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

Chapter 40: Hope and Change
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    Bush's support for the dying Junta had not been forgotten

    “Whatever the president’s virtues, they remain unappreciated in his own time. To say that Bush is unpopular only begins to capture the historic depths of his estrangement from the American and global public. He is the most disliked president in seven decades. Sixty-nine percent of Americans disapproved of his performance in office in a Gallup poll in April. And while Truman and Nixon at their worst had even fewer supporters no president has endured such a prolonged period of public rejection. Bush has not enjoyed the support of a majority of Americans since March 2005. He has through his entire second term without most of the public behind him. Bush has been so far down for so long that his aides long ago gave up any hope that the numbers would change while he is still in office.”
    - The Final Days, Peter Baker, New York Times (2008)

    Few in the United Kingdom had shed a tear when George Bush stepped down as US President, fewer still had been all that upset when his Republican successor John McCain loss the US Presidential election, in fact they had all been rather pleased, Obama’s approval rating amongst the British people stood at 86%, compared to just 36% for Alan Johnson. Pictures of Obama dominated front pages and television news programs around the world. The Mirror newspaper published a photo of Obama and his wife Michelle above the headline: `The American Dream Comes to Power'. Johnson hoped to rekindle the Anglo-American alliance with Obama, George Bush made no secret of his disdain for the former postie and the Johnson administration hoped Obama would provide a clean slate, both men had led remarkable lives and secured historic politic victories, both men stood on a platform of optimism, hope and change, it seemed a match made in heaven.

    Just three months after Obama’s inauguration Johnson was on a plane to Washington DC, if everything went to plan Obama’s shine would rub off on Johnson and appearing besides the most powerful man in the world would give his administration a much-needed boost. Johnson’s visit would be the first state visit of a British leader since the fall of the Junta, and the first elected leader to visit DC in over 40 years. The ongoing financial crisis, and a mass programme of international economic stimulus was obvious first on both men's minds, but the agenda for the meeting was long and complicated. The items on the agenda included Obama’s planned closing of Guantanamo Bay, and the extradition of British Guantanamo inmates, as well as a climate summit in Copenhagen scheduled for 2010.


    Seven British citizens were held at Guantanamo

    “Barack Obama said that the bond between the UK and the US was "special and strong" after his first meeting with Alan Johnson. The US president insisted that the UK was one of America's "closest allies" and he promised to work with Johnson at the G20 summit in Moscow next month. Obama also spoke about his British ancestry on his mother's side. Obama also said that he had a "terrific" relationship with the prime minister and that there was "a shared set of values and assumptions between us". Speaking to reporters in the White House, Obama said: "The special relationship between the US and Great Britain is one that is important to me." "It is sustained by a common language, a common culture, our legal system which is inherited from the English system and our system of government.”
    - Special relationship as strong as ever, Obama tells Johnson, Associated Press (2009)


    Obama hoped to move away from Bush era foreign policy

    The most difficult conversation came early on, in a discussion around Britain's further military withdrawal from around the world. Johnson informed Obama Britain would be withdrawing it’s over 1,000 troops from Kosovo. The Junta had dutifully followed the Clinton Administration into Kosovo back in 1998 but with Britain’s finances overstretched, and the military needed to maintain order at home and in Afghanistan, where British troops were taking record casualties from renewed insurgents, Johnson needed those troops back. Furthermore the British Government still refused to recognise Kosovo, worrying recognising the new state would galvanise separatists in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Secretary of State Susan Rice issued strong criticism by stating that the United States was "disappointed" by the decision. Alan Johnson told reporters "The mission has been completed and it is time to return home."

    Apart from the icy conversation over Kosovo, Johnson’s trip went well, he received all the pomp and ceremony, visiting various DC landmarks. Johnson’s greatest victory was securing a speech to the joint sessions of Congress. In this speech Johnson exalted the virtues of optimism, directly comparing Obama overcoming racism to lead his country, and Johnson’s own work bringing down the Junta, and his humble background as an orphaned former postman. In his joint press conference with Obama, both men lavished praise on each other in an unprecedented display of unity. The various Junta Admirals had never been that close with any US President, most Presidents wanting the public to forget the dictatorship they propped up across the pond, maybe now the two men could build a personal friendship, maybe some kind of special relationship?

    “Working together, there is no challenge to which we are not equal, no obstacle that we cannot overcome. In the depths of the Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt did battle with fear itself, it was by his optimism that he triumphed. You, the American people, at your core, remain every bit as optimistic as your Roosevelts, your Reagans and your Obamas. This is the faith in the future that has always been the story and promise of America. So at this defining moment in history let us renew our special relationship for our generation and our times. Let us restore prosperity and protect this planet and, with faith in the future, let us together build tomorrow today.” - Johnson’s Speech to the US Congress (2009)


    Johnson's visit was broadly a success
    Chapter 41: From Russia with Guns
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    The air was the one place the Ministry of Defence could operate without fear of the SNLA

    “A helicopter that crashed last week north-west of Aberdeen was shot down, the Ministry of Defence said today. The helicopter crashed last Wednesday northwest of Aberdeen, killing all seven people on board. A dissident group linked to the SNLA claimed responsibility and aired a video on the internet. Military officials initially said they did not believe it was shot down by insurgents. Early evidence indicated that the helicopter went down as a result of mechanical failure. After further investigation the cause of the incident was confirmed to be hostile fire, Defence Secretary Charles Guthrie said in a statement. At least seven North Sea Oil helicopters have received hostile fire since January, mostly from small arms. Guthrie declined to comment on the dissident's weapons capabilities, citing security concerns.”
    - UK Ministry of Defence confirms SNLA dissidents shot down helicopter, Associated Press (2009)

    As Johnson flew over the Atlantic another less glamorous flight was taking place, from a BP Oil Rig out in the North Sea, a helicopter was carrying seven people back to mainland Britain. Now the SNLA had always particularly hated British Petroleum and English drilling in the North Sea. For those radicals who remained in the SNLA dissident cells, a British run company stealing Scotland’s mineral wealth was an unforgivable insult. Most of the time these fighters camping out in the countryside had to watch powerlessly as these choppers shuttled imperialists to the rig and back. But tonight was different, tonight they had a missile launcher.

    All seven passengers died, sporadic attacks by the SNLA were nothing new, the occasional shooting or bomb attack was common. But a surface to air missile attack was something else. The most pressing question was where did they get these launchers from, and did they have anymore? The Centre for National Intelligence (CNI) presented two main theories. Theory one, a fellow international rebel group like the FARC or IRA had provided the SNLA with a launcher. Theory two, another government had provided these weapons to the Scottish Separatists, the main suspects being the Libyans and the Russians. Russia was seen as the most likely culprit, the arms could have been a warning as Johnson flew into Moscow and Medvedev’s home, this would be an icy summit.

    This left Johnson in a bit of a conundrum, the voters and pundits at home wanted retribution, a strong line against the Putin/Medvedev administration, however Obama, German Chancellor Merkel, and other western leaders urged Johnson to exercise restraint. With the global recession ongoing now was not the time to anger Medvedev and risk collapsing the summit. Of course both Obama and Merkel had their own agendas, both hoping to thaw relations between Russia and the west. After a stern talking to by his allies, Johnson agreed not to confront Medvedev publicly, only discussing Russia’s financing of British terror groups in one-to-one meetings behind closed doors.


    Obama hoped for a detente with the Russians

    “We have an instrument of coordination that is the G21 for the concerted mobilisation of resources to merge a common response to the crisis. The accession of global governance will be vital in the fight against extreme poverty and the effects of climate change. We should be aware that nothing is beyond our reach; that we should take nothing as destined. We are responsible for our present and for our future. Let us live up to the many and high expectations. Let us offer the world the security it needs, and demands of us. We are faced with a great challenge, but also with a great opportunity to resolve it. And to open up a new horizon of hope for humanity.”
    - Johnson’s Speech to the G21 (2009)

    With the British delegation on it’s best behaviour, the summit continued on as normal, well relatively normal considering the circumstances. The 21 nations agreed an 800 billion euro package in international investment, to be allocated via multinational institutions such as the World Bank and IMF. The IMF in particular received a huge raft of funding, essentially tripling the capital it had to hand. The nations also agreed to greater international regulation for the finance and banking sector, with strict controls on banker’s bonuses and stricter controls on the operation of hedge funds. Finally the assembled nations agreed 80 billion euros in funding to help the world’s poorest nations weather the financial storm.


    As had become standard for G20 meetings, protests raged outside

    In a quiet backroom, Johnson challenged the Russian leader on how a few dissidents running around the Scottish highlands were able to get their hands on a missile launcher, or how far-right paramilitaries like Civil Assistance kept finding crates of military grade weapons. Mr Medvedev of course had no idea, and what could Johnson do to stop him anyway? His good friend President Obama had thrown him under the bus for a peaceful summit and an easy life, without the backing of other western leaders there was little Johnson could do to hold the Putin/Medvedev administration to account. He got the usual democratic platitudes of “further counter-terrorism cooperation” and a “full independent investigation” by the Kremlin, but very little in terms of concrete actions.

    Despite his difficulties with Medvedev, the financial side of the summit had been a success. Getting such a diverse group of nations to agree to a radical package was a victory in itself, but at home Johnson was being hit hard by the press and parliamentary opposition. Leaks revealed to the public that Johnson had effectively been ordered into silence by the US President. National was outraged that Johnson had refused to challenge Medvedev publicly on Russian weapon exports, accusing the Prime Minister of putting “American and German interests ahead of the safety of the British people”. The Alternative was also outraged, they had hoped the days of Britain being ordered around by a US President had died with the Junta, but Britain remained a pawn in Obama’s global negotiations. Whether Johnson had done the right thing by putting domestic politics aside to secure a global recovery would be down to the historians of the world, but now he had to go home and face the music.

    “The G21 came through, the leaders were serious, consequent, and - yes - even efficient in their work. Standouts included Alan Johnson of Britain, Kevin Rudd of Australia, Felipe Calderon of Mexico, Hu Jintao of China, and Lula da Silva of Brazil. The poorest countries, by and large, were not in the room. As usual, their plight came far behind the immediate concerns of the high-income and middle-income countries. Still, through the assiduous efforts of Secretary General Shashi Tharoor there was a clear commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. This included a strong reiteration of commitments on development and stronger social safety nets.” - The G21 Summit: Accomplishments beyond expectation, Centre for Economic Policy Research (2009)


    Johnson had improved his standing abroad, but upset the electorate at home
    Wikibox: Scottish National Liberation Army
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    The Scottish National Liberation Army (SNLA), is an armed Scottish nationalist and separatist organisation. The group was founded in 1969 as a paramilitary group engaged in a violent campaign of bombing, assassinations and kidnappings in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom. Its goal was gaining independence for the Scottish Nation. The SNLA was the main group within the Scottish liberation movement and was the most important Scottish participant in the Scottish conflict.

    Since 1968, it has killed 1,169 people (including 479 civilians) and injured thousands more. The SNLA is classified as a terrorist group by the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and the European Union. This convention was followed by a plurality of domestic and international media, which also referred to the group as terrorists. There are more than 360 imprisoned former members of the group.

    The SNLA leadership declared a ceasefire in 2004 under the Cardiff Accords. Despite this, a significant minority continued a dissident armed struggle campaign. The SNLA's motto is “Scotland Forever''. It’s symbol is a two pronged fork with one prong representing politics and the other representing armed struggle.
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    Chapter 42: Cleggmania
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    Clegg had been considered a future National leader

    “Leaked papers show Nick Clegg, the Shadow Chancellor, illegally claimed over his parliamentary second home allowance and funnelled it to friends in the development industry. Mr Clegg submitted regular claims for gardening, furniture and decorating at his constituency home in South Yorkshire and Parliamentary home in Islington. Leaked records show that Mr Clegg claimed well over the allowance limit. Over the following months, he fitted the house with a 3,000 euro kitchen, and had 6,000 euros worth of decorating done. He claimed for carpets, a laminate floor, tiling and sanding, curtains, blinds, curtain rails and repairs to a garage door. Most of this money went towards development companies owned by his friend and National donor David Rowland.”
    - How Nick Clegg broke legal parliamentary expenses limit, Rosa Prince, The Telegraph (2009)

    It was good to be a National politician, especially if you were horrendously corrupt. Every week you would see an SDP or Alternative local politician marched away by the police, safe in the knowledge your friends in the Security Services would keep you safe. Shadow Chancellor Nick Clegg had thought the same, he had funnelled public money to wealthy friends in Britain’s property development industry, including using taxpayer money to finance renovations to his Islington home, no expense was spared with tens of thousands of euros going to fixing up the Shadow Chancellor’s house, including over a thousand euros on a rose garden. Nick Clegg’s acts weren’t particularly unusual, especially for a transition politician, with a lack of civil society, corruption was rampant around Britain’s MPs and local legislators. Since Clegg was in National he could build all the rose gardens he wanted without fear of investigation.

    Unfortunately for Clegg he decided to do something very foolish, unlike some hardliners in his party, Clegg was weary of the Security Services, he remembered being tailed by agents when he served as Britain’s Ambassador to the EU, when Whitehall suspected he was planning to defect. Now as National’s leading liberal reformer, Clegg had committed the mother of all sins, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the country’s leading pro-National broadsheet, Clegg said he supported the SDP’s reforms in breaking up the Security Services and even mused further cuts to COCTI’s inflated budget. Of course this couldn’t stand, whether Clegg thought he was untouchable due to his party membership, or senior political position, the hammer of COCTI came all the same. Stories of Clegg’s “business partnerships” found their way into Britain’s leading papers and Clegg was marched out of his pretty Islington house in his dressing gown at 3am.

    A message had been sent. Unfortunately for Tim Collins, it was budget day, and National no-longer had a Shadow Chancellor. Collins’ two most obvious successors to Clegg were Foreign Secretary David Davis or Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, however both ruled each other out. Davis was a former SAS man and Eurosceptic hardliner; he would never have been an acceptable follow-up to the liberal Clegg. Clarke on the other hand was a euro-federalist alcoholic, his appointment would enrage the party’s perpetually red faced purists. The unfortunate fact of Collin’s political existence was that half his Shadow Cabinet hated the other half, almost any appointment would cause a resignation which would dominate the airways. With the election two months away, Collins needed a safe bet, someone respected by all wings of his party.


    The new Shadow Chancellor would arguably be the second most powerful politician in National

    “Davis earned his spurs as a toughie when he walked the battlements of Saltwood castle, home of the Junta-era diarist Alan Clark. Davis recalls when Clark took a party of officials to the top of his castle to inspect the "black run", a battlement with a sheer drop on one side. "I sort of walked it," he says. "I didn't think about it. As I got back, Alan said: 'My God, nobody else has done it that way before. You never took your hands out of your pockets.' I wasn't thinking about it. I suppose some people took their hands out of their pockets and held on to the side. It didn't occur to me. Alan was a complete sucker for acts of bravado." Despite his uncharacteristic modesty, Davis also relishes acts of bravado. For the moment, though, he is experiencing a rare calmness as he reflects that he may be changing the political weather. "
    - David Davis: Maverick or Hardliner?, Nicholas Watt, The Guardian (2009)

    Chancellor Simon Hughes delivered the Johnson Government’s budget with little flare, keeping a respectful tone due to the gravity of the situation. It included an extra 300 million euro investment in Britain’s poorer outer regions as part of a package of economic stimulus to keep Britain's economy back on track. These regions conveniently included Alternative strongholds in Merseyside and Greater Manchester, just in case the socialists forgot which side they were on. Hughes pledged no cuts to social spending and no freeze on public sector pay. It was a naked election budget, full of pork-barrel policies to keep the British voters onside, but with National’s Shadow Chancellor in Islington Police station, who would lead the charge against it?


    Chief Whip William Hague presented Collins with a very brief shortlist

    From the National benches, former Chief Whip William Hague rose, as the party’s new Shadow Chancellor. Hague, long known for his oratory skills and parliamentary knowledge, gave a strong response, much to the delight of the conservative press. Hague lambasted Hughes’ budget with wit and humour, maligning the SDP attempts to “spend their way out a hole”. Whilst Hague received applause from the National benches and headlines in the papers, Deputy Leader Theresa May glowered next to him, National’s crown was suddenly in play. Hague’s strong performance had minimised the damage to National by Clegg’s arrest, and arguably saved the party’s election campaign.

    A day that should’ve been an overwhelming victory for the SDP ended in a stalemate. The budget passed to little surprises with the Alternative’s MPs honouring their pact and falling in line. The 2009 budget was the last major piece of legislation before purdah, the official election period in the United Kingdom. Johnson’s SDP administration, with a little help from the Socialist Alternative, had made it a full four year term, a minor miracle in and of itself. He hadn’t been shot, couped or imprisoned, which means he was doing a lot better than any other social democratic politician in the last forty years. The Social Democrats had won the peace, now could they hold it?

    “ComRes have a new poll in the Independent tomorrow. The top-line figures, with changes from the last ComRes poll, are NAT 42%(-1), SDP 39%(-2), SA 5%(+1). The SDP is lower than in other recent polls, but so is National, so we’re seeing roughly the same gap between National and the SDP as we have in all other recent polls. Support for “others” is at a high 14%, though ComRes do often weigh people who voted “other” in 2005 to a higher level than the other phone pollsters. For the record the breakdown for the others here is REFORM 4% (+1), SNP (3%) (-), RISE 2 (+1) and PLAID 1% (-) and all others on 4%. While I’m here, this morning’s Telegraph had some more details held over from last week’s YouGov poll, dealing with the issue of MP’s corruption. Public opinion towards them was hostile. 68% agreed that "most politicians are corrupt". - UK Polling Report (2009)


    Support for third parties was growing
    2009 Election Special, Part 1
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    Brussels liked Johnson, but were suspicious of his potential coalition partners

    “Pro-EU reformists are nosing ahead in the latest polls before Britain's election. This is a pivotal event that could consolidate Britain's EU entry, or aggravate the risk of renewed conflict in the heart of modern Europe. The pro-EU SDP scored 40% in a poll on Thursday, with National on 41% percent and the radical Socialist Alternative party of former paramilitaries on 6%. The EU's preferred scenario would see Johnson or Collins team up with either each other, or the smaller pro-EU Reform Party. The EU wants a clear majority in London's 497-seat parliament to steer the country toward a negotiated settlement on Scotland. Its worst case scenario could see the Social Democrats unite with radical leftists in the Alternative and RISE parties. This could embolden the Scottish provinces into a unilateral grab at independence.”
    - Pro-EU party trails polls in knife-edge British election, Andrew Rettman, EU Observer

    Looking at the board, the 2009 election was all to play for, the financial crisis and various corruption scandals had given National an opportunity to breakthrough, but the party remained distrusted by many voters, especially in the cities. The Social Democrats had taken a battering but were still polling in the late 30s, Johnson remained a popular figure and the people’s preferred Prime Minister. Both parties had declined in the polls over the last few months and voters sought an alternative. One would think *the Alternative* would benefit from this situation, but their support for the SDP government and its budget had prevented them from capitalising on Johnson’s economic woes. North of the border, RISE’s polling had collapsed since the arrest of Tommy Sheridan so they were unlikely to pose a threat to the establishment.

    There was a void, but no one seemed able to fill it. Johnson launched into an energetic campaign, banking on his own personal popularity and an optimistic campaign. The party’s slogan “Reasons to Believe” were plastered on posters with Johnson’s face up and down the country. Johnson also tacked to the centre in his campaign, hoping to quash the threat presented by the new Reform Party. Johnson pledged a stronger line against SNLA dissidents and an end to “separatist concessions” in the wake of Tommy Sheridan’s conviction. SDP strategists new Johnson’s perceived softness on Scottish separatism were unpopular with the nation’s unionist community, and the voters of small-town middle England, both of which he would need to win to hold onto Downing Street.

    National took an economically conservative line in their campaign, centring their campaign on the financial crisis and its impact on working people. Collins promised to curtail the Social Democrats reckless spending, whilst ring-fencing essential services such as the military and the police. Collins did come under pressure for the ordering of his party lists - unlike the SDP or Alternative (where party members voted for their party lists at conference), National’s General Committee assigned party lists from the top-down, giving the leadership a great deal of control. The party’s moderate wing was outraged when the lists revealed several leading reformists had been moved down the list in favour of new politicians aligned to Collins.


    The Colonel valued loyalty above all else

    In South Yorkshire, Collin’s press director Jeremy Clarkson was placed at the top of the National list, above two incumbent MPs. Shadow Chancellor Nick Clegg, a National MP for South Yorkshire, was unceremoniously booted off the list entirely, despite the fact he was awaiting trial. Several Shadow Ministers weren’t placed at the top of their list in an unprecedented display, most notably Justice Secretary Ken Clarke was demoted to third on the Derbyshire list. Critics accused Collins of acting like a despot and using the list system to remove internal rivals. Some saw this as a sign Collins wasn’t confident in winning the election and hoped to secure the party for his chosen successor.

    “The National selection process in 2009 rested upon a strong commitment to the party and Tim Collins personally. The process was also marked by an informality that tended to benefit privileged and well-connected men. A pamphlet published in 2010 by the National Reform Group argued that “A tap on the shoulder was all that was necessary to put someone on the list”. The party had in fact used a formal process to approve candidates. This process – which was based on Sandhurst’s army officer training procedure, focused on assessing candidates debating skills at the expense of other attributes. This prejudiced the process in favour of public school educated men. One study concluded that “institutionalised sexism” during selections was a particular problem. With National's poor polling among women voters in particular, calls for far-reaching reform grew louder.” - Candidate selection in the National Party, Institute for Government (2011)


    Deputy Leader Theresa May had founded the National Women's Forum to promote women members of the party

    Up in Scotland the SNP was working ruthlessly to consolidate the separatist vote. After Sheridan’s arrest RISE had been thrown into chaos and it’s polling had tanked. The new leader Alex Neil lacked either Sheridan’s charisma or the political loyalty Sheridan had inspired in radical separatists. The party was losing its social democratic voters to the SNP and it’s more radical votes to the Worker’s Party of Scotland, a splinter group set up by hardcore Sheridan allies. Swinney hoped to establish the SNP as the main party of Scottish nationalism, arguing if all of Scotland’s nationalists gave him their backing, they could send a strong message to Westminster and secure independence for the Scottish nation.

    The defining event of the election came when Johnson made a campaign stop in his home region of Humberside, meeting with campaign staff at the party’s regional headquarters. Johnson stepped outside for a conversation with his Chief of Staff, David Lammy. Whilst he had been enjoying a mars bar, a bomb went off in the building. Being outside the building, Johnson was thrown off his feet and broke his arm, but wasn’t badly injured. Eight campaign staff were killed and dozens were injured. Civil Assistance claimed responsibility. For just a few moments Britain had felt like a normal democracy, having a normal election with normal politics. That illusion had been shattered.

    Nonetheless the attack had boosted the SDP’s standing in the polls, and quashed any chance of the far-right new Nationalist Party making its way into Parliament. The City of Hull, where the attack took place, rallied around the victims, and all major parties announced a suspension of campaigning for 48 hours following the attack. Johnson, Collins and Meacher made a joint statement outside Hull City Hall, promising a kinder, gentler campaign, this included a commitment to end negative campaign adverts and further protections for campaign staff. Whilst the Hull bombing had been the most egregious form of violence, it wasn’t a lone act, violence had become a fact of life during the election, canvassers had dogs set on them, and different party volunteers had gotten into fights if they door-knocked the same streets. All three leaders disavowed political violence and their volunteers to do better, but it became increasingly clear no one was really in control.

    “NNP Leader Godfrey Bloom, has been accused of advocating violence. Mr Bloom said that those who had no other way of expressing a legitimate grievance had a right to "hurt people, maim and blow things up". Mr Bloom is currently running as an NNP candidate for Humberside and the European Parliament. He added that people faced with a "tyrannical government" had a right, if not a duty, to "take up arms”. Mr Bloom made the comments in an interview, recorded by Diana Johnson, who is standing as an SDP candidate for the same seat. The NNP leader last night accused Ms Johnson of using "clipped and manipulated extracts" of the interview. In the footage, Mr Bloom said: "When people have a genuine grievance, if the state doesn't care, then what choice are people left but to do something which is outside the parliamentary system.” - NNP leader Godfrey Bloom accused of advocating violence, Tom Whitehead, The Guardian (2009)


    After a quiet few months Civil Assistance had shot back into headlines
    2009 Election Debate
  • Candidates spar in British election debate

    By Victoria Burnett


    In a tense televised debate, British PM Alan Johnson and opposition leader Tim Collins focused on immigration, terrorism and the economy.

    Johnson and Collins clashed in a high-stakes election debate, with opinion polls indicating the SDP incumbent bested his rival.

    The incumbent Prime Minister attended the debate with his arm in a cast, after surviving an assassination attempt by far-right paramilitaries.

    Two polls released immediately after the face-off, indicated Johnson had scored a victory over Collins.

    The BBC's polling said 50.8 percent of people thought Johnson had won and 29 percent believed Collins had. ITV reported figures of 49.2 to 29.1 percent respectively.

    "Johnson uses policy to counter Collins' gloom," headlined the centrist Sun newspaper on Tuesday.

    Collins is facing his last chance to deny Johnson a second mandate.

    The latest opinion polls give Collins' opposition National Party a lead of about two percentage points over Johnson's SDP but the Social Democrats have been closing in.

    "It's double or quits for Collins today in the debate," said the right-wing Daily Mail, while the Mirror described it as his "last chance to reverse the tide."

    The opposition has accused the government of mismanaging the economy and has vowed to take a hard line on immigration if elected.

    According to the BBC, the debate netted 17.54 million viewers the highest ratings of any live TV since the live signing of the Cardiff Accords in 2004

    A combative Collins charged Monday the prime minister had "got his priorities wrong."

    "We need a government that provides certainty and security. A government that takes care of the real problems and does not divide us," Collins said, referring to Johnson's social reforms that have upset the powerful Anglican Church

    Collins said immigration "is not being controlled."

    "There are Brits who lose out because foreigners come with lower incomes and get priority help from social services," said Collins.

    Johnson responded that the only immigrants who can remain are "those who can legally work."

    Collins accused the government of "negotiating with terrorists" in its failed peace process with SNLA dissidents.

    Johnson vowed to support whatever government is elected in the fight against terrorism. "I would like to hear him say the same thing," he said.

    Mr Johnson accused the opposition of “doing nothing more than weakening the government’s hand in the fight against terrorism”.

    Collins accused Johnson of insulting the victims of terrorism by negotiating with terrorists, who he said were now occupying town hall posts, paid for with taxpayer's money.

    Johnson countered he received no support from the opposition for its anti-terrorism policies. He argued this made it impossible for him to bring peace to the Scottish provinces.

    Sparks flew over the fate of Rory Steel, a teenage SNLA fighter imprisoned under Terrorism Laws, the youngest person imprisoned under these laws.

    The Johnson Government came under pressure from human rights law to transfer Steel to a lower security young offenders institution.

    Collins promised to change the law to ensure teenagers imprisoned under terrorism charges would remain in maximum security prisons.

    Collins also accused Johnson of "ignoring reality" over the slowing economy, while Johnson promised to revive it.

    Commentators agreed that Mr Collins had looked formidable as he attacked the government’s management of the economy. He made repeated reference to the higher cost of food staples, while depicting a country where people feared for their jobs.

    The economy is likely to be the key to this election. During the debate, the two leaders traded statistics on everything from the price of eggs to unemployment. They waved graphs and polls at each other to support their arguments.

    Collins said that under Johnson "prices have gone up" and "unemployment has risen". Johnson replied that the country had enjoyed "four years of spectacular growth".

    He also blamed immigrants for rising crime levels and stretched social services in the country. He reaffirmed his party’s hard line on forcing foreigners to integrate into British society.

    Mr Johnson countered with his government’s record on social reform as well as spending on pensions, education and research.

    Immigration has become a key issue, in a country where 6% of the 60 million inhabitants are foreign-born. Collins accused Johnson of ignoring the rising phenomenon. "You are not interested in talking about immigration, but I am - 30% of prisoners in jail are foreign.

    “We have to establish some order and control and your party does not want to."

    Despite net emigration being much higher than immigration, polls show older Brits are especially concerned around incoming migrants.

    Collins has made this a central plank in National's campaign, targeting lower class families worried about competing for scarce jobs.

    Johnson retorted that when he came to power in 2005 there were 300,000 illegal immigrants. "We have given them contracts, with the agreement of companies and unions," he said.

    Johnson, 59, scored a surprise victory over Collin, 49, in a March 2005 election, months after the passage of the Cardiff Accords.

    Johnson drew support from many Brits who saw the ruling National Party as too close to the Junta Government of Peter Hill-Norton and Louis Mountbatten.

    On taking office, he withdrew Britain's troops from Iraq, something he recalled at Monday's debate.

    But Collins accused the prime minister of lying to the British people by supporting a UN resolution on Iraq two months later.

    It was the second televised debate between the two candidates, following a tense confrontation on May 25.

    The debate was criticised by smaller parties who were not given the same mass-media format to present their programmes.

    Michael Meacher, leader of the Socialist Alternative, described the event as “two monologues".

    Neither the debate's mediator nor the public were allowed to ask questions. This left both sides repeating well-rehearsed arguments. Unlike the US elections, which have been enlivened by audience participation, the debate felt old-fashioned.

    The candidates were incapable of rising above dry statistics to give a broader vision of the future.

    At the end of the debate Johnson chose to sign off by saying "Good night, and good luck", in the fashion of Edward Murrow.

    Opinion polls released afterwards indicated Johnson scored a points victory but not a knock-out blow.

    A poll published in the Telegraph on Monday found 43 percent of voters supported National against 41 percent for the SDP.

    That would give Johnson's party between 197 and 211 seats in Britain's 497-seat parliament, compared with 206 to 220 for the National Party.

    This leave the left-wing Socialist Alternative (polling 18-32 seats) and the moderate Reform Party (polling 9-23 seats) as the kingmakers

    The poll predicted that turnout would be between 76 and 78 percent. This is more than the 75 percent which some analysts estimate is necessary for a win by the SDP, whose voters are less likely to take part.

    “The debates won’t convince voters to change parties, but they could convince them to go out and vote,” said Stephan Shakespeare, of YouGov.

    In the last week before the vote, the SDP has focused on achieving a high turnout. They warn of the risk of a "radical" right-wing government that would reverse Johnson's liberal social reforms.

    • New York Times, 2009
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    2009 Election Special, Part 2
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    Johnson was the SDP's biggest, maybe only, asset

    “The popularity of British Prime Minister Alan Johnson has hit a four-month high, according to a survey by the Star. The Prime Minister's approval rating rose to 57 percent in the first week of June from 53 percent in mid-May. This compared with a smaller drop of 2 points to 44 percent for Opposition Leader Tim Collins, the survey showed. Fifty-eight percent judged Johnson's response to the financial crisis to have been positive. In another poll by Opinium, 55 percent of those asked said they felt Johnson had managed the global economic crisis well. But almost two-thirds of participants said the billions released to save the financial system had been badly used. Major companies had benefited most from the PM's policies, which had not led to better regulation of capitalism, according to the views expressed in the poll.”
    - Johnson’s popularity rises after debates, Reuters (2009)

    After a strong performance in the debate, the SDP continued to close the gap with National, but Johnson still had a problem, he was personally more popular than the Social Democratic brand itself. The party strategists either had a choice, keep Johnson at the forefront of the campaign and reap the rewards of his personal popularity, or step back and allow other Cabinet Ministers to take leadership roles, with the hope of strengthening the SDP brand. Johnson’s top team would opt for the latter option, and Johnson would focus on barnstorming speeches across the country, whilst media appearances would be handled by trusted lieutenants including Deputy PM Alan Milburn, Chancellor Simon Hughes and Foreign Secretary Rosie Boycott.

    National began to pivot to warning of an unstable SDP coalition, reliant not only on the Alternative but also MPs from the SNP and RISE. Collins warned a government involving seperatist parties would form an existential threat to the Union and would force Johnson to “invite terrorists to the Cabinet table”. With both parties neck and neck governing arithmetic became difficult. The Alternative’s membership were hesitant around another term with the SDP, and would never agree to working with National. Reform said it was open to either major party but would never work with radical leftists or separatists. The SNP’s leadership said it was open to working with either parties as long as it was offered comprehensive reform of Scottish governance, in other words a powerful central Scottish authority, if not an outright independence referendum.

    “Plaid Cymru and the SNP MPs have formed a new "Celtic alliance" at Westminster in a bid to increase their influence over a possible minority government. Helen Jones of Plaid Cymru and John Swinney of the SNP signed a joint agreement to press for a "four-point programme" in a future hung parliament. The new nationalist bloc currently has a total of 20 MPs out of the 497 currently at Westminster; 13 SNP and seven Welsh nationalists. Both the SNP and Plaid believe they can increase that number. Swinney's party is confident it will win at least 20 seats at the election, while a Plaid spokesman said it hopes for a "marked increase" on its seven seats. But, Plaid in particular is facing a tougher time making gains than Jones had predicted.” - SNP and Plaid Cymru form Celtic alliance to influence hung parliament, Severin Carrell, The Guardian (2009)


    The Celtic Alliance would form a strong voting bloc in the likely event of a hung parliament

    On the National side, Collins was trying to counter criticism that he had moved his party to the right after the sacking of Nick Clegg. The SDP had warned Collins was eurosceptic at heart and would frustrate Britain’s further integration to the EU. To counter this Collins gained public endorsements from his European People’s Party allies, including French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Both Sarkozy and Merkel had taken a more fiscally conservative attitude to EU action post-crash, compared to Johnson who had favoured Obama’s stimulus route. They would be quite happy to push Johnson out and get a fellow fiscal conservative in Downing Street. Either way, most EU leaders just wanted a strong government of either party, they feared if Britain collapsed again,refugees would go streaming into their borders.

    Collins also rallied the powerful Anglican Church behind him. In an unprecedented display Arch-Bishop of Canterbury Michael Nazir-Ali gave National a public endorsement, calling on all good Christians to vote against Johnson’s government. Nazir-Ali pointed towards Johnson’s legalisation of same-sex marriage, the liberalisation of aborition laws and attempted reforms to the curriculum as proof Johnson was running an ungodly administration. Just under a fifth of British voters attended Church just once a week, so Nazir-Ali’s statement was powerful. But on the other side of the coin secular, Catholic and other non-Anglican voters were turned off by the Church getting involved so directly in politics. SDP MP Norman Warner warned of a “state religion” should National be returned to power.


    Laws being made in Canterbury, not Westminster, worried some secular votes

    The Reform Party was having a fairly quiet election, after being locked out of the debates they were struggling to keep themselves relevant, and tensions were building behind the scenes between Brown and her Deputy Ruth Davidson. As with most third parties, the main question journalists wanted to ask was which party they’d team up with in a hung Parliament. Brown preferred the Social Democrats whilst figures on the party’s right like Ruth Davidson and John Bercow preferred National. This came from a conflicting vision on what the party should be, Brown wanted the party to be a bastion of moderate, dragging the Social Democrats away from the Alternative and towards the centre, whilst Davidson wanted the party to be a party of unionism above all else, working with National to ensure devolution went no further.

    The main beneficiaries of Reform’s struggle was the SDP, with centrist voters returning to the devil they knew. What had been striking about the campaign was that no third party managed to break through, despite the corruption scandals and general poor approval ratings of both major parties. The big two had consistently improved in the polls since the election was called, especially the SDP who had gone from five points behind in some early polls to being basically neck and neck with National. National had failed to capitalise on the gift that had been the financial crisis, and whilst around the world politics was turned on its head politics in Britain had been surprisingly stable. The main issue now was what came after the election.

    “On June 7, 2009, six years after the death of Peter Hill-Norton, Britons are electing new Parliament. It is the second contested parliamentary election, and it produced scenes that Mountbatten would have abhorred. In Merseyside, Communists are waving red banners, chanting slogans, and singing the Internationale. In Humberside, the dynamic leader of the Social Democrats enters rallies with his left hand in a clenched fist salute. Celtic politicians speak Irish, Welsh and Gaelic, all forbidden languages a few years before. More than 37 million Brits are voting in a peaceful campaign that presented all points of view, no matter how repulsive to the memory of Mountbatten. Taking advantage of a strong debate performance Prime Minister Alan Johnson is hoping to win a second term in office.”
    - Britain's New Democracy, Foreign Affairs (2009)


    Collins had stumbled and lost momentum in the last days of the campaign
    2009 Reader's Poll Result
  • Hola Comrades,

    I am currently broadcasting from an undisclosed location as the fascist agents of Mountbatten commonly know as BT Broadband still haven't turned my sodding wifi on.

    So to tide you all over here's the results from our the Reader's Poll, now it turns out Survey Monkey has a maximum response of 40 people, over 80 people replied to the poll but I'm afraid to say only the first 40 were counted (next time I'll do a strawpoll).

    2009 Election Reader's Edition
    • SDP - 174 (-63) (35%) (-12.2%)
    • Nat - 124 (-65) (25%) (-12.6%)
    • SA - 99 (+76) (20%) (+15.4%)
    • Reform - 37 (+37) (7.5%) (+7.5%)
    • SDLP - 24 (+22) (5%) (+4.3%)
    • Plaid - 12 (+5) (2.5%) (+0.9%)
    • RISE - 12 (-1) (2.5%) (-0.2%)
    • Sinn Fein - 12 (+8) (2.5%) (+1.7%)
    In a shocking upset it appears the Socialist Alternative have surged, nearly quadrupling their representation in Parliament. Both the major parties have suffered losses losing over a hundred seats between the two of them. The SDLP and Sinn Fein have somehow won every Northern Irish seat and then some - meaning a border poll is likely in the near future. In Scotland the SNP has collapsed to zero seats in a very unexpected turn of events.

    With these results the SDP/SA government looks likely to continue with the Alternative in a much stronger position, Meacher is likely to demand Cabinet seats for him and his comrades, only time will tell if they can hold it together.

    (Real exit poll and election results coming soon)
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    2009 Exit Poll
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    (Big Ben Chimes)



    Andrew Marr - Our exit poll is saying a hung parliament, no surprises there with National winning a plurality of the seats on 211, up 22. Nipping at their heels we have the Social Democrats on 203, down 34. The Socialist Alternative is on 24 seats, up 1. A good night for the Scottish National Party on 16, up 3. Sarah Brown’s reform party has made it into Parliament with 15 seats, up 15. Plaid Cymru are on 6 seats, down 1, A disastrous night for RISE on 5 seats, down 8, losing over half their MPs. And all others, including the Northern Irish parties on 16 seats. The BBC teamed up with Mori to make this poll who spoke to people outside polling stations in all 40 provinces. Our producers are telling me to stress that this is just a uniform swing exit poll, it is just meant to give a general picture of the results so don’t cash any bets just yet. I now go over to my colleague Kirsty Wark for her thoughts.

    KW - This result is sure to set alarm bells ringing in Whitehall - this is exactly the result civil servants tell me they didn’t want. There’s just 8 seats between the two main parties and no clear path to a majority. The SDP/SA pact we’ve seen governing the country for the last four years is over 20 seats short, Tim Collins also has no clear path to Downing Street, even working with Reform he also falls over 20 seats short. For either party to get back into government they’ll have to make deals with people they don’t like . The SNP has said it’s open to working with either party but neither Johnson nor Collins want to be seen to endorse Scottish separatism, either way the “Celtic Alliance” of Plaid and SNP MPs look likely to play kingmaker.

    AM - Yes I imagine a disappointing night for Tim Collins, some may remember at the start of this campaign he was four, five, even six points ahead in some polls, but a lackluster campaign and internal snipping on the National benches seem to have hamstrung him. Collins has already had one go at Downing Street only to come up short, if he fails a second time he faces a backbench mutiny.

    KW - Absolutely, many National MPs have privately said to me “look the SDPs had a recession, terror attacks and corruption scandals - if we can’t win an election against them now - with all that going on - when can we win?” Many in the party are saying they need to move past their Junta image and bring in a civilian leader.

    AM - A dramatic result in Scotland, RISE seems to have completely collapsed and the SNP have swooped in to pick up the pieces, the Sheridan Scandal has sucker punched the Scottish socialists (try saying that three times in a row). Now the SNP rules the roost, they can demand a high price for their participation in government. Could we be looking at a unified Scottish authority or even an independence referendum?

    KW - John Swinney has been very cautious over this election campaign. He’s tried to ride both horses, picking up disaffected RISE voters whilst not spooking moderate Scottish voters. He is likely to demand extra funding for Scotland and recognition of the Scottish nation, rather than go full pelt for a referendum.

    AM - Before we discuss any more horse trading we must again stress this is only an exit poll so a lot can change in the next few hours. In the studio with me now I have Greg Clark, he’s a National MP for Kent and a leading member of the party’s liberal faction. He is seen as an ally of Former Shadow Chancellor Nick Clegg and was recently demoted from first on the Kent National Party list to third - knowing Kent he’s likely safe anyway. Mr Clark thank you for joining us. You’ve said the National Party needs to "look, sound and think like Britain” if it hopes to win, do you think Tim Collins looks, sounds and thinks like Britain?
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    Chapter 43: Erskine Maybe
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    National emerged as the largest party, but with few clear routes to Downing Street

    “UK Prime minister Alan Johnson insisted on Monday that he would forge ahead with forming a government, even after his party lost over 30 seats. Commenting on the election Mr. Johnson said that “in politics, you cannot always achieve 100 percent of the goals that you set.” Still, he promised to stick to his second term objectives because “this is what Britain needs.” But Tim Collins of the National Party, suggested that the SDP had avoided the clear-cut defeat forecast by pollsters through "glitz and spin", arguing he should form the next government. In Sunday’s vote, the National Party won 211 of the 497 seats in the House of Commons, against 203 seats for the SDP. While the National Party won the most votes for the first time since Britain’s return to democracy, it fell short of the 249 seats needed for the absolute majority.”
    - UK’s Ruling Party Disappointed in Ballot, Raphael Minder, New York Times (2009)

    The hardest part about democracy is disappointment, sure getting beaten or imprisoned isn’t fun, but the copper wouldn’t get your hopes up. He’d say he was going to smack you, and then smack you, simpler times. Speaking of getting smacked in the face, very few people were happy with the 2009 election results - Alan Johnson had lost his majority and was more reliant on the Socialists then before, Tim Collins had failed to win a clear mandate despite all the tribulations the SDP had faced. Even the third parties were glum, the Alternative had watched global capitalism melt down around them and only gained one measly seat, meanwhile the Reform Party had spent millions of pounds for fourth place, not even on the podium. RISE had lost over half it’s MPs and the SNP had only managed to pick up three of RISE’s eight dropped legislators.

    Everyone was depressed, exhausted and thoroughly annoyed at each other, such is the joy of democratic engagement. There was no time to sulk however as an invisible clock began to tick down. Politicians of all parties knew they had limited time to get some sort of functioning administration together before the military got bored and decided to march on Whitehall and shell Glasgow for old times’ sake. Collins, as leader of the largest party seemingly had the best shot at forming a government, but he found a lot of doors slammed in his face. Shockingly neither the Alternative or RISE wanted to work with him so some sort of frankenstein nationalist/communists alliance (Jean-Pierre Faye eat your heart out) wasn’t going to happen. Both Reform and the SNP were open to working with National, but not working with each other, so that route was a non-starter, so Collins’ only real path to Downing Street was hand in hand with Alan Johnson.

    “Britain’s stunned political parties looked for a way forward after an election that gave none of them a parliamentary majority. “The winner is: Ungovernability,” ran the headline in the London Evening Standard. The country is confronting deadlock in the next few weeks as sworn enemies are forced to work together to form a government. The results left the governing left-wing bloc of Prime Minister Alan Johnson without a majority in the House of Commons. Financial markets fell at the prospect of a stalemate pushing Britain's borrowing costs higher. Johnson has the difficult choice of trying to agree a “grand coalition” with Opposition Leader Tim Collins or striking a deal with regional Separatists. Collins admitted on Tuesday he had “come first but not won” the crucial elections and asked parties to join him in forming a government.” - Britain seeks path out of election impasse, Al Jazeera (2009)


    Johnson wasn't going to give up the premiership without a fight

    Johnson’s path to Downing Street was equally murky, assuming he could get the Alternative back on side (and that was a big if) he would need at least two other parties to get over the line. The Reform Party was the obvious choice but they had been established in direct opposition to the Alternative’s perceived radicalism. Brown had said several times on the campaign trail she wouldn’t support a government involving any far-left or separatist parties, and nothing she said after election day indicated she had changed her mind. The other option was working with the “Celtic Alliance '' of the SNP and Plaid, both countries would demand extra funding for their provinces, further powers and even an independence referendum. Swinney was likely to play hardball and cooperating with the separatists would be unthinkable for many in the SDP.

    Johnson approached Meacher first, in the talks lasting several days Johnson managed to talk Meacher down from a position of “full communism immediately” to three key pledges. Firstly, a cap on the pension age, keeping the retirement age to 65 throughout the parliament. Secondly, no cuts to corporation tax and finally a 400 euro payment to the long term unemployed to prevent Britain’s growing jobless population from falling into poverty. In return for these pledges Meacher agreed to keep the confidence and supply agreement in place with the SDP, voting alongside the Social Democrats in confidence votes, including the budget.

    With the Alternative pact signed, sealed and delivered Johnson once again led the largest bloc in parliament, with this momentum he could make an approach to the unruly Celts and attempt a last desperate dash back to Downing Street. Seeing his political capital fall through his fingers, Collins made a last minute gambit. He held a eleventh hour press conference where he announced plans for National to “bring the country together in a time of crisis” National proposed a continental style grand coalition stretching both left and right, to steer the country through the financial crisis. Collins called on the Social Democrats to put party politics aside and come to the negotiating table for the sake of national unity and to avoid a prolonged period of uncertainty.


    Mountbatten's dictatorship had started with a "national unity government"

    Collins signed his speech off with the now infamous line “Mr Johnson, the future of democracy as we know it is in your hands”. Alarm bells went off across Westminster, many perceived the speech, especially the last line as a threat. Appearing on the John Simpson Show, Alternative Deputy Leader Diana Abbott described Collins’ speech as “get on board or our mates send the tanks in - it’s a soft coup!”. The “coup clock” as SDP party insiders called it, was ticking closer and closer to midnight. Johnson’s options were narrowing; he could risk it all on a deal with the separatist parties, or he could let the “soft coup” happen. The postie from an Inner London Council Estate had been bombed, shot at, bribed, threatened and beaten in the name of democracy, was he ready to do it all again?

    “It's quite hard, at a time when most politicians appear to have popped out of the womb yelling for a Hansard, to imagine a prime minister who was once a postman. It's quite hard to imagine a prime minister who was, from the age of 12, brought up by his 15-year-old sister in a council flat, and left school at 15. It's quite hard, but it shouldn't be, because our Prime Minister is Alan Johnson. This is a man who cares about the kinds of people who don't grow up dreaming of Downing Street. "We were in a bar the other night," says his aide and I overheard someone saying 'There's someone famous over there, but I don't know his name'". Johnson laughs. "I guess," he says, "I'm never going to make it now". To a second term, I ask, or as a rock star? Alan Johnson flashes me a smile. "Both," he says, and quite a big part of me wishes he was wrong.” - An Interview with Alan Johnson, Christina Patterson, The Independent (2009)


    "Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die" by Alfred Lord Tennyson was a popular saying among the Junta era military
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    2009 Election Detailed Results
  • UK House of Commons as of June 2009
    • National Party - 211
    • Social Democratic Party - 203
    • Socialist Alternative - 24
    • Scottish National Party - 16
    • Reform Party - 15
    • Plaid Cymru - 6
    • RISE Party - 5
    • Sinn Fein - 4
    • Ulster Conservatives - 4
    • Social Democratic and Labour Party - 3
    • Ecology Party - 3
    • Mebyon Kernow- 1
    • Northern Irish Liberals - 1
    • Worker's Party of Scotland - 1
    Chapter 44: Storm in a Teacup
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    The Junta's shadow still loomed large over coalition negotiations

    “The last time a Queen of England made an emergency speech to the nation was after the death of First Lord Hill Norton in 2004. The time before that was in 1968, when the monarch’s intervention gave legitimacy to a coup d’état. On Tuesday night Queen Elizabeth made her own speech, calling for unity in the face of an election result that threatens to tear the country apart. But, to its critics, the speech risks fanning the flames of division in the UK. The Queen took an uncompromising line criticising unnamed parties that sought to “break the unity of our Kingdom”. “The Queen effectively warned the main parties away from negotiations with the separatist parties. Instead of trying to play good cop and push for a mediated solution, she took a very hard line,” said Patrick Dunleavy, professor at the LSE.”
    - Queen of England’s emergency speech takes her to political front line, Chris Good, The Atlantic (2009)

    In some ways Collins’ thinly veiled threats around democracy had done Johnson a favour, nothing focused the minds like an old-fashioned counter revolution. The Social Democrats decided to try and play both sides for as long as possible, using Collins’ intervention as leverage with the regional separatists. Whilst the Celtic Alliance had planned to open with a referendum demand and negotiate down from there, the newly found time pressure put John Swinney in a mood to compromise. Instead negotiations moved more towards constitutional settlements, and of course, more money. Both the SNP and Plaid demanded a unified authority for their nations with further powers and capital to these authorities. The separatists hoped to secure a deal that would strengthen their nations, without going too far and having tanks rolling down Edinburgh's Royal Mile. It gave Johnson the opportunity to play good cop with to Collin's bad cop

    Johnson agreed an extra billion euros to Welsh provinces and 3.2 billion to the Scottish provinces. Whilst he denied creating a unified Scottish and Welsh authority, he did agree to several constitutional reforms. Symbolically, Johnson agreed to recognise both Scotland and Wales as their own nations within the United Kingdom, with the rights to special privileges benefiting their situation. Each Nation also received an empowered “Executive Committee”, with representatives from national parties and the constituent provinces to resolve disputes between the nations and central government, and to coordinate policy between the various provinces. The Executive Committees would be granted extended powers in regards to things like taxation, transport, and labour policy, in other words - autonomous governments in all but name. Most importantly, Johnson agreed to a theoretical recognition of both Scotland and Wales’ right to self determination, opening the door for a possible future referendum.

    The pieces were in place for a rainbow coalition, all Johnson had to do was give the go ahead. Still a full second term with the Socialists and Separatists was no easy feat. Even with it’s SDLP sister party and all it’s confidence and supply partners, the Johnson government would only have a majority of five seats and this was assuming the military would let such a government happen. When democracy had first returned to British shores, Johnson had a meeting with Denis Healey, leader of the British Government in Exile, for a formal handover of power. His first piece of advice had been “keep the bastards out at all costs”. The Social Democrats had come too far and sacrificed too much to put National back in power. Johnson gave the order, he was going to Buckingham to have the most important cup of tea in his life.


    Reports indicated Her Majesty was privately disappointed with Johnson's decision

    “Britain took a leap into the unknown last night when the SDP formed the second government since the transition to democracy. Johnson finally entered Downing Street after seeing the Queen at Buckingham Palace last night. His accession concludes a remarkable two-week political tug of war. On the steps of Downing Street, Johnson said: "This is going to be hard and difficult work. The recession has thrown up all sorts of challenges. But together we can provide that strong and stable government that our country needs." The deal with the SA, SNP and Plaid Cymru was finally agreed last night after Johnson offered further autonomy to the Scottish and Welsh provinces. Johnson declined an offer from Opposition Leader Tim Collins for a grand coalition with the National partly.” - Alan Johnson leads SDP back to power, Patrick Wintour, The Guardian (2009)

    After a taxpayer funded chat with the magic old lady (and nearly being pissed on by a corgi) Johnson returned to Downing Street to announce his second term government and show the public his Cabinet. In his speech Johnson pledged to be a “Prime Minister for all people” promising to bring the country together after a difficult four years. Johnson pledged to bring the country out of recession “without breaking the backs of the poor” through locking the pension age at 65 and a new basic payment for long-term unemployed Brits. Most radically, Johnson declared his government would usher in a new constitutional settlement to recognise the special status of Britain’s minority nations and to further empower provinces and local governments.

    Johnson Cabinet 2009-
    • Prime Minister - Alan Johnson (SDP)
    • Deputy Prime Minister - Rosie Boycott (SDP)
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer - Alan Sugar (SDP)
    • Foreign Secretary - Chris Huhne (SDP)
    • Justice Secretary - David Miliband (SDP)
    • Defence Secretary - Field Marshal Charles Guthrie (Military)
    • Home Secretary - Eddie Izzard (SDP)
    • Development Secretary - Charles Kennedy (SDP)
    • Education Secretary - Polly Toynbee (SDP)
    • Industry, Tourism and Trade Secretary - Peter Mandelson (SDP)
    • Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Secretary - Sandi Toskvig (SDP)
    • Public Administrations Secretary - Ed Balls (SDP)
    • Culture Secretary - Alistair Darling (SDP)
    • Health Secretary - Paddy Ashdown (SDP)
    • Environment Secretary - Alastair Campbelll (SDP)
    • Housing Secretary - Tim Farron (SDP)


    The Government's critics accused Sugar of buying his way to the Treasury

    The most notable promotions were Rosie Boycott and Alan Sugar. The party’s old Deputy Leader, Alan Milburn, had decided he liked the perks of the private sector better and disliked the constant attempts on his life - thus he had quietly declined to seek re-election to the Commons. Boycott, as Foreign Secretary and a strong Johnson ally was tapped for the Deputy Leadership making her one of the most powerful women in British history. Sir Sugar was a different story, having been appointed as the Government’s business tsar Sugar had impressed the party higher ups (a million euro donation to the party didn’t hurt) and he was quickly rushed to the top of the electoral list in Inner East London - and then to Treasury

    To his supporters, Sugar was bringing fresh experience into government, to his detractors it was a Putinesque scene of corruption, paying his way into the Cabinet. Sugar was infamous in some circles for his ego and prickly personality, with many pundits doubting he could be a loyal team player under Johnson. To balance the maverick Sugar, loyal Cabinet members like Chris Huhne, Eddie Izzard and Charles Kennedy all received much expected promotions, and younger Junior Ministers like Ed Balls and Tim Farron were promoted to the top table. Johnson had his Cabinet, younger, fresher and ready to go, now he just had to make sure to get them through parliament, preferably without any of them getting shot.

    “Retired members of Britain’s military have sent two letters to the Queen expressing concerns about the “communist” Johnson government. In these emotional missives the retirees address the monarch as head of the armed forces, and pledge their allegiance to the “homeland,”. They claim the UK's “national cohesion” has been weakened by the minority government led by Alan Johnson. These extraordinary letters were followed by a manifesto along similar lines. This one described Britain’s SDP government as “a serious risk to the unity of Britain” and was signed by more than 500 former members of the military. The outrage expressed in these documents was sparked by the deal that Johnson cut with leftist, and separatist parties.” - Britain’s Military Has No Time for Democracy, Thomas Ricks, Foreign Policy (2009)


    The military saw little difference between the SNP and SNLA
    Chapter 45: Do or Die
  • 1633352676105.png

    The Queen's role in the coup attempt of 2009 would be debated for years to come

    “Queen Elizabeth showed "sympathy" for the 2009 coup plotters. That was the impression that the then-German ambassador to London Wolfgang Ischinger, passed on to his bosses in Berlin. He based the view on a meeting with the British monarch a month after the attempted military coup of 10th August 2009, exactly ten years ago. In that meeting, the British head of state "showed no revulsion" with the coup plotters, but rather "understanding." Her words were almost an "apology" to the military rebels, believing that they only "wanted the best." This document has just been made public after being declassified by the German foreign ministry.
    ” - The shadowy role of the Queen in the attempted coup of 2009, Richard Walker, The National (2019)

    Shabana Mahmood was a novelty. At just 28 years old she was one of the youngest MPs in the new Parliament, she was also the second ever Muslim woman elected to the House of Commons. Generally Jonathon Riley was not a novelty, in a Parliament filled with old white men, usually veterans Riley blended into the background nicely. A National MP and leading member of the party’s hardliner faction, Riley had opted not to seek a second term in the Commons, instead he went back to the military and went for drinks with some old pals. Now Mahmood was inside Parliament, and Riley was outside. The good news for Riley was he had a gun, and so did his 300 mates.

    At around 4pm on the 10th of August 2009 the House of Commons was having it’s usual ceremony of swearing in MPs, over 400 MPs had been sworn in with only the last few dozen waiting their turn. The Commons was unusually busy as Johnson hoped to get his Cabinet voted through in the evening after the last few MPs were sworn in. Shabana Mahmood, a 28 year old rising star was giving her oath to the Queen when several dozen armed men stormed the Chamber, with several hundred others securing the Palace of Westminster, Portcullis House, The Norman Shaw Buildings and other key points around the Parliamentary Estate. Led by General Jonathon Riley, the Neo-Mountbattenites as the media dubbed them, were a motley crew of former Civil Guardsmen, rogue soldiers and Civil Assistance paramilitaries. The armed men shot speaker Vince Cable and then kindly informed the assorted parliamentarians that they had all been relieved of their positions, to take their seats and await further instruction. This was all broadcast live around the world by the Common’s cameras and microphones.

    At the same time rebel forces in Northern Ireland had seized Belfast and military units in Berkshire, North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire had also risen up from their barracks, with smaller sporadic mutinies happening up and down the country. The rebels had also seized Broadcasting House, where Robert Kilroy-Silk, the old voice of the Junta, swaggered back to his usual seat to deliver a message to the British people. Silk announced the “Salvation Government” had seized control of the House of Commons in the name of the Queen in order to prevent a government of “socialists and separatists from destroying our United Kingdom”. Almost every single member of the House of Commons was now trapped in the world’s oldest parliament, surrounded by heavily armed men.


    The 300 Salvation soldiers entered into a siege with armed police outside

    “The swearing in ceremony was nearly finished. When Several of the ushers who kept the doors closed entered the chamber shouting "fire, fire." Black Rod, believing that it was a fire, recommended calm to the MPs. Immediately afterwards, several men in Civil Guard uniforms broke into the Chamber and asked those present not to move. General Jonathon Riley addressed the Speaker, Vince Cable and shot him. Other members of the Civil Guard went to the stands of the photographers and the television cameras, ordering them not to take videos. The first moment, the civil guards and the plainclothes people who acted alongside them, also armed, recommended calm to those present. When they had controlled the Chamber, they ordered deputies, the public and journalists to remain seated.”
    - A Very Un-British Coup! As it happened, George Pascoe-Watson, The Sun (2009)

    In the Commons the men of the “Salvation Government” were struggling to keep order, Defence Secretary Charles Gutherie, the highest ranking military official present, refused to sit down, ordering the men (who were technically his subordinates) to stand down. Either Gutherie was genuinely unaware of the coup or he was putting on the performance of a lifetime. 78 year old Alternative MP Dennis Skinner also refused to sit down, and had to be wrestled into his seat by three men half his age. The former coal-miner was physically gagged by his own neck-tie after one too-many heckle. Tim Collins too was thrown onto his seat, breaking his nose in the process, all the while the rambunctious scenes could be watched by all on BBC Parliament.


    Retired General and former MP Jonathon Riley led the storming of Parliament

    Johnson, Collins, Guthrie, Deputy PM Rosie Boycott, Deputy National Leader Theresa May and Socialist Alternative Leader Michael Meacher were all taken out of the Chamber and into the gentlemen’s cloakroom. They were given a statement, a pen and a gun to their collective heads. The statement outlined their agreement to take part in a “Government of National Salvation” headed up by “competent military authorities” who these authorities were was unclear. Being trapped in the Commons with no form of communication, the politicians had no idea if Riley was leading a couple dozen maniacs or the entire military had risen up across the country. All they had was the pen, the paper and the guns.

    Whilst most of the uprisings in the North of England stalled and struggled to take even their county town, in Northern Ireland the Juntistas were taking control at an unprecedented rate. The former Lord Lieutenant and Commander of the Irish Guards Brigadier James Hamilton lead the Northern Irish elements of the coup’s forces, with the help of loyalist paramilitaries and over 3,000 troops the Salvation forces seized Belfast, Derry and Lisburn, effectively placing them in control of the whole province. The only part of the province the rebels failed to capture was Belfast Airport and it’s adjoined RAF Aldergrove base. Aldergrove’s Commander Dave Cass remained loyal to the democratic government and controlled a fleet of attack helicopters; he threatened to unleash them on any Salvation forces who approached the airport, effectively trapping the Juntista’s forces across the Irish sea. This whole coup thing was harder than it looked.

    “The speed of the coup paralysed much of civil society. Apart from the Fire Brigades Union and RISE, there was no notable political or social organisation that issued a statement of protest in those crucial first few hours of the coup. When some trade unions discussed the possibility of mobilising their membership, they were immediately dissuaded from doing so by what remained of the government. Those opposed to industrial action argued that any demonstration could provoke further military action. That evening the memory of the Junta closed people up in their houses, paralysed and silenced. No one put up the slightest resistance to the coup. Everyone took the hijacking of Parliament with moods that varied from terror to euphoria. There was no popular response to the coup - fear of escalation led most to entrusting elite actors to reach a negotiated settlement. The fire of 2003 was gone.” - The Moment: The 2009 Coup and it’s Aftermath, Thomas Hennessey (2014)


    With civil society failing to act the protests that sprung up were decentralised and overwhelmingly led by the young and organised through social media
    Chapter 46: Where is the Love?
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    Locked in the Commons' cloakroom, Johnson stalled for time

    “The iconic image of the 2009 coup is the refusal of Britain’s beleaguered prime minister, Alan Johnson, to obey Riley's order to sit down. Johnson stands while Defence Secretary, Charles Guthtrie, challenges Riley's men to put down their weapons. Out of camera shot, the leader of the Socialist Alternative, Michael Meacher, also stays put, impassively reading a book. These three gestures of resistance tell a lot about the three men who put their lives on the line that day. Johnson had won the first democratic elections in the UK since 1966. But by 2009 Johnson seemed impotent in the face of enormous economic challenges and increased saber rattling by the army. As the coup erupted Johnson was being voted back into office on a reduced majority.”
    - Alan Johnson and the 2009 coup, Joe Brennan, The Irish Times (2019)

    The Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP was one of the few members of Parliament not currently locked in the Commons. As Attorney General, part of Khan’s role was to represent the government’s interests in legal cases and he was currently at the Supreme Court observing a case on EU human rights legislation. This was until a group of gentlemen from the Palace came to whisk him away. As it happened Khan was the highest ranking Government official without a gun to his head, and with Mr Johnson indisposed, her majesty was intending to swear him in as acting Prime Minister. With a rather rushed kiss of the hands Khan was now Britain's first ethnic minority Prime Minister, alongside the half-dozen junior ministers also not in the Chamber the Palace had been able to round up, Khan was now the head of Britain’s Provisional Government.

    As Khan was confirmed as acting Prime Minister, the international community was reeling, both the US and EU condemned the coup, EU President Margot Wallstrom declared the coup to be an act of terrorism. In Dublin the Irish Government was reeling, as Salvation forces secured control of Northern Ireland thousands of refugees were streaming over the border and troops loyal to Riley and Hamilton had begun setting up checkpoints along the Irish border to stem the tide. The Irish border had been open since the Cardiff Accords were signed, meaning there was no Garda or Irish Army presence able to stop the Mountbattenite forces. Taoiseach Brian Cowen now had the choice of sending Irish forces to open the border, or allowing Salvation forces to shut the border. With all the chaos engulfing the island, Cowen dared not risk further escalation with the British and opted to do nothing. Whilst several thousand had managed to flee overnight, by sunrise on the 11th the Irish Border was shut.


    Former IRA members were really regretting giving their guns up

    There was some good news for those loyal to the democratic government, an attempted Mountbattenite mutiny in Berkshire had been crushed as a group of young loyalist squaddies refused to support their Mountbattenite officers. The failure in Berkshire had prevented a further fire to be put out, and most importantly, Mountbattenite forces had failed to secure RAF Greenham and the decommissioned nuclear materials within. The air force in particular had been almost entirely loyal to the democratic administration, as the ground forces dissolved into infighting. At around 7am riot police were able to recapture Broadcasting House after Salvation forces surrendered. Kilroy-Silk and his compatriots were arrested and the provisional government regained control of national communications.

    “The pro-coup forces have seized control of Northern Ireland, under the command of General James Hamilton. A supporter of the late dictator Peter Hill Norton, the former Lord Lieutenant was recently discharged from the army. The general has declared a state of emergency and ordered tanks onto the streets of Belfast. In London the rebel army took over radio and TV stations for 14 hours. They dispersed when riot police arrived on the scene. The Queen has called Attorney General Sadiq Khan to lead a Provisional Government based at Buckingham Palace. The Provisional Government has issued a communiqué saying all measures will be taken to put down the rebellion. Despite these reassurances Brits are now wondering how long their four-year democracy can last.” - Rebel army seizes control in UK, Fox News Bulletin (2009)


    After losing control of Broadcasting House and failed uprisings across England, the men in Belfast and Westminster were on their own

    Losing control of the BBC was the least of Riley’s worries as inside the Commons all seven of the senior figures he had dragged into a separate cloakroom were refusing to sign their support for the Salvation Government. Things would get even more complicated as Field Marshall Richard Dannatt, a former Chief of the Army staff arrived on scene and demanded to speak with Riley. Dannatt lied and claimed he had been to see the Queen and she had appointed him as First Lord, ordering Riley to recognise his command. Dannatt had been involved in the coups’ planning but had been supportive of a “soft coup” creating a civilian-military authority including both main parties. Riley on the other hand supported a return to full military rule and refused to recognise Dannatt’s authority. Dannatt was allowed to come and go as he pleased but with most of the men in Parliament loyal to Riley, Dannatt was decidedly not in control.

    The Palace was silent, the Provisional Government was floundering and the politicians were hostages, but up and down the country thousands were taking to the streets, these were not union barons or NGO directors but mostly students and young people. Dubbed the “freedom generation” of those born in the 90s and late 80s, who had come of age as the Junta fell. Organised over up-and-coming social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, these young people organised protests armed only with their phones in unprecedented displays of bottom-up solitary and organisation. Protesters would go door to door handing out food and flowers and even broke into impromptu street parties. In probably the most bizarre event of the whole uprising were songs by the Black Eyed-Peas - an a-political hip-hop group from the states - became defining tunes of resistance. International correspondents traveling around London filming resistance to the coup instead came across students loudly singing “I Gotta Feeling” and “Where is the Love” out of tune.

    “The Black Eyed Peas' "Where is the Love” has emerged as the unlikely anthem of UK protests against an attempted coup. Protests around the world often develop their own soundtrack, usually songs with lyrics of defiance. But the hip-hop anthem taken up in London and Belfast hardly ticks those boxes. For the past few hours, the song has been heard almost non-stop at the main protest site, behind riot police lines at Westminster Square and at marches. It started with a group of students who sang several hit songs at the main protest site, with “Where is the Love'' catching on among the crowd. “This was the one people picked up, as it is easy for people to follow, with a simple message and easy melody,” said Bell Ribeiro, 23, president of the National Students Union. "It also shows that it is a peaceful protest,” Riberio added.” - Black Eyed Peas become unlikely faces of British student protests, Reuters (2009)


    Bizarre as it was the song represented everything the ultra-conservative military despised, degenerate hip-hop and pacifist politics
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    Chapter 47: The Queen’s Speech
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    Civil Assistance would incite pro-Junta civilians into riots

    “Cordoned off from the Parliament by riot policemen, crowds of young rightists and leftists sparred. "Kill them, Jonny!'' screamed the rightists, urging General Jonathon Riley to execute Alan Johnson and the other politicians held hostage. The leftists responded by chanting, ''The people united will never be defeated!'' Several regional commands have gone on alert. Scattered reports suggest that a few other commanders might throw their lot with the plotters if they gather strength. The ease with which Riley stormed Parliament with complete surprise also points to hidden complicities. After moving into the building, the General waited for a higher officer to appear, but none did.”
    - UK Enters Standoff, Sarah Lyall, New York Times (2009)

    To everyone’s surprise the Black Eyed Peas didn’t topple the Salvation Forces. Several more hours passed and the nation entered a standstill. Whilst most uprisings had been crushed, the Salvation Forces still maintained control of Parliament Square, Northern Ireland, and a handful of military bases up and down the country. The provisional leadership had made sure to deploy riot police, rather than soldiers, to Salvation controlled areas - as well as not trusting the army, many in the Provisional Government wanted to resolve the situation peacefully and avoid a civil war. The Palace had been deathly silent for almost eighteen hours, whilst she had called for Khan the Queen had refused to intervene directly. At midday on the 11th of August this would change and her majesty would talk directly to the country.

    The Queen was broadcast on television sets and radios across the nation. Dressed in her full military uniform she officially gave the order as Head of the Armed Forces that all military units should take “any and all measures necessary to uphold the democratic settlement under the Cardiff Accords and restore order to our United Kingdom”. She added “one will not tolerate anyone through use of force attempting to disrupt the accession of the democratic government the British people approved in an election.” She finished her speech with a direct order to Riley, Hamilton and their fellow conspirators, ordering them to lay down their arms and surrender to the civilian administration. It had taken her almost 24 hours, but the Crown had come down on the side of the democratic government.

    Left-wing papers would describe the queen as a "fair-weather friend" to democracy

    “Brits had heard for weeks of the possibility of a “touch on the rudder”. No one wanted to transform a “soft” coup into a “hard” one through staunch and immediate opposition. In not immediately opposing the coup, institutions hoped not to be counted among the vanquished if the coup should succeed. Whatever the reason, the majority of Brits, with the notable exception of the young, watched in silence as Riley took Parliament and the coup’s initial plans succeeded. There were many reasons why the coup attempt failed, and it is unclear the extent to which the Queen’s speech aided in this failure. What is undeniable though, is after the Queen’s appearance on television, cascades of condemnations of the coup poured forth. The Queen's words were echoed by trade unions, regional governments, local councils and the press. Thus the Queen's unequivocal denunciation of the military coup signified the triumph of democracy. Those who had been wary to intervene for whatever reason knew that without the Queen’s support, the coup could not succeed.”
    - The Queen's Role in the British Transition to Democracy, Lecture by Vernon Bogdanor, University of Oxford (2017)

    On Her Majesty's order the remaining neutral military forces came down on the side of the Provisional Government and several Salvation-aligned barracks uprisings surrendered to armed police. In Belfast, Hamilton began to lose control of the soldiers underneath him and ordered his troops back to their barracks and surrendered to David Cass of Belfast Airport, the highest ranking military official in Northern Ireland loyal to the Provisional Government. Whilst some of the loyalist paramilitaries who had joined in the uprising refused to stand down, order was eventually restored by the end of the day, with the Irish Border once again reopened. Alongside the airforce and the Northern Irish Police Force the civilian government of Northern Ireland under Provisional President Michelle Gildernew retook control of Stormont and the province.

    In Westminster, with the dulcet tones of Will-I-Am playing in the background, videos emerged on Twitter showing dozens soldiers abseiling out of the Commons or trying to escape through the Palace of Westminster's various tunnels, to be quickly arrested by awaiting riot police. Despite losing control of some of his men Riley and those still loyal to him refused to surrender and continued holding their hostages. After a series of negotiations between Khan representing the Provisional Government and Riley, eventually the plotters surrendered at roughly 5pm, 25 hours after they had first stormed the building. The MPs were released shortly after, and both sides scrambled to control the narrative of the coup, with National MPs singing “God Save the Queen”, the Alternative’s Members singing “The Red Flag”.


    Meacher would address the young protesters, hoping to bring them into the SA fold

    Khan surrendered control of the British Government to Johnson on the green outside the Palace of Westminster. Surrounded by international media and the young protesters Johnson made a speech to the nation. Johnson promised the perpetrators of the coup would be brought to justice and he would seek overarching reform of the military, promising an incident like this would never happen again. He announced a plan to solidify civilian control over the Ministry of Defence, promising to end the Military’s guaranteed seat at the Cabinet table, and bring in legislation for a civilian Defence Secretary: “The Military can no longer pretend to be above the people it serves”. The ball was firmly in Johnson’s court - behind him Guthrie grimaced, maybe he should have joined Riley after all.

    Johnson announced the creation of a “Northwood Commission'' to investigate the events of the coup and prosecute those responsible. Johnson refused calls for a court marshall making clear this would be a civilian trial. He appointed Supreme Court Justice Willy Bach to head the Commission. There were many questions still left unanswered, what was the Place’s role in the attempted coup? Who knew what and when? Were any civilian politicians in on the coup? And the most important question, would this happen again and how long did they have to get their house in order, before it all came crashing down again. The dark underbelly of transition Britain had been revealed to the world, could it be swept back under the rug?

    “Conspiracy theories have run rampant ever since the day of the coup. On the night of 24th March 2015, Adam Curtis’s latest documentary, "Operation Buckingham'', was broadcast on Channel 4. It received the highest viewing figures of any non-sports programme ever shown on the channel. The hour-long show made a series of extraordinary revelations. It claimed the 2009 coup was not a real coup, but a planned operation designed to shore up support for the Queen in the country. Some of the MPs who had been present on the day knew about the operation and testified to this fact in interviews. Curtis claimed the coup had been directed and filmed by Danny Cohen who confirmed in an interview that he had been hired to grip the public’s imagination. And then, at the end of the broadcast, Curtis admitted it was all a hoax. He had created the mockumentary, because no one knows what really happened behind the scenes in 2009. His aim, he said, was to ask the question: can a lie explain a truth?” - Operation Buckingham and 2009 Conspiracy Theories, Rob Orchard, Delayed Gratification (2014)


    Operation Buckingham was the conspiracy theory that the Palace had attempted to launch a "soft-coup" but lost control of Riley and the more hardline elements of the military
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    Chapter 48: Picking up the Pieces
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    The army was firmly in the spotlight

    “Amid high public expectations, the trial of the 429 soldiers and 32 civilians accused of plotting last month's failed coup opened today. The trial began with the reading of a detailed indictment chronicling the seizure of Parliament. Case 8/09 is being considered by a panel of 23 high ranking judges. Seated by rank in two rows the accused listened as the accusation of ''military rebellion'' was amplified over loudspeakers. Occasionally, defendants turned and waved to wives and other relatives from behind a big pane of bulletproof glass. General James Hamilton, found himself sitting next to Field Marshall Richard Dannatt, who had planned to propose himself as Prime Minister. Since the coup's collapse, the two have become bitter foes. Hamilton has hinted that Marshall Dannatt is covering up some involvement by the Queen.”
    - Trial of Coup Plotters Opens in UK, John Burns, New York Times (2009)

    A few weeks later Johnson was back in Downing Street, Parliament was in full swing and everything was back to normal. Well as normal as things could be for Europe’s newest democracy. The country’s media and political class were getting ready for the trial of the century as the rogue Generals of 2009 faced the music. Johnson played a visit to RMA Sandhurst, Britain’s largest officer school, and tried to strike a conciliatory balance. Whilst he warned the young officers “thoughtless actions” would do nothing for the security of the state, he also called on the media not to “apply moral sanction to an entire institution because it contains those who believe the only way forward is violence”. Much to the disappointment of the political left, Johnson tried to portray the coup as a “few bad apples” rather than evidence of the military being inherently anti-democratic.

    Over 400 servicemen and 30 civilians were awaiting trial for their role in the coup. The men included Jonathon Riley and James Hamilton of course, but also Field Marshall Richard Dannatt, suspected of masterminding the coup behind the scenes. The civilians on trial included Robert Kilroy-Silk, the Juntaist’s “voice” and Paul Golding, a New Nationalist Party local Councillor and one of the armed Civil Assistance paramilitaries who helped take Parliament. Considering over 2,000 men had risen up in Northern Ireland, many were disappointed at the small scope of the trial, but Johnson was eager to only target only officers to avoid a backlash from the military grassroots. The Government was also keen only to bring to court those they were sure they could prosecute.


    Collins was called as a witness and testified he had no knowledge of the coup

    The trial opened on the 18th of September and lasted for four months into the new year. Over 70 witnesses took to the stand including Johnson himself, the trial was attended by nearly 500 observers from the military, political parties and international media. Whilst Johnson had tried to avoid the trial turning into a media circus he roundly failed - with every moment and testimony being filmed and broadcast. The throng of observers would often come to blows, John Haylett, editor of the Morning Star, was removed after heckling Tim Collins during the National Leader’s testimony. Occasionally military observers would come to blows with observers from the Alternative and left-wing journalists.

    “The tactics used by defense lawyers in the trial of coup plotters appear to have backfired. During the trial, lawyers have attempted to implicate Queen Elizabeth by hearsay evidence in the August plot. But instead of being discredited, the Queen has gained popular support. Politicians have been outraged at the ''smear campaign." They claim the coup plotters are attempting a character assassination. Last week the government itself felt obliged to release a statement expressing ''revulsion for the abusive use of the Queen.'' Throughout the trial, which began in September, the Queen's name is mentioned frequently. Lawyer after lawyer repeats questions like, ''Did you believe you were acting in the name of the Queen? What did you think the Queen said, thought, etc." Although none of the defendants offer any evidence, the subliminal message is clear.” - Defense lawyers' tactic to implicate Queen backfires in coup trial, Richard Palmer, the Express (2009)

    The “triumvirate” of Riley, Hamilton and Dannatt all declared themselves not guilty, basing their argument that the Palace had been involved in the planning of the coup. Riley and Hamilton both claimed Dannatt had organised the coup, telling them he had the Queen’s approval. The pair testified that Dannatt and the Palace had hoped to launch a “soft coup” creating a government of national unity involving both National and the SDP with Dannatt at it’s head. This would be a temporary government to keep the SA and SNP away from power until fresh elections could be held (preferably resulting in a National victory). Riley told the court that he and Hamilton had disagreed with the “soft coup” approach and hoped to force the Palace’s hand and reignite a military dictatorship. Riley and Hamilton’s lawyers claimed they had been duped by Dannatt and that the men had been acting in the “firm belief of following instructions emanating from Her Majesty the Queen”.


    No evidence was presented of the Queen's involvement, and many in the public saw her as a hero for preventing the coup

    The Palace and Dannatt’s lawyers both denied any involvement in the coup plotting, and Riley failed to produce any evidence to prove the Queen’s involvement. Riley had already harmed himself in the country of public approval by turning on his co-conspirators so easily. Nonetheless eyebrows were raised when the Queen invoked her royal privilege to avoid testifying at the Northwood Commission. Whilst this caused an uproar amongst the prosecution, the Comissions’ Chair Bach decided to leave Pandora's Box closed for another day, keeping the scope of the commission firmly focused on the officers involved. Whilst the Queen’s timely intervention in stopping the coup had won her plaudits from many, she would never escape doubts as to her role in the uprising.

    The top defendants turned out to be their own worst enemies throughout the trial. Any form of discipline broke down and there was continuous disloyalty and backstabbing between the men on trial, especially among the triumvirate. Dannatt never even spoke to Riley and Hamilton, who regarded him as a traitor and a coward. Whilst the defendants’ lawyers hoped to portray them as honorable, patriotic heroes who thought they were doing what was right for their country, instead the court saw the plotters as self-serving, fanatically right-wing and heavily incompetent. None of them had any media training and they all resoundingly crumbled under the pressure. Riley blew up several times on strange rants against socialists, immigrants and the European Union. All 461 defendants were found guilty of at least military rebellion; the gavel had fallen.

    “The court-martial of Mountbattenists who tried to overthrow British democracy ended Monday when one ring-leader was ordered to leave the courtroom for accusing his superiors of cowardice. Jonathon Riley, was removed during the final minutes of the trial amid applause and chants of 'bravo' and 'traitor' from rival spectators. 'Let me manifest my disgust of the great majority of my commanders for their cowardice,' Riley said before he was interrupted by the judge. Riley's display of contempt for his superiors came on the last day of the trial set aside for closing statements from 32 leading defendants. I love Britain,' said James Hamilton. 'Many military men thought that under the command of the supreme commander we could have set a soft coup in motion. This is the truth of this case -- the rest is details.'” - Trial ends for coup plotters, Associated Press (2010)


    The ringleaders would spend the rest of their lives in prison
    Wikibox: 2009 British coup d'état attempt
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    The 2009 British coup d'état attempt, known in the UK as 10/8 was an attempted coup d'état or putsch in the UK on 10 August 2009. General Jonathon Riley led 200 armed Civil Guard officers into the House of Commons during the swearing in of MPs. The parliamentarians were held for 25 hours, during which time Queen Elizabeth II denounced the coup in a televised address. Though shots were fired, the hostage-takers surrendered the next evening without killing anyone.


    The coup attempt was linked to the British transition to democracy. Four factors generated tensions that the governing SDP could not contain:
    • almost 20% unemployment, capital flight and 16% inflation caused by the 2008 economic crisis
    • agreed devolution to British regions
    • increased violence by the Scottish terrorist group SNLA
    • opposition to the fledgling democracy from within the British Armed Forces
    The first signs of unease in the army appeared in April when 500 retired military officers, known as the "Catterick Collective" wrote to the Queen urging her to block another SPD led government. This was a result of concerns around the Socialist Alternative, SNP and Plaid Cymru's support for the Johnson Government.

    While seditious sentiments grew in the military and extreme right, from 2005-2009 the government faced a series of crises. Key events saw the 2008 financial crisis; the arrest of several politicians for corruption and a fractious General Election.

    On 1 May, the "Catterick Collective" published an insurgent article in the right-wing newspaper The Express. The Express was commonly known as the mouthpiece of the Junta hardliners, including Robert Kilroy-Silk, and Godfrey Bloom. From 2 to May, the Queen and Prince Philip travelled to Eastern Scotland, where the deputies of the RISE party received them with boos and various incidents. On 6 May, an engineer and trade union activist from the Torness power station was found murdered, having been kidnapped a few days earlier.

    In this atmosphere of mounting tension, the process of choosing a Prime Minister began. Between May and July, the SDP party agreed to a confidence and supply agreement with the Socialist Alternative, SNP and Plaid parties.

    Assault on the Houses of Parliament

    Several BBC cameramen filmed almost all the event, providing the world with an live audiovisual record of the attempted coup. This meant that the general public was able to follow along by radio as events unfolded.

    At 16:00, the swearing in of newly elected MPs began. At 16:34, as SDP MP Shabana Mahmood was being sworn in, 300 Civil Guard agents led by General Jonathon Riley burst into the chamber. Riley immediately shot Speaker Vince Cable and shouted ("Nobody move!"), ordering everyone to remain seated.

    As the highest-ranking military official present, Defence Secretary Charles Guthrie confronted Riley and ordered him to stand down. Opposition Leader Tim Collins made a move to join Guthrie, who scuffled with several civil guards until Riley fired a shot into the air. (The shots wounded some of the visitors in the chamber's upper gallery). 78-year old Alternative MP Dennis Skinner had to be wrestled into his seat and gagged by three Civil Guardsmen.

    After several minutes, all the MPs retook their assigned seats. Riley demanded silence and announced that all those present were to wait for the arrival of "the competent military authority."

    At 16:46, Prime Minister Johnson stood up and asked to speak to the commanders. Shots were fired in response, and a guard flashed a rifle towards the MP's seats, demanding silence. One of the assailants ordered, "Mr Johnson, stay in your seat!" Finally, Riley ordered Johnson, Guthrie and Collins, removed from the chamber, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Rosie Boycott, National Deputy Leader Theresa May and SA leader Michael Meacher. When Johnson demanded that Johnson explain his "lunacy"; Riley's only reply was "for Queen and Country". When Johnson cited his authority as Prime Minister, Collins replied, "You are no longer the Prime Minister of anything!"

    Shortly afterwards, the six politicians were given papers setting out their resignation and a transfer of power to sign. Despite being held at gunpoint all six refused to sign, with Michael Meacher claiming every pen provided to him had run out of ink.

    Almost at the same time, the Commander of of the Northern Ireland Regional Command, James Hamilton joined the coup with a revolt in Belfast. Hamilton ordered tanks to be brought out onto the streets in an attempt to convince other senior military figures to support the coup. At 22:00 that evening, Buckingham Palace announced that a provisional government would be formed. Attorney General Sadiq Khan, as the highest-ranking free official was named Acting Prime Minister.

    The coup was condemned by member countries of the EU. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany called the coup a "terrorist act." Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State, described the coup as an "unspeakable act".

    Meanwhile, a smaller group of plotters secured control of Broadcasting House. This allowed the coup forces to take control of State radio and television headquarters. Former Head Anchor of the BBC and coup supporter Robert Kilroy-Silk would lead pro-Junta coverage of the events for several hours.

    Dannatt’s Soft Coup

    Originally, Field Marshall Richard Dannatt, one of the coup's conspirators, had advocated a "milder" course of action, which he then proceeded to implement. Arriving at Buckingham Place, Dannatt offered the monarch a trade-off. Dannatt offered to head a new grand coalition government that would replace the elected one. Dannatt argued this would appease Riley and his forces and thereby avoid a return to the full military dictatorship.

    The Queen refused to receive Dannatt, who, shortly before 11pm, entered Parliament alleging that the Queen had ordered him to assume leadership. As Dannatt was not the "competent military authority" that Riley had been waiting for, the latter rejected Dannatt's claims.

    Military occupation of Northern Ireland

    Shortly after Riley took control of Parliament, James Hamilton, Commander of the Irish Region executed his part of the coup in Belfast. Deploying nearly 3,000 men and 70 tanks from his Motorised Division, Hamilton occupied the Northern Irish Parliament. The revolt, known as Operation Fist, was considered key if other military regions were to become involved in the coup. By 22:00, radio stations began broadcasting the state of emergency declared by Hamilton. Well into the night, Belfast, Derry and Lisburn were occupied and forces loyal to the coup closed the Irish Border. Snipers took their places on rooftops, military marches were played on loudspeakers and a curfew was imposed on the citizens. An armoured convoy was dispatched to the RAF Aldergrove to convince the commander there to support the coup. The Colonel in charge of the base not only refused to comply, he threatened to deploy three attack helicopters armed against the tanks sent by Hamilton, forcing him to withdraw. This setback meant coup forces were unable to secure Belfast Airport, adjoined to Aldergrove. This was seen as the first hint of the impending failure of the London coup.

    Elizabeth’s repudiation

    Queen Elizabeth refused to endorse the coup. The monarch was convinced of her military leaders' loyalty to herself. Three hours after the seizure of Parliament Elizabeth phoned the 40 provincial presidents, assuring them that everything was under control. Khan, before midnight that evening, made a short speech via broadcasting stations inside Buckingham calling for peace. Until 6:00 in the morning, negotiations took place outside Parliament between the acting government as well as Marshall Dannatt who would later be relieved of his duties under suspicion that he had participated in planning the coup.

    At 4:25, the Queen appeared live on television, wearing a military uniform. She announced her opposition to the coup and its instigators, and disavowed the authority of Dannatt, Hamilton and Riley.

    From that moment on, the coup was understood to be a failure. MP John Denham stated that when he saw Riley reading a special edition of the Sun newspaper, which condemned the hostage situation, he knew that the coup had failed. For his part, Hamilton, alone and thereafter isolated, abandoned his plans at 9:00 that morning and was arrested. Scores of civil guards clad in military fatigues attempted to jump out of the Palace of Westminster trying to flee. Others ran out the front door into the arms of officers who had surrounded the building through the night. The deputies were all freed by 11am after emerging one by one from their all night ordeal. Riley resisted until midday on and was arrested outside the Palace of Westminster.

    Alternative theories

    The bloodless unravelling of the coup, the plethora of unanswered, the staunch monarchist allegiance of the main conspirators and the Queen's lengthy absence before she finally made a early-morning public television address have fuelled conspiracy theories on the coup.

    These theories cast doubt on the sincerity of the Queen's defence of democracy and qualify the coup as an example of coercive realpolitik. In essence, this version of events alleges that the coup itself was orchestrated by the Security Services in connivance with the Palace. The plot was dubbed Operation Dannatt, a "soft" coup aimed at a government headed by Dannatt himself, consisting of an array of ministers from all the main parties. The first aim was to oust Prime Minister Johnson, who had been criticised by the military for months partly due to Johnson's reformist agenda. The second aim of the purported "soft" coup was to ensure a bipartisan and moderate parliamentary monarchy. This aim required both purging the armed forces of its most reactionary elements and frightening the common voter into accepting the monarchy and the two-party system.

    Yet another and more concrete goal would have been to neutralise an imminent and "hard" coup d'état planned for later that year. A major clique among the instigators of this alleged coup was the so-called General's group, headed by CNI chief Richard Dearlove.

    According to these theories, Riley's guileless belief that he was at the heart of a hardcore coup plot, the media field-day prompted by shooting Vince Cable, and his refusal to accept the multi-partisan government proposed by Dannatt, resulted in the simultaneous aborting of the "hard" and the "soft" coup plots by those who had planned them.

    MI6 chief Richard Dearlove, plays an ubiquitous role in these theories. Many theories place him as a major player within the conspiracy as well as the man responsible for coalescing all the different plots into one. It has been alleged that during a break in the coup trial, and after being subjected to a particularly intense grilling session by the prosecutor, Dearlove was heard saying: "if this guy keeps pressing me like this, I'll spill the beans about Wareing". The prosecutor's questioning allegedly lost a great deal of intensity when court resumed after the lunch break.

    These theories have never worked their way into mainstream consciousness.
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    Chapter 49: Gods and Generals
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    As the gavel fell for the coup plotters, Johnson took a hammer to the military

    “Johnson’s renewed focus on the military reflects a desire to strengthen accountability for matters of defence. Two issues are at stake: the role of Parliament in overseeing defence policy, and the administrative processes of the Ministry of Defence. Johnson has argued that the Commons should have the right to decide on the deployment of British Forces, and should play a larger role in shaping defence policy. It would allow the House of Commons to play a far larger role in defence decisions. If the White Paper passes, the decision to send the armed forces on an operation would be a choice made by the people’s elected representatives. Critics argue reforms must respect the principles of responsible government. They argue the adversarial character of Parliament will weaken defence accountability.”
    - Accountability for National Defence, Institute for Public Policy (2009)

    To maximise the political capital generated by the trials, the newly inaugurated Johnson administration ploughed ahead with reforms to the armed forces, presenting a White Paper to Parliament in late 2009. The paper introduced sweeping reforms to the armed forces, effectively dissolving the British Armed Forces to be replaced with the “Self-Defence Force of the United Kingdom” (SDFUK). Among these reforms included abolishing the navy, army and air-force as separate organisations, instead incorporating them as autonomous branches within the Defence Force. The White Paper also called for the forced retirement of any serving military officer over the age of 70, (conveniently catching Guthrie and several senior officers).

    Most importantly were the political reforms, the military would be specifically designated as a non-political entity, with serving soldiers and officers banned from joining political parties or holding office, as well as a ten year ban on political activity for officers leaving the Defence Force. New members of the Force would be required to swear loyalty to the British people as well as the Queen. Servicemen, especially officers, would be given mandatory citizenship training with characteristics such as loyalty, compassion and respect for human rights drilled into recruits at Sandhurst. Finally it was made overtly illegal for SDF personnel to participate in collective insubordination or to command forces without authority.


    New Secretary of State for Defence Toynbee planned to break up the Ministry of Defence's boy's club

    Military action would have to be directly approved by the Commons, rather than just the Prime Minister Serving military officials would also be banned from holding ministerial or any other political positions within the Ministry of Defence. The office of Secretary of State for Defence would no longer be reserved for the military but would be a civilian parliamentarian, appointed by the Prime Minister with the consent of the Commons. Johnson announced he would be appointing Education Secretary Polly Toynbee to the Ministry of Defence should the White Paper pass. Toynbee, a feminist writer who had been harassed by the military Junta, would become Britain's first ever woman Secretary of State for Defence, and the first civilian in over 40 years.

    Opposition within the military, especially the officer class, was deafening. Some in the military argued they were being unfairly persecuted, and the Johnson administration was taking advantage of the coup crisis to purge outspoken officers from the military. Nearly a dozen officers would publicly announce their resignation from the military, most notably Colonel James Cleverly, commander of the Gloucestershire Headquarters. These former officers and their supporters would go on to found the “National Association for Defence” or NAD, a pressure group to “combat smears in the media” that called for further support for the military.

    “Foreign Secretary Chris Huhne hit back today at former defence chiefs who accused the government of treating the armed forces "with contempt". In a press conference yesterday five former chiefs of the defence staff lined up to condemn what they claimed were "attacks" on the military. Retired Chief of the Naval Staff Micheal Boyce attacked Alan Johnson for a perceived lack of interest in the armed forces. The prime minister also entered the fray today, insisting he had "enormous respect" for the armed forces. Admiral Boyce said Alan Johnson had treated troops "with contempt" by forcing through reforms to the military. In a robust defence of the government's record, Huhne insisted today that the reforms made no difference to the military's effectiveness. No serving members of the forces had raised the issue during his latest trip to Afghanistan, he stressed.” - UK Foreign Secretary hits Back at Admiral's Criticism, Associated Press (2009)


    Admiral Boyce would lead opposition to the reforms.

    One factor that helped the reforms was Defence Secretary Charles Guthrie’s relative silence. Whilst he didn’t openly support the reforms, he didn’t throw his weight against them either. Friends of Guthrie reported he had been thoroughly shaken by the events in August and the breakdown in the chain of command. Guthrie did quietly call up old friends in the military establishment asking them not to shout too loud or join Cleverly and the NAD in resigning their posts. Guthrie was an old man and like many others who had served during the Junta, he was worried about his legacy. He could either be dragged kicking and screaming from his post, or go with the tide and secure a favourable telling in the history books - Guthrie chose the latter.

    Opposition in Parliament was mixed, nearly every party except for National gladly signed onto the White Paper, glad to remove the Sword of Damocles hovering above them. National was decisively split on the issue, on one hand there were the reformers, people like Kenneth Clarke who wanted National to move away from it’s militaristic, pro-Junta image and prove it’s overwhelming support for democracy. On the other side there were the hardliners, especially Shadow Foreign Secretary David Davis who were outraged at the reforms. They claimed to oppose the reforms on cultural grounds, arguing the white paper would remove the rich history of the RAF and Royal Navy. They agreed with the NAD that the army was being unfairly punished.

    Stuck in the middle - still with a thoroughly broken nose - was Tim Collins. General Collins now had to choose which way the whip would fall. Politically he was a dead man walking, after losing two elections any semblance of control over the National Party caucus had melted away long ago. With nothing left to lose Collins decided he would try and save his reputation - and his place in the transition history book - by ordering his MPs to vote for the White Paper. Over 40% of his MPs would break the whip and five of his Shadow Cabinet Ministers would resign, but the White Paper passed parliament. Collins announced his resignation the next morning.

    Johnson Cabinet 2009-
    • Prime Minister - Alan Johnson (SDP)
    • Deputy Prime Minister - Rosie Boycott (SDP)
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer - Alan Sugar (SDP)
    • Foreign Secretary - Chris Huhne (SDP)
    • Justice Secretary - David Miliband (SDP)
    • Defence Secretary - Polly Toynbee (SDP)
    • Home Secretary - Eddie Izzard (SDP)
    • Development Secretary - Charles Kennedy (SDP)
    • Education Secretary - Peter Mandelson (SDP)
    • Industry, Tourism and Trade Secretary - Ed Balls (SDP)
    • Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Secretary - Sandi Toskvig (SDP)
    • Public Administrations Secretary - Alistair Darling (SDP)
    • Culture Secretary - Floella Benjamin (SDP)
    • Health Secretary - Douglas Alexander (SDP)
    • Environment Secretary - Alastair Campbell (SDP)
    • Housing Secretary - Paddy Ashdown (SDP)
    “National Leader Tim Collins has announced he will stand down "sooner rather than later" to allow a new leader to take over. Mr Collins said he would stay as leader until the party had the opportunity to decide on a successor. Mr Collins said the party's seat increase from 2005 meant that it could now "hold its head up high". Mr Collin's said after his party's recent progress, there must never be a return to the "bickering and backstabbing of the past". Speaking at a rally in Wandsworth, Mr Collins said his association with the military meant he could not lead the party into the next election. "I am a military man at heart. But the events of the last few weeks have shown me that blurring lines between military and political life can only led to trouble. It is time for our party to elect a civilian leader to bring our caucus together and move us forward to the next election." - Collins will stand down as National Leader, BBC News Bulletin (2009)


    Collins' call for a civilian leader angered National's solider parliamentarians
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    Chapter 50: Dishonourable Discharge
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    William Hague was Collins' preferred successor

    “Tim Collins yesterday ended a National Caucus meeting with a warning that it must change to win over first-time voters. Echoing a series of stern lectures, he warned: "If anyone thinks we can sit tight and wait for the pendulum to swing back to National, think again." As Mr Collins reminded his audience that "no party has a God-given right to govern", maneuvering intensified among his potential successors. Aides denied the outgoing leader's call for his party to embrace the Britain of democracy was a coded endorsement of William Hague. But his appeal to adapt "timeless National values, of personal responsibility, fair play and a sense of nationhood". Yesterday Mr Collins refused to back any candidate for opposition leader, calling on the party to avoid "friendly fire".”
    - Collins tells Tories to target young voters, Micheal White, The Guardian (2009)

    Where to go for the National Party? On one hand, National had a strong four years in opposition, they greatly increased their seat count to be the largest caucus in the Commons. The SDP Government had the slimest majority and was reliant on four other parties to keep it going. Many of Collin’s personal reforms had been successful - The party had been reformed in Collins’ image with both staunch reformers like Nick Clegg and hardliners like Kilroy-Silk removed from the picture. Yet the party was facing an existential crisis, two former National MPs had played a part in the attempted coup of 2009, even though National wasn’t involved, the constant threats of military action and the party’s closeness to the Junta didn’t help.

    Whilst the party had managed to unite the right of British politics, they appeared to have hit their political ceiling. Even with all the chaos Johnson faced in his first term, they were still unable to drag him from Downing Street. The act of a leadership election was new to the National Party. Usually a National Leader ran the party until death did him part. Peter Hill Norton had seized the party through swift brutality in the 80s after Mountbatten died, and General Collins had simply been far enough away from London so that when all the knives landed he was the last major player standing.

    Unlike the other parties that elected their leaders through party membership or conferences, National’s elections were an MP only affair. The party had no democratic culture of history, having succeeded the Conservative Party which chose it’s leaders via “Magic Circle”. Whilst things were a bit more orderly and democratic than the great chess game of Junta era leadership selections, Collins was still keen on keeping some form of magic circle intact. Collins was eager to see no public infighting between senior party figures, the party’s elites would all agree on a leader and then coronate them, the knives would all remain sheathed.


    Collins wanted his legacy to be a united party

    In Havilland Hall on the Isle of Guernsey, the National Party “Magic Circle” would meet, hosted by David Rowland a multi-millionaire property developer, and National’s largest donor, a dozen party bigwigs - including Collins, Deputy Leader Theresa May, Shadow Chancellor William Hague and Former Shadow Foreign Secretary David Davis - would meet at Havilland House to select their new leader. Davis, Hague and May were generally seen as the three front-runners, and the Magic Circle was adamant a direct competition between the three could not be allowed to happen. Their number one priority was avoiding a split, therefore they had to keep someone from “the wings” out of power.

    “Even without being snubbed by the Magical Circle, Davis' path to the National Party leadership was never really viable. Davis had angered his allies on the hardline for his libertarian politics, and angered the moderates by voting against EU membership. If Davis had been intent upon challenging Hague at the leadership election, then he would have had to be mindful of party opinion as well. And of course Davis' personality was a complicated one - from a hardline right winger, he had traveled towards a much more liberal position. Some of these positions may have been influenced by the discourse of the transition, which favored social liberalism. The Havilland meeting was the stage for a confrontation between two very different personalities. Hague‟s personality was not strong enough to override Davis' in this confrontation.” - The 2009 National Party Leadership Contest, Lecture by Philip Williamson, Durham University (2014)

    On the reformist side of the party possible candidates discussed included Shadow Health Secretary Mark Oaten, as well as moderate backbenchers like Jeremy Hunt and Anna Soubry. Possible hardline wing candidates included figures such as Shadow Housing Secretary David Richards or backbenchers Bob Stewart and backbencher Christopher Monckton. If Collins had resigned a year or two ago, May would have been the obvious candidate, a middle class civilian vicar’s daughter. May represented the rural, anglican, middle class voter that made up National's base. Unfortunately for May her stock in the party had fallen somewhat in recent years, she had failed to impress during the General Election campaign with wooden performances on the stump and gaffe in the studio.


    National MP Slyvia Hermon had defected to the Reform Party in the days following the coup

    Where May fell Shadow Foreign Secretary David Davis seemed best placed to lead the pack. Whilst Davis was a military man, he was only a squaddie, rather than an officer, Davis’ allies argued he was the best placed to unite the party - his military background appealing to the hardliners and his libertarian ideals wooing the reformists. However Davis wasn’t without his flaws, at 61 he was over a decade older than Tim Collis - he had also opposed EU membership in the referendum despite overwhelming public support for the European project. The Magic Circle decided with Davis at the helm, a mass exodus of moderates to Reform or even the SDP was a possibility.

    That left Shadow Chancellor William Hague. Hague had a lot going for him, being in his 40s he was relatively young for a senior National politician, from his time as Chief Whip he had developed connections and friendships across the party. Hague was also an accomplished orator - many in the Circle recalled his excellent performance at the Dispatch Box when he was promoted to Shadow Chancellor last-minute following Nick Clegg’s arrest. Most importantly no one knew which way Hague had voted in the referendum. During the EU referendum Hague was serving as Chief Whip, in the name of party unity he had been granted special permission by Collins not to openly campaign for EU membership. Hague was a reformist - but not too radical - the candidate best placed. Over port and cigars the Magic Circle talked long into the night, and Hague would emerge as it’s candidate, now they had to sell him to the party.

    “In the wake of the coup attempt, very few National politicians spoke of the fear which gripped them. Fear of a party which splits apart and hands power to the Social Democrats for a generation. William Hague was Tim Collin’s preferred successor because he had abundant talent, yes, but not least because he was the candidate with the least number of enemies. This is the best predictive factor in how far one rises in the National Party. We knew the Government's majority was flimsy and we expected a snap election to be a matter of "when" rather than "if". Solid diplomatic effort by Tim Collins, and General Secretary Michael Gove, delivered a party willing to change.” - Excerpt from National MP Andrew Lansley’s Diaries (2019)


    General Secretary Michael Gove - A Collins ally - began to fix things behind the scenes for Hague
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