s election the Commonwealth had its first President-Prime Minister standoff. Osborne had won, his shaky coalition with the Liberal Democrats survived, but his relationship with Howard would never be the same.

Howard would have his revenge later in the Month when he was called to resolve a clash in the cabinet. This time it was on Rupert Murdoch's take-over of BSkyB. Business Secretary Dominic Grieve believed the Government shouldn’t intervene, if Murdoch had the funds and the will to take over Sky, the Government shouldn’t step in to stop him. On the other hand Culture Secretary Danny Alexander was eager to block the merger, Rupert Murdoch was no friend of the Liberal Democrats and Alexander was eager to stop him growing his power.

The media world watched with bated breath on what Howard would choose. Whilst Murdoch was traditionally a Conservative he had endorsed Blair over Howard in the 2004 election, a wound Howard had never forgiven. However the paper had disaffiliated from Labour in 2005 and officially came out for Howard in 2009. A chance to grow the power of Conservative print media and get back at the Lib Dems was a temptation Howard could not resist, Rupert Murdoch became the proud new owner of Sky News. Scottish Green Senator Eleanor Scott warned the decision had created a “British Fox News”.

“During my period as a producer at Sky News, between 2005 and 2007, I used to answer the question, "Where do you work?" from members of my wife's family in the United States with the line: "A channel called Sky News. It's the British equivalent of Fox News." What I meant, of course, was that Sky News is, like Fox News, a 24-hour rolling news channel, available on satellite and via cable. It is also a part of Rupert Murdoch's global media empire. But in style and in substance, of course, it is nothing like the pro-war, pro-Republican, pro-Palin Fox News Channel (FNC). For a start, we have Ofcom (which the Tories want to abolish!) and Ofcom would never allow such blatant, on-air bias in this country (God bless Ofcom!). Indeed, I defy you to find me a single anchor or reporter on Sky News who bears even a passing ideological resemblance to Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck. But the Labour Party and some of its more credulous supporters seem to be insinuating that Sky News has a pro-Tory, anti-Labour bias” - Is Sky News biased against Labour?, Medhi Hassan, New Statesman (2010)

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Alistair Campbell accused Sky News' Adam Boulton of bias during its coverage of election night 2009

Explain the current disagreements between the nations and regions over education policy (30 Marks) - A Level Politics Exam (2019)
 
Closer Look, 2009 London Premier Election New
In the London Region independent left-winger Ken Livingstone had served as Premier since 1999. Leading a traffic-light coalition of Labour, Liberal and Green Party members of the London Parliament. Livingstone had been popular when first elected but disagreements with his newly appointed First Minister Stephen Timms and corruption scandals revolving around his advisers had reduced his popularity.

The Conservatives selected London MP and Howard ally, Boris Johnson. Most Conservatives did not take him seriously, favouring Nick Boles. After defeating Boles in the primary, Johnson gained Osborne's support. The London Evening Standard endorsed him. Johnson hired election strategist Lynton Crosby to run his mayoral campaign. Sympathisers in London's financial sector funded his campaign. Johnson's campaign focused on reducing youth crime and making public transport safer. Johnson also advocated the law being "flexible" for medical cannabis. Johnson targeted the Conservative-leaning suburbs of outer London. Johnson's campaign worked, his personal popularity mixed with the national swing catapulted him to the top job in London politics.

At the start of the campaign Livingstone took Johnson more seriously than many others were doing. Livingstone referred to him as "the most formidable opponent I will face in my political career." Much of Labour's campaign revolved around criticising Johnson for past perceived racist comments. Johnson denied that he was bigoted. Livingstone also proposed that, if he were to win a third term, he would increase the congestion charge fee to £25 for the most polluting vehicles. He pledged to introduce a cycling scheme based on the Vélib' system in Paris. As part of his campaign, Livingstone highlighted that, by 2009, the Metropolitan Police had 36,000 officers, 11,000 more than it had had in 1999. Livingstone put a strong fight in but he ultimately lost out to Johnson.

Ken Livingstone also faced a tough battle to make in into the final round against Southwark Mayor Harriet Harman. Harman had a surprisingly strong performance in Labour's 2008 primary and used this to leapfrog into Labour's Premier nomination. Harman had a national profile and was popular, she would be Labour's most effective candidate in London since the Commonwealth started. Harman focused her campaign around opposition to Johnson's misogynistic comments and she campaign for the delivery of more social housing in South London. Harman courted controversy when she said she wouldn't put Livingstone as her second choice, decrying Johnson and Livingstone as "two sides of the same coin". Despite her campaign she didn't overtake Livingstone and was knocked out in the third round.

The Liberal Democrats ran former Met Police Commissioner and Camden Mayor Brian Paddick. Paddick's main campaign was on drug liberalisation. He reiterated that they are "dangerous and harmful and it is better if people live without them", but that he had a "realistic approach" to enforcement. Paddick struggled due to the coalition which was incredibly unpopular in London, he garnered only 8% of the vote. Paddick joined Harman in making no endorsement in the last round

Jean Lambert, Leader of the Greens in London Parliament and London's Environment Minister ran on a platform of controlling air pollution in the city, pledging a stronger congestion charge and a London-wide clean air zone. She also pledged to protect the Greenbelt from building expansion. Lambert did about as well as expected, gaining 6% of the vote and endorsing Livingstone in the final round.

As for minor parties, the BNP opted not to run a candidate, instead focusing on the Presidential election, UKIP and the Christian Party discussed a joint candidate but this was shot down and neither decided to run a candidate. Respect also didn't run a candidate instead joining the "Livingstone Alliance".

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"The record will show that the era of Ken ended midnight, 4 June 2009. And that moment did seem to carry some historical significance. It was emotional. The beaten 63-year-old candidate, wearing grey suit, blue shirt and yellow tie, stood at one remove from his great rival. His result was called fourth and he fingered the speech he had prepared. As the counting officer declared Johnson the winner, he surveyed the packed chamber at City Hall. His cheeks bulged. He gave a resigned smile. When he spoke, he said this would be his last election. "Forty-one years ago almost to the day, I won my first election on a manifesto promising to introduce a free bus pass for pensioners. Now I've lived long enough to get one myself. Since then, I've won 11 more elections and lost three. But the one I most regret losing is this." He apologised to his supporters for failing to retake the mayoralty; an effort hampered by an "incredible media battering"." - a London heavyweight brought down by his baggage, Hugh Muir, The Guardian (2009)
 
Labour Internal Elections 2011, Part 1 New
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After departing from Labour politics, David Miliband would become on of the British media's top "talking heads"

“David Miliband is considering a role in television in a surprise move. The Opposition leader who lost out to George Osborne in 2008, has approached the BBC with some programme ideas. It is unclear whether Miliband wants to front one-off documentaries or a series of shows. It is thought all his proposals would involve him taking a starring role on screen. Such a move would invite comparisons with Michael Portillo. The former minister developed a thriving television career after his own ambitions to lead his party came to nothing. Portillo made a documentary series for Channel 4 after the humiliating loss of his parliamentary seat at the 1997 election. The one-time darling of the Tory right later ran for President. After failing to win the nomination of his party in 1999, when he was defeated by William Hague he reinvented himself as a successful presenter.”
- David Miliband eyes up a fresh role in television, James Robinson, The Guardian (2011)

With both David Miliband and Jack Straw stepping back from politics there were two vacancies at the top of British politics. Even though he had departed mainstream politics Gordon Brown’s shadow still hung over the Labour Party, Labour supporters still regarded Brown with great affection and several of his acolytes remained in senior positions in the party.

The most important role up for election was the election for Labour’s leader in Parliament, the winner of this election would become the party’s PM candidate, and if they won the election in May they would form a Labour Government. Brown, Miliband and Straw had been giants of the Labour movements and there were few who could fill their shoes, senior Labour figures like Harriet Harman, Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham all ruled themselves out of contention, instead they fell in behind Gordon Brown’s protege Ed Balls.

“The biggest hurdle Ed Balls had to overcome was establishing his own political identity, separate from that of Gordon Brown. He owes his political career to Mr Brown, who talent-spotted him when he was a young financial journalist in the early 1990s. By the time he was 30, he was second in command at the Treasury. He helped to mastermind then chancellor Mr Brown's biggest policy coups such as the handing of the control of interest rates to the Bank of England. He was also on the front-line of the war between Mr Brown's Downing Street and Tony Blair's Buckingham. It was during this period that he gained a reputation for briefing against Labour colleagues seen as enemies of Mr Brown. He has rejected Senator Liz Kendall's claim he was part of a Brownite "insurgency" against Mr Blair's premiership. Balls argues that there was a "creative tension" rather than warfare between the two camps. But his combative, even abrasive, approach to politics has seen him labelled something of a bully in the past - something always denied by friends.” - Profile: Ed Balls, BBC (2011)

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Balls had a reputation for ruthlessness, he attempted to give a softer image through dancing for the camera with his wife, Yorkshire First Minister Yvette Cooper, at his victory party

Unlike Blair and David Miliband after him, Brown had taken the time to cultivate a successor, his former Chief of Staff and Education Secretary Ed Balls. Regarded as gruff and unlikable by many, Balls had embarked upon an image change after the 2009 election making friends with MPs and showing his more human side. In short, Ed Balls began speaking like a human being. His intellect and passion seemed to meet for the first time. Those watching finally saw what has propelled him to the top of new Labour. Balls had a huge brain and thanks to Brown’s backing he had a great deal of support amongst unions and the Labour-supporting media. Balls ran a populist message, pledging to “listen” on the issue of immigration, pledging to be “on the side of ordinary working people”.

With Balls as such a clear front-runner, the Blairites had to draw straws to choose their lamb for the slaughter. David Miliband led a desperate scramble to identify a successor. Scottish Premier Jim Murphy was one of the figures considered but his alliance with the Tories north of the walls made him persona non grata amongst even the most right-wing Labour activists, with the Scottish coalition shaky and the SNP surging they couldn’t risk pulling Murphy and collapsing that house of cards.

Former International Development Secretary Caroline Flint was also on the shortlist. At just 48 years old Flint would bring youth and vigour to the role, she would also break a glass ceiling, a former GMB political officer she had strong connections with the unions. Unfortunately for Flint she didn’t have the influence to challenge Balls, since Labour’s ousting from power in 2008 Flint had been forced out of the public eye and lacked the support in the party to provide a credible challenge to Balls.

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The young former Minister would become a senior standard bearer for the Labour right in the early 2010s

“During her career, Caroline has become a familiar face on current affairs programmes. She has been on shows such as This Week, Question Time and Politics Live. Caroline served as a Minister in five departments during the Brown governments. Caroline has been active in politics joining the Labour Party at the age of 17. She was active in three general elections before standing for election in 1997. She has never been in any other party. Caroline worked in local government, the voluntary sector and for a trade union before becoming an MP. She is Chair of the Community Union Parliamentary Group; and also a member of the GMB. In the early 1990s Caroline was Chair of Working for Childcare, the Workplace Nurseries Campaign.”
- Extract from the leaked website “Caroline4Leader” (2011)

There was only one real option, Alan Johnson, the “left behind’s Mayor.” Despite his defeat in the 2009 Primary, Johnson remained active in the media and was the last Blairite big beast left, his Hull Mayoralty gave him an anti-establishment figure. Like a dutiful soldier marching over the top, Johnson announced his candidacy. Johnson’s campaign was very light on policy, instead focusing on Johnson’s background as the working class son of a postman, Johnson pledged to break the hold of the “middle class elites”

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Johnson's campaign slogan was "A Working Class Champion"

From the soft-left of the party Sadiq Khan announced his candidacy, Khan had impressed pundits through his performance as the PLP’s Deputy Leader, progressive, young, Muslim and an excellent media performer Khan’s chances looked good, whilst it was unlikely he could defeat Balls, he might be able to push Johnson into third place. Khan’s campaign was similar to Ed Miliband’s he ran on his opposition to the Iraq War in 2011 and pledged to attack the roots of problems like crime and poverty, Khan was also the most unabashedly pro-immigration candidate in the field.

Rosie Winterton also made a surprise bid for the job. Whilst she was popular amongst MP she didn’t have the backing of any particular faction and was virtually unknown by members of the public. Winterton ran as a unity candidate promising to put to bed the Blairite/Brownite divisions, she also argued it was time for a woman leader.

The campaign was fairly short only a couple of weeks long, which suited Balls just fine. Balls quickly racked up endorsements from senior Labour figures including Gordon Brown and John Prescott. Balls’ campaign had the backing of almost all the major unions, leading to a well-funded and slick operation. Opponents attempted to rile Balls in order to reveal his abrasive personality to members of the public, but Balls kept his cool out in the open, by the time of the special conference in Glasgow polls showed Balls winning comfortably in the first round.

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The results were a blowout victory for Balls, with the full weight of the Labour establishment behind him and a divided opposition Balls cruised to a comfortable victory, Khan too put in a strong performance, coming two points behind Johnson. Balls’ speech struck a hopeful, insurgent note, seemingly drawing a line under the Blair era. Although Balls extolled the virtues of financial discipline, he also promised “bold, courageous leadership” pledging he would not be afraid to take on vested interests and promising to reform British society from “top to bottom”. Balls’ speech made sharp contrast to David Miliband’s cautious leadership over the last three years. Balls had won the party, now he had to win the country

“It is a pleasure to be here at the LSE to give my first speech on economics as Leader of the Opposition. And it will come as a relief to hear that I don’t intend to lecture you on economic theory today. In my speech at the headquarters of Bloomberg, I set out the lack of economic theory underpinning Vince Cable's economic strategy. I shone a light on the large extent to which political calculations were already driving the new Government’s policy. And I want today to look at what happens when a choice between politics and economics confronts policy-makers. And the consequences of getting that choice wrong. Throughout history, historians describe pivotal moments when leaders have faced a choice as ‘a fork in the road’. But in peacetime politics or economics, such moments tend to involve less of a clear-cut choice between two paths and more of a gradual drift. Take the fateful decision for Britain to join the ERM. That wasn’t the result of great minds sitting around a table one day weighing up the pros and cons. It was the product of years of deliberation and delay, persuasion and preparation.” - LSE Lecture by Ed Balls “the economic alternative” (2011)

To what extent is “Ballsism” a distinct ideology from Blairism and Brownism (30 Marks) - A Level Politics Exam (2019)
 
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