"A Very British Transition" - A Post-Junta Britain TL

New Statesman Article: SDP Leadership Runners and Riders
SDP leadership: runners and riders

By Caroline Crampton

With Alan Johnson on the ropes, his resignation is increasingly a matter of it, not when. In no particular order the New Statesman will take you through the party's runners and riders. From exiled kings across the water to union barons and sharp-elbowed journalists.

Ed Balls


Province: West Yorkshire

Age: 45

Background: Ed Balls has been an MP since the 2005 general election. He was educated at Oxford and Harvard and worked for the Financial Times before the fall of the Junta. He then served as the SDP's Chief Economist during the 2005 election. Balls was immediately made minister for Social Policy, Families and Dependency, and then worked his way into Cabinet as Industry Secretary.

Seen as a Johnson Loyalist he was made Home Secretary after Eddie Izzard walked out of the Cabinet in protest. Among his policies implemented while Industry Secretary is an expansion of paternity leave. He is married to Yvette Cooper, a fellow minister and MP for the Highlands & Islands. They have three children.

Key Allies: Kevin Brennan, Vernon Coaker and Kerry McCarthy

Soundbite: “I think it’s really important we don’t just talk to ourselves. We’ve got to hear what the country’s got to say.”

Floella Benjamin


Province: South Outer London

Age: 63

Background: Benjamin migrated to the UK in 1960 and was eight years old when the coup happened. She would go into media as one of Britain’s few prominent black women actresses and would even be elected as an independent Bromley Councillor in 2000. After the Junta fell Benjamin joined the SDP as was elected as an MP in 2005, she would remain on the backbenches until 2009 when she was named Culture Secretary, becoming the second ever black woman minister.

Policies she’s implemented include further funding for children’s TV and a liberalisation of Junta era morality laws for television and plays. She has spoken of a need for the SDP to reach out to black communities.

Key Allies: Paddy Ashdown, Tim Farron, Navnit Dholakia

Soundbite: “The SDP has to prove it can make our country a better, happier place for all our children.”

Rosie Boycott


Province: Dorset

Age: 61

Background: Born in Jersey and privately educated, Boycott isn’t the first person that springs to mind when you think of an SDP MP. After the Junta rose Boycott became an unlikely dissident, writing for underground feminist papers such as “Vindication”. She would even serve a stint in prison. After the Junta fell she was elected as an MP for Dorset in 2005, initially serving as Culture Secretary. She would have a meteoric rise, going from Education, to the Foreign Office and finally deputy Prime Minister.

Seen as on the right of the party, she has been fiercely loyal to Alan Johnson and criticised the Socialist Alternative for wanting to “return to a dictatorship”. One of her greatest achievements as Deputy Leader was nearly doubling the number of women SDP candidates in 2009. She has called for the party to do more on environmental issues.

Key Allies: Miranda Whitehead, Helen Pankhurst, Kat Banyard

Soundbite: "Carbon has no politics. Carbon is not waiting for us to get our act together”

Andy Burnham


Province: Merseyside

Age: 41

Background: Born in Liverpool, Burnham joined his local dissident group aged 14 during the miners’ strike, before going on to study in Dublin and living in exile. He worked for the Irish Labor Party and is a member of the Transport Workers’ Union. Burnham has served as the MP for Merseyside since 2006. Burnham held many junior ministries, including Social Policy, Equality, and Provincial Financing.

He is married with one son and two daughters, and is a keen cricket player and lifelong supporter of Everton FC. He is associated with the trade union wing of the social democrats and has argued the party needs to return to it’s populist roots and has suggested renaming the SDP to the “People’s Party”.

Key Allies: Hazel Blears, David Blunkett and Gerry Sutcliffe

Soundbite: “I want to play a part in reshaping the People’s Party for a new century.”

Yvette Cooper


Province: Highlands & Islands

Age: 43

Background: Born in Inverness, Cooper’s father was a trade union leader who “disappeared” during the terror of the 70s. She read PPE at Oxford before moving to the United States to work for the Democratic Party, she later worked as an White House Economic Advisor to President Bill Clinton, before going on to write for the Wall Street Journal. Returning to the UK in 2004, Cooper was elected to the Commons. As one of the few SDP MPs with any kind of governing experience, she was made minister for Provincial Cooperation; later being promoted to the Cabinet as Agriculture Secretary.

She is married to Ed Balls and has three children. She has called for the party to target "patriotic" older voters who are increasingly moving towards National. She said both the left and right of the party are seen as "europhiles" rather than patriotic.

Key Allies: Tristam Hunt, Jack Dromey and Geoffrey Robinson.

Soundbite: “If we can’t show people we love our country, we won’t ever win an election again.”

Chris Huhne


Province: Hampshire

Age: 59

Background: Huhne was born to upper-class London parents whilst studying at Oxford he was expelled and arrested for establishing the “Oxford Democratic Society”. After being let out early for good behaviour Huhne went on to work in the city, eventually starting his own investment company. When the Junta fell his firebrand nature resurfaced, becoming one of the SDP’s main financial backers and being elected to Parliament in 2005. Eventually making his way up to Foreign Secretary, Huhne was an adamant europhille, strongly supporting closer relations with Brussels.

He would eventually walk out of the Cabinet in protest of Sugar’s austerity budget. Generally seen as on the progressive wing of the party, Huhne has criticised Johnson’s moves toward the centre and his increasingly standoffish relationship with the European Union. Huhne has called for the party to strengthen it’s socially liberal credentials.

Key Allies: Lynne Featherstone, Sandra Gidley and Charles Kennedy

Soundbite: “We are the party of freedom”

Peter Mandelson


Age: 59

Province: Herefordshire

Background: Mandelson was born in North West London, whilst studying in Oxford he became a Communist and joined the Red Brigades before being imprisoned in 1979. Mandelson was broken out of prison by comrades in 1983, but had become disillusioned with the armed struggle. He left the Communist Party and fled to Paris where he worked for the British Freedom Foundation as a Comms Officer.

After the fall of the Junta he worked as Downing Street Director of Communications before being elected to Parliament in 2009. Seen as on the right of the party and as a committed europhile, even openly supporting a federalist Europe. Mandelson has clashed with those on the left of his party, especially it’s trade union backers.

Key Allies: Nick Brown, John Hutton, Geoff Hoon

Soundbite: “Britain will have to confront the choice between taking part in greater EU integration, or an uncertain future”

David Miliband


Province: Northumberland

Age: 46

Background: Born in Boston, Miliband is the son of the late Marxist dissident Ralph Miliband. He attended Middlesex School before majoring in Politics at Harvard. After working in the voluntary sector, he moved to Paris to work for the British Government in Exile, becoming Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Denis Healey. Following the fall of the Junta he was named Justice Secretary, and is the longest consistently serving member of the Cabinet.

He has been known for taking on ultra-conservative judges in the courts, and overseeing the prosecution on the 2009 coup plotters. He is married and has two sons. Whilst an ally of Johnson, he has said the party needs to modernise with a younger face at the helm. He has previously criticised the SDP’s closeness with the unions.

Soundbite: “Together we can be the change that Britain needs.”

Key Allies: Douglas Alexander, Caroline Flint and Willie Bain

Alan Sugar


Age: 65

Province: Inner East London

Background: Born in a Hackney council flat as a second generation immigrant, Sugar would work as a statistician for the Treasury before going on to start his own business selling consumer electronics. This would take off and Sugar would become a multi-millionaire. Sugar would move into media, starring in his own reality TV show “The Apprentice”. As a major donor to the SDP, when the Financial Crisis hit Johnson hired Sugar as an economic advisor, before parachuting him into a safe seat in 2009 so he could assume the Chancellor’s office.

Sugar has rammed through the Government’s controversial austerity budget, alienating almost everyone else in the party in the process. Sugar is seen as a ruthless operator and effective communicator, but has few friends left at the top of the party.

Key Allies: John Lee, Martin Taylor, John Mills

Soundbite: “I make no apology for representing the interests of business and enterprise”

Polly Toynbee


Province: Hampshire

Age: 63

Background: Born on the Isle of Wight, Toynbee went into exile in America shortly after the rise of the Junta as her step-father was a socialist philosopher. Toynbee would go on to join the American writing scene, working for the Washington Monthly and New York Times. When democracy returned to Blighty, she moved back to London, working as an SDP press office and being elected to the Commons.

A key member of the SDP's exile intelligentsia, Toynbee played a key role in reforming the Mountbatten curriculum. In the Commons Toynbee is known as a strong performer and fiery orator, although like many of the other exiles her American accent and clean hands have bred resentment among some in the party who slogged out the Junta.

Key Allies: Shirley Williams, Andrew Copson, Robert Ashby

Soundbite: “This peacetime crisis needs a lick of warlike fire.”

The Longshots

Other names mentioned to me are Industry Committee Chair John Denham, Education Secretary Clare Gerada, coup hero Sadiq Khan, Development Secretary Sandi Toksvig and 34-year old shooting star Chuka Umunna,

  • New Statesman, April 2012
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Balls and Miliband seem like the strongest choices here. Ed seems like the steady-hand-on-the-tiller choice while David feels like he might be able to inject some new energy into the party and British politics without alienating too many. I genuinely do feel kind of bad for Johnson. It seems like the man has had to deal with nothing but bad hands.
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Sugar is absolutely burned after the austerity budget, Toynbee and Mandelson sound like too elitarian, Boycott would probably cause the coalition deal to collapse, Benjamin is simply too much for a post-Junta Britain (they didn’t have a black woman as party leader IOTL after decades of cosmopolitanism). I would vote for Burnham but being at open war with unions doesn’t favor his candidacy. Milliband seems the stronger candidate, although Balls or Cooper could’ve hard opponents.
By the way, what happened to Edward Milliband?
Oh, and Eddie Izzard removed from Home Office? I lost an update on a Cabinet reshuffle or something?
I thought the Milliband brothers falling out in OTL was bad but imagine living in the house with Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper if one of them gets the job and the other doesn't.
If Sugar manages to get into the top position, then it's a sign that the SDP is buggered up the wazoo when it comes to reading the public mood. Beyond that, my personal vote if I was in this timeline would be down to three options, Balls, Milliband and Floella Benjamin to go against the grain a bit.
Sugar as PM would be great humour but I’m hoping for either Floella Benjamin or Burnham. Doubt it’ll be Ed Balls, seeing as he’s already been PM in the greatest work of alternate history EVER, The Commonwealth of Britain TL.
Hello readers!

As some have noticed this article references Eddie Izzard resigning and other events that haven't taken place yet.

This will all be covered in chapter 62. I thought I had uploaded chapter 62 but apparently that slipped my mind so instead it will hopefully go up tomorrow.

Many apologies for the spoilers, my work has brought me to Glasgow for COP the last few weeks so I'm a bit out of wack!
Sugar is absolutely burned after the austerity budget, Toynbee and Mandelson sound like too elitarian, Boycott would probably cause the coalition deal to collapse, Benjamin is simply too much for a post-Junta Britain (they didn’t have a black woman as party leader IOTL after decades of cosmopolitanism). I would vote for Burnham but being at open war with unions doesn’t favor his candidacy. Milliband seems the stronger candidate, although Balls or Cooper could’ve hard opponents.
By the way, what happened to Edward Milliband?
Oh, and Eddie Izzard removed from Home Office? I lost an update on a Cabinet reshuffle or something?
Ed remained in the US he is currently an economics lecturer in Harvard
This was my thought as well anytime someone mentions the top job and Peter Mandelson I get Sheev Episode one vibes.
Frankly I get Shiv from Succession vibes myself. He's just such a powerfully unlikeable figure that actualy being in the top position would probalby destroy both him and the party he leads. Which is why I'm rooting for him when Johnson gets knifed.
Never realised Yvette Cooper was fae Inverness. I always thought she was an English politician.
She was born in Inverness, but her father was a prominent trade unionist, which I think meant they moved around a lot. Obviously, he probably wouldn't have got those opportunities under the Junta, so she may have stayed put.
Benjamin is simply too much for a post-Junta Britain (they didn’t have a black woman as party leader IOTL after decades of cosmopolitanism).
Benjamin seems very unlikely for this reason, but stranger things have happened. I can imagine she would get a lot of protest and unsure votes.
Chapter 62: Dear Alan

Huhne was the biggest beast to walk out of Johnson's Cabinet

“We all love our movement. We know we owe the people everything and they owe us nothing. We owe it to our movement to say your continued leadership makes a National victory more likely. That would be disastrous for our country. This moment calls for stronger regulation, an active state, better public services, and an open democracy. It calls for a government that measures itself by how it treats the poorest in society. Those are our values, not William Hague's. We thus owe it to our country to give it a real choice. We need to show that we are prepared to fight for what we believe in and have the courage to offer an alternative future. We are calling on you to stand aside to give our party a fighting chance of winning.”
- An excerpt from “Dear Alan” (2012)

It’s ironic that a postman's career could be ended by a letter. When historians look back at the rise and fall of Alan Johnson, many of them say the “Dear Alan'' letter was the beginning of the end for the Johnson Premiership. The letter was early 2012, rather than fizzling out the Outrage protests of 2011 continued into the new year seizing on the imagination of the British public. The letter was signed by three senior members of Johnson’s Cabinet, Foreign Secretary Chris Huhne, Home Secretary Eddie Izzard and Development Secretary Charles Kennedy - the letter was also co-signed by over 30 SDP MPs and several union leaders. All of the signatories were from the progressive wing of the Social Democratic Party, increasingly concerned with Sugar’s austerity agenda and the protests raging outside their offices. In the letter the signatories criticised Johnson’s increasingly neoliberal policies and called for him to resign, or risk a National Party Government.

Immediately other senior figures distanced themselves from the letter, people like Sandi Toksvig and Tim Farron who had expressed sympathy for the Outrage protests, confirmed they would not be resigning. Toksvig condemned Huhne and others of making a “dangerous move” and warned the party couldn't risk a “divisive” leadership contest so close to local elections. Other Cabinet members used more colourful language, Chancellor Alan Sugar called the Cabinet walkout “pathetic” and “self-indulgent”. Education Secretary Peter Mandelson also denounced Huhne, saying the party didn’t have time to be “looking inwards rather than to the country”

The threat from the unions was also dangerous, with a groundswell of support for a populist left movement resulting from the Outraged protests, Johnson faced losing his biggest financial backers, and possibly sparking a new rival organisation to the Social Democrats. Whilst Johnson refused calls to resign it did raise further questions around his leadership as the sharks began to circle. Both Huhne and Izzard were seen as possible front-runners to replace Johnson in the great jostle for party leadership. Johnson would now have to reshuffle his Cabinet, and whilst he wasn’t planning to resign he could promote key allies in the Shadow Cabinet to ensure the party leadership would go to an ally, in case anything happened to his leadership.


Mandelson and Miliband were among Johnson's preferred successors

“Prime Minister Alan Johnson will carry out a sweeping reshuffle today after three allies walked out of his Cabinet. Chris Huhne, Eddie Izzard and Charles Kennedy are standing down after rows over Mr Johnson’s austerity measures. Among the front-runners for promotion are Clare Gerada. The former GP, will reportedly be made Education Secretary to take on National Party axeman Jeremy Clarkson. Yvette Cooper is set to join her in Johnson's senior ranks, with Housing Minister Sarah Teather also tipped for a top. Andy Burnham, an ally of the trade unions, is among men who are knocking on the door. The Prime Minister had hoped to tempt John Healey to the Cabinet, but party sources say he ruled himself out. Backbenchers Angela Eagle and David Howarth are also thought to be prime candidates for a promotion.
” - Alan Johnson to promote young guns in Cabinet reshuffle, James Lyons, The Mirror (2012)

Johnson Cabinet 2012-
  • Prime Minister - Alan Johnson (SDP)
  • Deputy Prime Minister - Rosie Boycott (SDP)
  • Chancellor of the Exchequer - Alan Sugar (SDP)
  • Foreign Secretary - Polly Toynbee (SDP)
  • Justice Secretary - David Miliband (SDP)
  • Defence Secretary - Peter Mandelson (SDP)
  • Home Secretary - Ed Balls (SDP)
  • Development Secretary - Sandi Toskvig (SDP)
  • Education Secretary - Clare Gerada (SDP)
  • Industry, Tourism and Trade Secretary - Alistair Darling (SDP)
  • Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Secretary - Yvette Cooper (SDP)
  • Public Administrations Secretary - Floella Benjamin (SDP)
  • Culture Secretary - Andy Burnham (SDP)
  • Health Secretary - Douglas Alexander (SDP)
  • Environment Secretary - Alastair Campbelll (SDP)
  • Housing Secretary - Tim Farron (SDP)

Both members of the Balls' power couple got promotions

Johnson took the opportunity the letter presented to remake the Cabinet in his own image, as a last-ditch attempt to keep his premiership alive. This included promoting allies such as Polly Toynbee and Peter Mandelson to key positions, as well as elevating allies such as Clare Gerada and Yvette Cooper to Cabinet level positions. The left of the party was increasingly sidelined with only figures like Sandi Toksvig and Andy Burnham acting as voices for the more progressive faction of the party. Opposition Leader William Hague described the reshuffle as a “desperate move, from a Prime Minister floundering for any sense of control” if Johnson was to go down, he was to go down fighting.

The letter came at the most damaging possible time, with local elections only weeks away. These elections would represent Johnson’s first brush with the voters since gaining a second term in 2009, and could prove the end of his career if the SDP failed to perform. Recent poll showed the SDP 17 points behind on local election polls with National on 45%, the SDP on 27%, the Alternative on 9% and Reform on 5%, the government faced a drubbing of a lifetime. Johnson declared his new Cabinet to be a “Government for the voters” that was “young, refreshed and ready to face the country”. Johnson had the team he wanted, and now it was time for his last stand.

“Both the British Social Democratic (SDP) and the National Parties are holding their breath as local elections approach. The duel is seen as a preliminary battle for parliamentary elections, and the victor will have a significant edge. Although the vote is local the biggest factors influencing voting are related to central governance. The economic recession has hit the UK hard. Unemployment figures have already risen to over 20 per cent and the banking sector is on the brink of collapse. Despite the positive turn in the first quarter of the year, recent economic forecasts do not raise many expectations. According to OECD statistics, the British economy has relapsed into a mild depression and the situation is unlikely to change.” - Alan Johnson’s Last Stand, Al Jazeera (2012)


Johnson's political career was comparable to a Shakespearean Tragedy
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