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

Chapter 51: Strength Through Unity
  • 1634744710842.png

    Hague's campaign slogan was a bit on the nose

    “We will show that social responsibility can go hand in hand with personal ambition. We will stand up for responsibility. We will stand up for thrift. Those are values this country needs today. The SDP's leaders say only they stand for fairness. Fairness? These SDP ministers, saddling future generations with debt? These SDP ministers, making our children pay the price of their incompetence? Their “fairness” is phoney. So let’s turn our anger into passion and our passion into action to give Britain the leadership she needs. Yes if we win the next election, we may not see the full fruits of our labours in the lifetime of our government. But if we stick together and tackle this crisis our children and grandchildren will thank us for what we did for them and for our country."
    - William Hague Rally Speech in North Yorkshire (2009)

    The great and good of the National Party would gift their endorsements to William Hague, some through with a smile, some with gritted teeth. The party’s iron-clad unity, imposed by the magic circle, had to be maintained. Even committed reformists like Mark Oaten, David Laws and Anna Soubry gave their backing to Hague. National’s liberal wing knew they didn’t have the numbers to challenge Hague, and decided they could make the best of a bad situation and coax Hague towards the centre ground. The hardliners on the other hand were more divided, some of the hardliner’s leading civilian MPs such as Liam Fox and David Bannerman backed Hague, but many of those on the party’s more radical wing, especially those with a military background, were outraged at the party for supporting a state educated civilian from Rothertham.


    National's old guard wanted "someone from the right stock" to take over the party

    Shadow Housing Secretary David Richards would announce his intention to challenge Hague. A former General, Richards had served as a junior Foreign Affairs minister under Hill-Norton, whilst he had gone along with the transition to democracy and couldn’t be considered a radical Juntista, he was keen to see the military keep its role at the top of British politics. He was an old fashioned Mountbattenite, combining one-nation mixed economic policy with a dash of patriotism and veneration for authority. Richards said under his leadership, National would put “traditional military values of respect, discipline and competence” at the heart of it’s pitch to the public. The stage was set for the future of National, the private school general vs the state educated son of a small businessman.

    In a way this was the ideal showdown for Hague, winning the battle with Richards would be the perfect signal to show the public National had changed. Hague would rather a cultural battle between National’s military and civilian politicians rather than a political bout between it’s warring factions. Despite being backed by the outgoing leader and most of the party establishment Hague could now present himself as the change candidate for a new, tolerant and democratic National Party. The campaign would be short, each of the two men had a week to persuade votes from their parliamentary colleagues. It was a new kind of battle, where tea rooms and smoking areas formed the arena.

    “William Hague has said he is "taking nothing for granted" and that he "had a lot of work to do". As his campaign to be next National Leader picks up steam. "I have got a lot of colleagues that I want to talk to in the House of Commons and listen to their views and try to attract as many votes as I can. So there are a lot of conversations to have," he said. Former General Secretary Sir Malcom Rifkind was joined by eight other MPs today in backing Mr Hague. As well as the shadow justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, they included Nick Harvey, David Curry, Charles Hendry and John Horam. Rising star Jeremy Clarkson also announced he was also joining the Hague camp. With Mr Hague seeming to storm ahead, Sir Malcolm admitted he felt "enormous sympathy" for Hague's opponent, David Richards." - Hague’s Backing Grows, Oliver King, The Guardian (2009)


    Hague was proficient in the games of backroom politics

    Richards was a politician for the Mountbattenite age, if the Junta had survived another twenty years he might well have become First Lord, but he was not suited to the modern politics of mass media. The National Caucus had also changed greatly since he had been in government, after a raft of retirements at the 2009 election, civilians MPs outnumbered military men 2-1 on the blue benches. Of the soldiers that remained in the Commons many of them were newer younger politicians, many of them former squaddies rather than officers. Apart from a small cabal of colonels and a few conservative civilian MPs, Richards had no real political base to speak of. The old general never stood a chance as the tides of history washed against him.

    At a packed meeting of the Broadlands Committee of National MPs, General Secretary Michael Gove announced the results. It was a landslide for Hague, who secured the support of 175 MPs to Richards’ 37. In Hague’s victory speech outside Parliament, he promised to “prove to the country the National Party has the leadership, the team and the policies to lead Britain into the future” he criticised “President Johnson” for “ramming through” reforms to social policy and the military without giving “Parliament and civil society the time to process, debate and come to a consensus”. Above all Hague stressed his party would bring unity in the face of “aggression from all wings of politics, in a country besieged by separatists and extremists”.


    William Hague Shadow Cabinet 2009 -
    • Leader of the Opposition - William Hague​
    • Deputy Leader of the Opposition - Theresa May​
    • Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer - David Davis​
    • Shadow Foreign Secretary - Ian Blair​
    • Shadow Justice Secretary - Ed Davey​
    • Shadow Defence Secretary - Nicholas Soames​
    • Shadow Home Secretary - David Richards​
    • Shadow Development Secretary - Nick Harvey​
    • Shadow Education Secretary - Jeremy Clarkson​
    • Shadow Industry, Tourism and Trade Secretary - Jim Davidson​
    • Shadow Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Secretary - David Bannerman​
    • Shadow Public Administrations Secretary - David Laws​
    • Shadow Culture Secretary - Bob Stewart​
    • Shadow Health Secretary - Jeremy Hunt​
    • Shadow Environment Secretary - Priti Patel​
    • Shadow Housing Secretary - Andrea Leadsom​

    As well as keeping his enemies close by giving top jobs to Theresa May and David Davis, Hague aimed to promote new talent to his Shadow Cabinet, with younger MPs such as Ed Davey, Nick Harvey and Jeremy Clarkson all promoted to the top table. He kept some military figures such as Nicholas Soames and David Richards in key national security positions, but overall the number of soldiers around the Shadow Cabinet table dropped. He also strove to balance out the reformists and hardliners in his cabinet, with ultra-conservative darlings like Jim Davidson sitting across from David Laws, a gay man and one of the party’s leading Liberals. Hague had avoided a split, now he had to steer the ship.

    “William Hague has begun forming his opposition team. David Davis the former shadow Foreign Secretary returns to the front bench as Shadow Chancellor. Ken Clarke, will chair a policy group on social justice, one of six being set up by Mr Hague But he will not return to the Shadow Cabinet. On his first day as leader, Mr Hague announced that his close political ally, Jeremy Clarkson will be promoted to the Education brief. David Richards, whom he defeated in the leadership election, gets a post as shadow Home Secretary. Nicholas Soames gained the high-profile defence post. Development Secretary David Willetts, resigned from the Shadow Cabinet after being offered a demotion to Agriculture. 33 year old Liz Truss was named as Hague's Chief of Staff and policy guru, she will oversee a wholesale review of the party's programme.” - Hague’s Shadow Cabinet Takes Shape, The Times (2009)


    Think Tank Director Liz Truss became one of the most powerful people in National overnight
    Last edited:
    Chapter 52: Total Eclipse
  • 1635176498478.png

    The discovery of a mass grave containing disappeared artists, activities and trade unionists in South Yorkshire shocked the nation

    “When, in August 1982, the poet Chris Searle was taken to a gully near Sheffield to be killed, he was accompanied to his death by a harmless schoolteacher who was lame in one leg. Add the enlightened poet and there you have a sad and moving picture of the British Junta, soon to be buried as they were. Their bones remained there for nearly 30 years, unidentified. But as their unearthing has finally begun this week, they embody Britain's uneasiness at dealing with its Junta past. Britain is sown with unidentified corpses and dwarfs Chile in the number of missing persons: nearly 200,000 of them. Murdered during the forty-year Junta for being leftists, or pro-democracy, or for no reason at all. Their bones lie scattered under the woods and deep in ravines.”
    - Waking Britain's Dead, Washington Post (2009)

    Whilst the Johnson Government was keen to forgive and forget the attempted coup by reforming the army, it wouldn’t be that easy. Sporadic riots would break out in Northern Ireland’s Catholic community after they watched the military, aided by Protestant militias, take over the province without either the British or Irish Governments intervening. Across the rest of the country, the young people who had taken to the streets in the days following the coup hadn’t gone home, instead occupying their university campuses demanding reduced rents and an end to military presence on universities. Even as the gavel fell on the coup’s plotters, the events of August were not easily forgotten by the British public. Polls showed voters becoming increasingly polarised and activity by organisations such as Civil Assistance reached a four year-high.

    Scotland would form the heart of dissent, many separatists were enraged at the SNP for their deal with the SDP, failing to secure even a unified Scottish Legislature. Whilst most Scottish battalions had either remained loyal or were too scared to come out their barracks during the coup, the collective trauma of August weighed heavy on the Scots. As usual, wherever there was trouble Glasgow formed the centre. During the trial documents showed that the coup plotters viewed Glasgow as the “most difficult asset to seize” and in the event of the coup being successful over 30,000 troops would be sent to Glasgow to keep order, in a city of just around half a million, this would be a soldier to every 15 residents. The plans involved “harsh martial law” to keep the “unwashed masses in line”.


    Troublesome cities like Glasgow, Liverpool, and certain boroughs of London had been high priority for the coup plotters

    Things would further escalate in Glasgow after nearly 50 Glaswegian residents were arrested, accused of being SNLA fighters and planning a mortar attack on Walcheren Barracks. The riots would last for over a week and at their peak all trains going in and out of Glasgow were cancelled after masked gunmen were seen patrolling the streets. Violence wasn’t limited to Glasgow, In Dundee two police officers were killed after a bomb was detonated underneath their car, in Manchester a local office of the Socialist Alternative was burnt down (although no one was hurt) and in Northern Ireland a leading PSNI officer was assassinated via sniper rifle. A succession of bloody events up and down the country made October 2009 one of the most violent months since the fall of the Junta, reminding many of the dark days of political violence in the years directly following the 2005 election, where a terror attack or coup could happen at any moment. For many Scots the peaceful political settlement was failing before their eyes.

    “Whilst the number of dissident groups have proliferated, the individuals involved have not grown. There are currently two main dissident Scottish separatist groups: the Continuity SNLA and the Soldiers of Scotland. These groups have sought to target police officers and other members of the security services in particular. Between 2009 and 2010, dissident separatists were responsible for the deaths of nine police officers. The continuity SNLA remains active, and authorities warn that the threat posed by the continuity SNLA is severe. The C-SNLA has carried out over 100 attacks since 2009. Some experts are concerned that dissidents could seek to step up attacks to exploit the divisions due to the attempted coup.” - The Scottish Dissident Threat in the UK, Congressional Research Service (2011)


    The SNP had gotten in bed with the SDP, RISE was collapsing, politics wasn't really working out for Scotland's separatist community

    Whilst the Johnson administration had built up a huge amount of goodwill after the attempted coup, this was quickly slipping away. The Glasgow riots proved an excellent debut topic for William Hague at Prime Minister’s Questions. National was able to seize the initiative on a topic they knew well - law and order - with Hague arguing the events in Glasgow showed a Government unable to maintain control. Hague certainly proved more capable than Tim Collins at the Punch and Judy politics of Prime Minister’s questions with the ever-cool Alan Johnson seeming rattled for the first time as Prime Minister. Fissures would already begin to form in his fragile majority, his outspoken Finance Minister, Alan Sugar, wasn’t massively familiar with the concept of collective responsibility and would often engage in public attacks against the SDP’s socialist allies.

    Hague’s honeymoon would culminate with a positive write up from the Sun. The Sun was the most read newspaper in the United Kingdom. Whilst it usually had a centre to centre left political outlook and had been critical of the Junta, it also strongly valued crime prevention and family values in it’s editorial line. The tabloid had endorsed the SDP at every election since the fall of the Junta and had even been banned for a short time in the 80s. Geoff Webster, the Sun’s political editor, wrote a glowing review of Hague’s performance at PMQs, hailing Hague’s commitments to reform and modernise the National Party. At the end of the piece Webster hinted at a possible endorsement for National at the next election, writing “Whilst the Sun has been a strong supporter of the Social Democrats, if Mr Hague can prove his party has truly changed for the better we may shine on him yet - only time will tell”.

    “Like President Obama, who benefits from being too young to have taken sides in the 1960s, William Hague has little firsthand knowledge of Britain’s 60s battles. Hague was 6 when the military seized the country in a coup in 1968. He and Obama were in the right place at the right time. They are the elder statesmen of the part of the population for which the preoccupations of the baby boomers are not very relevant. National are counting on Hague to rescue them from the public contempt that has been their lot since the SDP drove them from power in 2005. National has spent four years mulling over, a version of the problem that now confronts American Republicans. Hague’s rise has led some conservative thinkers in the United States to suggest that Republicans follow his lead.” - Can William Hague Redefine Britain’s National Party?, Christopher Caldwell, New York Times (2009)


    Hauge's aides expected the government to collapse within a year, the party had to be ready
    Chapter 53: Waiting in the Wings
  • 1635255194126.png

    Bloom had been a very minor figure during the Junta years, now he was the last true loyalist

    “Following the Junta’s disintegration, the New Nationalist Party (NNP) was formed by Godfrey Bloom in 2005. The NNP made a more conscious effort to appear less radical and more respectable as time went on. There is debate over the extent to which this softening was ‘window dressing’. A pamphlet produced by NNP hierarchy supports the window dressing thesis, and that their attempted image change was a PR stunt and not a lot more. The growth of Civil Assistance in the 2000s, who described themselves as a ‘protest group’, led to mass media coverage. Many have compared Civil Assistance with the NNP but, as Civil Assistance has no coherent political programme they should not be compared on the same terms. Moreover, Civil Assistance's leader, Paul Golding, possessed a street credibility that Bloom did not.”
    - The Radical Right in Transition Britain, Matthew Feldman (2013)

    It was a weird time to be a fascist in Britain. These days if you attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government you get arrested and thrown in jail - political correctness gone mad! With Hague trying to distance National from the far-right and many leading members of Civil Assistance in prison, there was a great deal of real estate on the fringe of British politics. Three organisations would dominate on team far-right. The first was the New Nationalist Party, led by Godfrey Bloom. Bloom had been smart enough to stay out of the August coup but several leading members of his party, including his Deputy Gerard Batten had been caught up in the events of August, landing them in jail.

    Despite Batten’s arrest, the NNP was polling at an all time high of 2%, in previous elections the NNP had never cracked 1%, and it’s vote was spread across the country. Now Bloom was trying to concentrate the party’s resources in the East London and South Yorkshire where the party was strongest. In the Outer East London provincial elections the party won 8% of the vote, if they could repeat that in a general election they had a chance of winning a seat. There was also Civil Assistance, several members of CA had been sent down, either for directly supporting the coup, or for inciting riots on that August night. To fill the void left by the imprisoned members several younger members of Civil Assistance would rise to leadership positions.


    Civil Assistance moved from a "restorationist" counter-revolutionary force to a populist anti-establishment protest group

    Many of the new Civil Assistance leaders were women, including Jayda Frasen and Anne Waters. Under their leadership Civil Assistance would remain just as violent but would shift its focus away from democracy activists and instead became a more overtly Islamophobic organisation. As well as it’s usual operations such as starting fights in left-wing neighbourhoods, Civil Assistance members would engage in “patrols” through Muslim and South Asian neighbourhoods and “Mosque invasions” where they would target local mosques on days of prayer. The organisation would now claim to embrace democracy, looking to protect British freedoms from radical leftists and Muslims. Civil Assistance also began to operate openly on social media, with “honeytrap” posts on sites like Facebook receiving thousands of likes and shares.

    “Civil Assistance has attempted to paint itself in a more pro-democratic light after it's Leader Paul Golding was charged for taking part in the August coup. A dark-web Civil Assistance website boasts that money is flooding into its campaign headquarters. They organisation claims it received 10,000 new members following the passage of the defence white paper. In emails to supporters acting leader Anne Waters claims almost £300,000 has been stumped up by supporters to help fund the group. It claims the apparent groundswell in support is down to the "British public waking from the long, deep sleep". - The Ugly Face of Civil Assistance, Jamie Doward, The Guardian (2009)

    The newest pillar of the British right was the new National Defence Association or NDA. The NDA was a pressure group made up of former military officers who had resigned or been sacked during the reforms to the military. Whilst officially a non-partisan organisation devoted to drumming up support for the military and British defence, the NDA took a strong line against “socialism” and the SDP in particular. NDA leaders, including it’s chairman, Colonel James Cleverly would often take to the airwaves to condemn Johnson’s weakness on national defence and terrorism. Cleverly in particular was seen as having strong connections to the NNP and other far-right political parties.


    Cleverly played the party of the patriot, betrayed by his government

    The NDA had over 30,000 members and was incredibly well funded, allowing it to run a slick, media savvy operation. Where Civil Assistance was the hammer of the British far-right, the NDA was it’s human face. The NDA would reach the forefront of British politics when Colonel Cleverly was invited onto the BBC’s flagship Question Time programme. Cleverly’s invite sparked outrage among many on the left, in the days following the coup the BBC had committed not to offer a platform to anyone opposed to democracy or the Cardiff Accords political settlement. An interview with the imprisoned Tommy Sheridan had not been broadcast a few weeks prior out of fears it would break this pro-Cardiff pledge. Yet here they were inviting a man who headed an organisation of soldiers who refused to accept democratic military reforms. The invitation stung of hypocrisy, and it was a perfect soapbox for those on the anti-democratic right.

    Cleverly’s invitation had to expect result Anti-fascist groups like Searchlight mounted massive protests outside Colchester Town Hall, where the episode was to be filmed, met by counter-protesters from civil assistance, violence flared, spilling out onto the streets. Meanwhile the charismatic Colonel Cleverly put on a show, Cleverly denied he or the NDA were anti democratic, instead seeking to give British service people the respect they deserved. He slammed both the SDP for turning on the military and William Hague’s National Party for “betraying British service people”. Whilst the British far-right had very little political presence, Cleverly’s appearance on Question Time certainly grabbed headlines and showed Mountbattenite sentiments were still very much active in British society, bubbling below the surface.

    “Whilst Britain is still a country of net emigration the migration gap is rapidly closing as more people arrive from overseas and the incentive to move abroad is lessening. However, the influx of migrants thus far has not produced any significant xenophobic parties. With the British far-right failing to make any electoral gains, instead operating via extra-parliamentary means. This makes the UK an exception to the norm in many other EU countries The far-right NNP won a mere 0.3% of the vote in the 2009 general election. There are few French style banlieues or US-style ghettos in the UK. Many British families have relatives who emigrated, helping them to view today’s migrants with understanding.” - UK at the Crossroads, Lecture by Nicola Banks, Manchester University (2009)


    Despite the far-right's protests, opinion polls showed British attitudes to refugees remained overwhelmingly positive, many of them had been refugees once
    Chapter 54: For the Union Makes us Strong
  • 1635347072887.png

    Boarded up properties dominated many highstreets

    “Britain’s economy shrank further in the fourth quarter of last year, leaving it one of the last European economies to pull out of recession. Gross domestic product contracted 0.1 per cent in the last three months of 2009 according to the Institute for National Statistics. Britain's recession has been shallower but longer than that of most of its European neighbours. “Our exports continue to do well, the fall of consumption is slowing down” Chancellor Alan Sugar told the BBC. The government is keen to distinguish its economy from that of fellow eurozone member Greece, which is embroiled in a crisis over its deficit. The ECB gave the Government a boost this week by praising it's “clear determination” to restrain state spending through an 70bn euro austerity plan. It also said Britain’s sovereign debt deserved its triple-A credit rating.”
    - Economy still stalled in recession, BBC News Bulletin (2010)

    Entering into 2010 most European countries were on the up, after nearly two years of recession the first shafts of light were visible as Germany, France and Italy all reported decent economic growth. However; statistics released at the start of the year showed Britain’s economy shrinking by 0.1%, making it one of only two EU countries still in recession. The economic figures made for sobering reading, Britain’s economy had shrunk by nearly 4% between 2009/10 and her unemployment rate remained the highest in the eurozone at nearly 20%. Projections showed that if this decline continued Britain's debt to GDP ratio, currently sitting around 50%, could reach as high as 75%. At these levels Britain risked crashing out of the eurozone.

    The Johnson Government had promised to grow it’s way out of recession, rejecting the austerity economics imposed by Sarkozy in France or Merkel in Germany. But this had become increasingly untenable. Chancellor Alan Sugar announced the British state would have to undergo around 70bn euros of cuts to prevent it sliding further into recession. Each Government department was required to make at least a 4% cut to its budget compared to 2009 spending levels. The SDP Government insisted that “front-line services” would be ring-fenced from these cuts, with the greatest savings coming from a freeze on civil service recruitment. Some concessions were made to the Alternative and others on the Government’s left. The top rate of tax would be increased by 2%, on top of this social security, education, research and foreign aid spending would all be ring fenced from any cuts.


    Public sector workers were the SDP's base

    These concessions weren’t enough to prevent public outcry, with some polls showing as many as 84% of Brits opposed Sugar’s harsh austerity. Nearly 200,000 people took to the streets in London with tens of thousands joining similar protests in other cities across the United Kingdom. The protests in London echoed similar protests in Athens, Madrid, Dublin and Lisbon where governments were ordering similar tightening of the public belt. Amicus, Britain’s largest trade union and a loyal ally of the SDP, would encourage it’s 1.2 million members to take part in the strike. Outside Downing Street Jack Dromey, General Secretary of Amicus and an old friend of Johnson, would lead protests calling on him to sack Sugar and maintain a “worker’s budget”.

    “While in 2003–2009 Britain had the highest employment growth in Europe, in the crisis it became the fastest job destroyer. After attempts to stimulate the economy in the first years of the crisis were ineffective the government switched to an austerity policy. Wage cuts in the public sector and frozen pensions were supposed to halt the indebtedness of the state budget. On top of that, in March 2010 there was a labour market reform bill that made dismissal easier and promoted private job placement. As a result of this austerity policy the economic crisis was exacerbated. Budget deficit increased due to rising social expenditure and falling revenues. Unemployment rose and interest rates soared on the refinancing of debt.” - Austerity Policy in the UK, Report by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (2013)

    Whilst trade union protests had been a common sight in transition Britain, Amicus was generally seen as a moderate union compared to more radical unions like the Railwayman’s Union. Dromey was hardly a firebrand, more at home at a Buckingham Palace garden party than a Downing Street picket line, and his rage was seen as further evidence the SDP was losing it’s touch with the trade unions. The Association of Government Officers, Britain’s second largest union who represented public sector workers announced they would be opening preemptive talks with other major unions on a general strike to protect civil serviceman’s pay. Fury at the cuts wasn’t limited to trade unions, with one poll showing the SDP dropping nine points in a single week. Johnson had promised the country they could get through the recession without cuts, now he had broken that promise and seemingly scorned a whole country.


    Johnson's reputation as the honest postie had been shattered

    Johnson also faced pressure abroad, the International Monetary Fund called on London to introduce “urgent” reforms to tackle endemic unemployment and revamp its banking system. EU Commission President Viviane Reding warned of “dire consequences” should struggling eurozone states such as Britain and Greece fail to get their houses in order. The Euro had slid by almost 15% against the dollar since the financial crisis and Brussels insiders were increasingly worried that if the Union’s “weakest links”, namely the UK, Greece and Portugal failed, they could bring the whole continent crashing down with them. Whilst Greece and Portugal were worrying it was the United Kingdom that kept Reding up at night, as the EU’s fourth largest economy - Britain was simply too big to fail.

    Through meetings with trade unions, as well as it’s confidence and supply partners, the SDP agreed to a final compromise package of 40 billion euros of cuts, nearly half the amount Sugar had already proposed. Whilst both Amicus and the AGO had walked out of talks, all of the SDP’s confidence and supply partners agreed to support the bill in Parliament. Whether they were cowed by a fear of Brussels or genuinely thought they had the best deal possible, even the Alternative agreed to back the bill. After the rebellion of one SDP and three Alternative legislators Sugar’s emergency austerity budget would pass by just the slimmest of margins - a single vote. Arriving fashionably late, the age of austerity that had gripped the continent arrived at Britain's shores.

    “The UK Parliament approved emergency measures to cut Britain’s soaring deficit by only one vote Thursday. It's passage saved the SDP government from an embarrassing defeat but revealed the depth of resistance to austerity. The package, which includes a cut in civil servants’ salaries, was approved 240-239 with 18 abstentions in the 497-seat lower chamber. A defeat would have been a serious blow for Prime Minister Alan Johnson and his government, which is trying to show it can handle Britain’s debt crisis. Opposition lawmakers still urged that early elections be held. The austerity measures have been welcomed by the EU and the IMF but much criticized at home as a major U-turn on social policies by the SDP. Europe’s top job creator only two years ago, Britain now has the region’s highest unemployment rate at just under 20 percent.” - Britain joins EU austerity drive, Ciaran Giles, Reuters (2010)


    Sugar was an incredibly polarising figure
    Chapter 55: The Scottish Way
  • 1635429388849.png

    Alex Neil had worked to move RISE away from it's SNLA past

    “Over 700 people crowded into Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall for a RISE rally on 25 April. Earlier in the week, despite heavy rain Alex Neil spoke to hundreds of students in open air meetings at two Glasgow universities. These full meetings show the support of working-class and young people for RISE. The rally started with a performance by Scottish rapper Eastborn but moved onto the political speeches. The first was from a striking worker from Sunvic Controls where management are trying to cut wages and worsen conditions. He thanked RISE for its support and compared it to a local SDP councillor who said he showed his support by tooting his car horn as he passed the picket line. Next up was Mohammed Asif, an Afghan refugee who thanked RISE members for supporting asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow.”
    - Packed public rally for RISE, RISE Party Press Release (2010)

    Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake is a term thrown around a lot in politics, but nowhere could this be more applicable than in Scottish politics. The 2009 election had been a disaster for RISE, it’s leader had been arrested months before, it’s hard-left faction had split into the Workers Party of Scotland and it had lost over half of it’s MPs going from 13 legislators to just five. It all looked over for Scotland’s radicals, then a lot of people made a lot of mistakes. During government negotiations, the SNP, liberally inclined and terrified of a potential coup, agreed to a piecemeal devolution deal that didn’t even grant the nation a parliament.

    During the coup, RISE was one of the few mainstream parties to take to the streets straight away in protest, with one of its provincial presidents Colin Fox being the loudest voice in local government against the coup. These two factors combined had pulled RISE back from the abyss and given the party new life, with it’s hardliner faction away with the Workers Party - RISE’s new leader Alex Neil had spent the last few months distancing the party from SNLA dissidents and establishing rise as a mainstream, democratic socialist party. The events of the last few months had brought RISE’s polling almost back to 2005 levels and reestablished the party as a true rival to the SNP.


    Younger separatists had been disappointed by the SNP

    In July 2010 the Scottish Autonomy Bill passed through Parliament, and Scotland’s Executive Committee was established, Chaired by SNP leader John Swinney. The Scottish Executive had very little real power, mostly acting as a Steering Group for the nation's four provinces and as a line of communication between Westminster and the Scottish provinces. Members of the Executive Committee were appointed by the provincial parliaments, giving them no direct accountability to the Scottish people - and they had almost no power in regards to taxation and public spending. It became quickly apparent to the Scottish people that the Executive Committee was little more than a talking shop.

    “In Scotland the enthusiasm for democracy associated with the initial phase of the transition to democracy is gone. Lack of trust in politicians and institutional politics has alienated a rising number of citizens. Only 1.3% of Scots consider that they have too much autonomy, 20.9% are satisfied with the current level and 67.8% are frustrated by insufficient autonomy. Today 33.8% are in favour of Scotland becoming a state within a federal Britain and 32% want it to become an independent state. The rise of secessionism in Scotland emerges out of the will to decide upon its political destiny as a nation. It questions the assumption that it is possible for a nation without its own state to flourish within a larger state containing it.” - The rise of secessionism in Scotland, Lecture by Peter Lynch, London School of Economics (2010)

    With the bill’s passage huge protests broke around up and down the country, around 800,000 Scots would march through Edinburgh demanding a Scottish Parliament, chants of “we are the people - we decide”. Often leading these protests were senior politicians from RISE including Neil himself. Protests weren’t limited to the “usual suspects” of Scottish Separatism as many devolutionist and moderate unionists were also outraged at the lack of powers for Scotland, Amicus and the AGO - Scotland’s two biggest unions, had recently voted in favour of a devolutionist settlement for Scotland and joined in the protest. New civil society groups would also pop up after the bill’s passage, this included groups like the Tartan Society, a group to promote traditional Scottish culture and values or Separatist Councils Association (SCA) of local authorities that supported Scottish Independence.


    Scotland's nationalist movement was a broad coalition of conservatives, socialists, devolutionists and separatists

    Two weeks later over a million protesters formed a 100-mile long human chain running along the Scottish Border stretching the breadth of the county. The human chain, known as the “Scottish Way”, echoed the Baltic Way protests of the 1980s, where Baltic citizens formed a chain across the three Baltic Republics to protest independence from the Soviet Union. Whilst several SNP politicians did join the Scottish Way, and the party officially gave the movement it’s backing - Executive Committee Chair John Swinney refused to join the Scottish Way citing “institutional reasons” meanwhile standing arm in arm along the Scottish Way was RISE leader Alex Neil.

    Bottom-up protests like the Edinburgh March of Scottish Way represented a shift in thinking amongst Scottish Separatists. Until recently most separatist activities had been coordinated in a top-down approach - this reflecting the danger of being a separatist in the Junta years and the military structure of the SNLA. Elite actors and politicians were entrusted with political support with the expectation this support would garner political results. Whilst the SNP remained Scotland’s most popular party it was hard for their voters to avoid being felt let down or betrayed. The attempted coup and the executive committee compromise had disheartened many separatists - especially the younger generation.

    Whilst many of these disillusioned youngsters would turn to the Continuity SNLA or other dissident groups, the more bottom-up, direct action independence movements would give a different outlet and a fresh way to make their voices heard. The fact these protests involving at times a million people had kept mostly peaceful was a testament to how civil society had evolved in Scotland, and how relationships between Scottish Separatists and the British state had generally improved. No longer were the two sides shooting at each other but instead peaceful, bottom-up protests could be used to gain political concessions. By being the largest peaceful protest of the post-Junta era, the Scottish Way showed how politics could be different.

    “An estimated 1.2 million people have joined the ‘Scottish Way’, a 100 mile long human chain stretching across the Scottish border’. RISE's Alex Neil emphasised “the difficulties” in calculating such a figure but stated that 1.2 million “would be the lowest estimate”. This means it is the largest demonstration that has ever taken place in Scotland. The SNP's Spokesperson, Alexander Anderson, stated that “very few noble causes could gather so much support at world level”. Hundreds of thousands of Scots travelled to protests in one of the 591 stretches into which the organisers had split the ‘Scottish Way’. For a few hours, the Scottish Border in its entirety was paralysed by the massive demonstration."
    - BBC News Bulletin (2010)


    Traffic backed up for miles on the border
    Chapter 56: School’s Out
  • 1635869036487.png

    Johnson warned trade unions against becoming the 'delusional left'

    “A deadline for the government, trade unions and business to agree on labor reforms, aiming to avert a general strike looms in the coming week. Government debt is also likely to take a drubbing when bond markets reopen after a ratings downgrade late on Friday. One poll showed that National would take 45 percent of the vote if an election were held now, 14 percentage points ahead of Johnson's SDP. The SDP were neck and neck with the conservative National Party at the March 2008 general elections. But their handling of the economic crisis and unemployment, which has more than doubled to 6.5 million since then, has gutted their support.”
    - UK’s Social Democrats face deep crisis as support dives, Reuters (2010)

    After the Sugar budget passed the country entered into a standoff between the Johnson administration and the unions for several months the government entered into a back and forth between the “big two” trade unions, Amicus and the AGO, who represented a cartel of smaller unions all representing over 70% of Britain’s unionised workforce. Negotiations would collapse in September when the Union of Communication Workers (UCW) of post office workers walked out of talks, with other unions promptly following. The loss of the UCW was an especially bitter pill to swallow for Johnson as it was the union he had led during the General Strike of 2003 and an organisation he had been a member of his entire adult life.

    Outside Jack Jones House in London, the leaders of a dozen major unions announced talks had broken down, and that they would be calling a 24 hour general strike. The last speaker was UCW General Secretary David Ward, Ward condemned Johnson as a “reincarnation” of his former self, urging him to return to his former beliefs and dump the austerity budget. The General Strike would fall on the 29th of September, as part of a European day of action where dozens of trade unions across the EU would also join in walkouts against austerity. The TUC declared that the workers of Britain would “not go quietly” and would join “brothers and sisters across the continent”. Civil disobedience was nothing new to British unions and they hoped to set an example for their international cousins.


    A motion to expel Johnson was submitted to the UCW executive

    The General Strike represented the first mass industrial action since Johnson took power. Whilst there had been periodic workplace unrest throughout his premiership, there had been nothing on this scale. Britain’s unions were militant, having operated in the shadows for so long, and it had been a General Strike back in 2003 that had toppled the Junta. Johnsons aides knew a general strike was not a good look, for many voters, especially on the left, a general strike had been seen as a sign for hope and democracy in the darkest days of the Junta, now Johnson was the target of the people’s wrath - the comparisons to Hill-Norton in the tabloids would write themselves.

    “In May 2010, unable to come up with an appropriate response to the economic crisis, Johnson made an about-turn in his economic policy. This was a desperate bid to avoid a bailout of the British economy and to maintain the performance of the public debt in stock markets. In September, the trade unions Amicus and the Association of Government Officers (AGO), with some 2.1 million members, called a general strike. Although this was successful on the day, it fell apart due to a lack of long-term political support. The Socialist Alternative provided confidence and supply to the government, leaving it unable to offer any real political alternative. Amicus and the AGO were still fundamentally loyal to the SDP. They were loath to encourage any political launch of an anti-neoliberal left.” - Occupying London: Post-Crash Resistance and the Limits of Possibility, Samuel Burgum (2018)

    The SDP also had its international reputation to worry about. Several international finance institutions had already announced they would no longer be lending to the UK, weary of it’s unstable economy. The EU’s “troika” of the Central Bank, Commission and IMF had welcomed Sugar’s original budget and warned if Johnson backed down then further financial support could not be guaranteed. With Britain on the edge of crashing out of the eurozone and falling further into depression, the Government couldn’t afford to lose it’s bailout lifeline, the unions. On the day of the General Strike Sugar would be attending a meeting of European Finance Ministers in Brussels to discuss a response to the crisis - Westminster had to show strength.


    Violent strike-breaking had been a hallmark of the Junta

    Around 14 million people, making up around 70% of Britain’s workforce, downed tools on the 29th. In areas with particularly strong unionization such as education and health, almost 100% of the workforce walked out. The near-omnipotence of the Teacher’s Union meant every single school in the UK was forced to close. Public transport would grind to a halt, freezing major cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester, Whilst most of the pickets were peaceful, Home Secretary Eddie Izzard did order extra police onto the streets of some cities, and there was some sporadic violence. The worst occured in the city of Derby, where nearly 10% of the city’s population was employed in a single massive Rolls-Royce compound. Derbyshire Police would charge the protestors and 13 picketers would be injured. The General Strike would burn brightly and quickly, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protest but there were no long-term plans made, no occupation of buildings, no clear long-term demands other than the retraction of a budget that had passed months ago.

    The Government called the union’s bluff, Downing Street reasoned that whilst the unions could turn out for a few hours for a general strike, they did not have the discipline or the support for prolonged industrial action. The strike had only been planned for 24 hours, and the expectation amongst union leadership was that the pan-European action would force EU leaders to halt austerity measures - they did not. Amicus and the AGO did not have plans in place for more than a few days of industrial action, due to their closeness with the SDP they had allowed strike funds to run dry and local discipline to break down On the morning of the 30th, the British unions had to join their sisters across the continent in going back to work. Amicus General Secretary Jack Dromney called it a “warning shot”, but for now life went back to normal.

    “Europe's stock markets became a sea of red today as traders fretted about the state of several eurozone economies. The UK was particularly hit, having sustained a general strike yesterday. Investors doubt its faltering economic growth will be enough to sustain debt payments. The FTSE index of Britain's most stocks plunged by 3%, as the Treasury was forced to offer investors a better return to get the sale of government bonds away. Britain sold €2.8bn of six-month bills, paying an interest rate of 1.2%. Last month the rate was 0.7%, showing how concerns about Britain's ability to cope with its deficit have ballooned. The Bank of England is at the centre of the storm after it seized control of Ulster Bank, a small, Northern Irish savings bank hit by the property collapse. "Ulster Bank's seizure has highlighted Britain's collapsing property market" said Gavan Nolan, a credit analyst at Markit.” - Fear of UK debt contagion sends markets tumbling, John Hooper, The Guardian


    EU financial leadership hoped to isolate failing economies such as the UK and Greece from the rest of the Eurozone
    Last edited:
    Chapter 57: The Disappeared
  • 1636040711017.png

    The grave had been accidentally discovered by a Harry Potter film crew

    “On the left hand side of Pilning Cemetery the graves are arranged in a wall. But across the path from the engraved headstones and flower arrangements, a very different kind of grave has been discovered. The vast pit now being excavated is a burial site from Britain's Junta. In August 1981, dozens of dissidents - were shot and flung there. Now uncovered, their bones lie sprawled as they landed: an arm above a head, a skull face down, the soles of shoes still intact on skeletons. Lewis Paterson was five when his father was taken away by civil guardsmen loyal to the Junta. All Lewis has today is one photograph and the conviction his father was killed here. "I want to find him and bury him over on that side, in a proper grave," Lewis says, gesturing towards the flowers. "That's all I want. Nothing more."
    - Digging up Mountbatten-era truths in the English countryside, Pierre Ranger, New York Times (2009)

    Britain was a county of bones, unmarked graves, thousands of them, dotted the British countryside. Near Severn Beach in Gloucestershire, Warner Brothers were filming the Deathly Hallows, the latest film in the Harry Potter franchise. After all the disturbance from the film crew the most shocking of all these hidden graves was found; alongside dozens of other victims in the mass unmarked grave, the body of Tony Benn was found. Benn had been the left-wing Minister for Technology during the coup, whilst uncovering Junta era killings was common-place, finding a former Cabinet Minister was no small feat. The discovery of Benn’s corpse was even more mysterious considering Benn was last seen alive in Brixton, over a hundred miles from when Benn’s body had been dumped. Benn had disappeared in the early 80s prompting dozens of conspiracy theories, and now they had been laid to rest.

    Like many of his contemporaries Benn had been imprisoned in the aftermath of the Junta and held in Belmarsh prison. A prolific writer, somehow Benn had managed to get his hands on a pen and paper from Belmarsh, and smuggled these writings out through friendly opposition cells. Benn’s “Letters from Belmarsh '' became popular amongst international observers and underground leftists. The letters would be printed en masse in other anglophone countries and Benn became a nuisance for the authorities. Then in the 80s, Benn simply disappeared. The official line from the Junta was that Benn had escaped Belmarsh and left London with the assistance of Red Brigade terrorists. Except no method of escape was ever discovered, Benn had simply disappeared. The Benn mystery captured the public zeitgeist, taking off in underground resistance culture. The left-wing musician Billy Bragg even wrote a song on Benn’s escape “The Ballad of Belmarsh”.


    Benn was the most famous name to have disappeared

    After several weeks of investigations, historians and detectives settled on an official version of events. Whilst Benn was a nuisance to the Junta, he was too popular abroad to have killed without a level of deniability. Thus Benn had been told he was being transferred to a lower security prison for good behaviour, at the time several political prisoners were being moved out of Belmarsh as the authorities wanted to project a more liberal image abroad. Benn, and several other prisoners were transferred to a transport driven by a Civil Guard death-squad, who would then take them far away from civilisation, kill them, and dump their bodies in the Gloucestershire countryside. The Junta reasoned the temporary embarrassment of Benn’s “escape” would be better than the international condemnation from killing him openly.

    “On 18 August 1981, writer and politician Tony Benn was killed by the Junta's Civil Guard on a beach in Gloucestershire. Now a short film set in Bradley Stoke near the site where Benn was murdered, is part of an exhibition in London. "Death of Love" is on until 9 October at the MP Birla Millennium Art Gallery, in West Kensington. The exhibition rings together the work of 11 artists, working in a range of mediums, including painting and ceramics. John Molyneux engraved 120 Benn quotations on ceramic plaques and hung them from trees, using them as the emotional focus of the film. Molyneux says his film honours the memory of Benn and the other innocent victims who died there.” - Press Release by the Millennium Art Gallery (2011)

    Benn’s discovery was an apt reminder of the Mountbatten period’s horrors. In a moving speech on the Common’s floor Hilary Benn, the SDP’s Chief Whip gave a moving speech in tribute to his father - Hilary had been only 14 when Tony had been arrested. Despite being dead for most of the Junta years, Benn had become a symbol for resistance to the Junta, on par with figures such as Pablo Neruda. The younger Benn spoke of a "mixture of relief, and great sadness" to learn that his father’s body had been found. National Leader William Hague would take the opportunity to further distance himself from the Junta on a difficult news day for his party, telling the press “"My thoughts are with the Benn family and I would hope that confirmation would be speedy to ease the burden the family has endured."


    National hardliners wanted to keep the stiff upper lip in place

    More than 200 unmarked graves had been unearthed since the 2005 election, but it was the uncovering of Benn’s grave that spurred the government to action. Home Secretary Eddie Izzard announced an 8 billion euro budget towards unearthing Junta hidden graves, and giving those left there a proper burial. The vast majority of unmarked graves were still undiscovered with some estimating there were as many as 3,000 sites across the United Kingdom. Some on the right of British politics were annoyed at this, seeing it as opening up old wounds and some 70 National MPs voted against the “Victims Remains Bill”, one of those voting against, Surrey MP Diane James insisted “"it should be left in the past” in her speech “nothing can be fixed now, we can't bring the dead back. We should leave them be.”

    The Severen Grave was the first event to really break the “stiff upper-lip” code of silence around Junta era crimes. Whilst some mid-range Junta officials had been prosecuted for minor crimes there had never been a reckoning as to some of the atrocities committed over the Mountbatten era, some leading Juntaistas, such as Margaret Thatcher, Edward du Cann and Edwin Bramall were all living a quiet, peaceful retirement. Many on the left of the political spectrum argued now was the time to open a proper investigation into the crimes of the past, whilst others on the right argued it was best to leave the past in the past, arguing Britain had to move on for the sake of national unity. Whilst Johnson personally preferred to let sleeping dogs lie and no official investigation was commissioned, the Severen Grave would form the first dent in Britain’s code of stoicism.

    “During the 2010s century the historical memory movement underwent consolidation in the public arena. Through the action of the movement, the victims of the Mountbattenist regime regained visibility. A new generation of activists contributed to the public recognition of these memories and worked to end the impunity of silence. NGOs such as Amnesty International have started to support the claims of victims and to lobby for them. At the same time, international organisations have started to denounce the unofficial British policy of silencing. In 2005, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances included Britain for the first time in the list of countries that had not resolved or investigated historical disappearances. Britain remains on this list today.” - Exert from “Impunity”, a documentary on Britain’s Disappeared (2014)


    Benn and others like him were finally getting a proper burial
    Chapter 58: How do you do Fellow Dissidents?
  • 1636375766663.png

    Over a dozen new national papers would spring up after the fall of the Junta, all fighting for space

    “During the transition, many papers reflecting a variety of orientations came into existence. Within a few months of the refounding of The Mirror, a new newspaper, the Guardian, was created. This new daily provided a liberal counterpoint to the social-democratic Mirror. Similar initiatives were launched on a provincial level, leading to a large expansion of the democratic press. The principal impact on the size of the reading audience, however, was limited. Much of the increase in circulation reflected the reading of several daily papers by an informed minority of the population. The new publications crowded established newspapers out of the market. Pro-Junta newspapers would suffer the most, especially the Spectator who fell from its position as the most read daily to 7th in circulation.”
    - The Media and Politics During the Transition, Lecture by Heinz Brandenburg, Cambridge University (2014)

    In the aftermath of the Junta’s fall, old liberal newspapers were refounded and new left-wing media forms were established. Journalism in transition Britain was interesting, most journalists had been born after democracy had fallen, and had never seen a functioning media ecosystem. Most had spent their careers uncritically reprinting Government press releases and keeping their heads under the parapet. Even after the fall of the Junta, British journalism took a while to get going, there was no institutional memory of critical journalism, and all the publications that had survived the Junta naturally lent to the right. These establishment publications were, at best, suspicious of Britain’s new democracy - if not outright hostile. Britain’s journalists, the inventors of the printing press and mass media, had to start from scratch.

    Under the direction of editor Janine Gibson, The Guardian, a middle-class centre left broadsheet had the strongest investigative reporting during the early days of the transition. They hired top talent from US and other anglosphere publications to fill in the gaps. The paper would make the scoop of a lifetime when it reported undercover police were infiltrating protest and left-wing groups, in a continuation of Mountbattenite policy. During the Junta years the Home Office established the “Information Commission '', a very polite British way of saying secret police. Unlike the paramilitary civil guard or the shadowy forces of the Security Services, the Information Commission would actively infiltrate dissident groups, gather information on those involved, and then report back to the security services for a quick arrest. They were an arm of the civilian police, rather than the security services or military.


    British journalists still held the deferential attitudes towards authority of the 80s

    The Information Commission had been kept in place by the Johnson administration, but further absorbed into national policing structures and placed under strict supervision. The transition government argued the Information Commission and it’s officers still played a vital role in preventing terrorism, and that commissioners would only be deployed against violent extremist groups. Whistle-blowers reported to the Guardian this was false and that Information Commissioners had infiltrated the Socialist Alternative and RISE, as well as the youth wing of the SDP. The Commission had not only targeted legitimate political organisations but also peaceful protest groups such as "Release!" - an animal rights group and "Earth First" -an environmentalist group.

    “An Information Commissioner whistle-blower who lived undercover at the heart of the environmental movement has quit the Commission. IC Mark Kennedy, infiltrated dozens of protest groups including anti-racist campaigners and anarchists. This is despite the Information Commission officially ending infiltration of non-violent groups in 2005. Kennedy testified his activities went beyond those of a passive spy. Kennedy first adopted the fake identity Mark Stone in 2005, to disrupt the UK's peaceful movement to combat climate change. He grew long hair and sported earrings before going on to attend almost every major demonstration in the UK. He was issued with a fake passport and driving licence. Kennedy, who recently resigned from the Commission, is torn over his betrayal.” - Information Commissioner spied on green activists, Rob Evans, The Guardian (2011)

    Leaked documents revealed Information Commissioners (all men) having sexual relations with and even fathering children with, unsuspecting activists, only to vanish without a trace once their assignments were complete. In some instances undercover commissioners rose to positions of prominence and even leadership in their organisation, going on to plan direct actions. Legal scholars argued that the Commissioners acted as provocateurs and any illegal actions involving Commissioners could be described as entrapment. Information Commissioners even appeared in courtrooms as their undercover personas and would take the opportunity to testify against their activists comrades, even directly lying to judges and members of the jury as to their real identities.


    Women were overwhelmingly targeted during infiltration operations

    In response to the escalating situation, Justice Secretary David Miliband announced he would be creating a new body, the Police Conduct Office. The PCO would have the responsibility for oversight of British policy, independent from the security services and the political establishment. Alison Saunders, Council of Prosecutions chairwoman and highest prosecutor in the land was appointed to head up the new PCO service. Saunder’s appointment instantly drew controversy, with critics arguing her role as a prosecutor meant she was inseparably intertwined with the police, many of her cases could have been carried by evidence from Information Commissioners. Socialist Alternative Deputy Leader Diane Abbott publicly demanded a political appointment to head the Office but Secretary Miliband denied this, arguing the Office’s head had to be impartial and non-political.

    The investigation would be arduous and it would be many years until the Information Commissions’ Victims got any sort of closure or restitution but it did mark a turning point. Whilst many government institutions seemed to have moved on from the Junta, the police hadn’t. The Commission’s Scandal was the latest example of abuses of power and other dodgy action taken by the old bill. The Rozzers had gained some prestige in defeating the coup of 2009, it had been riot police, rather than army units, that had surrounded Parliament and eventually taken back the Commons, but with the Commission scandal a lot of that good will had faded away. Unlike the military, the police had never truly been one with the Junta, always remaining half and half-out. Now with the Junta gone and democracy in vogue the police had to chose which side they were on.

    “Speaking to the camera, each victim remembers the torture they were subjected to in Scotland Yard, which was used as a detention centre under the dictatorship. They recall each torture by name – the wheel, the operating room. But even more harrowing than their accounts of being broken are confessions from victims who disclosed the names of their accomplices and are still unable to forgive themselves 50 years on. All feel their voices have been silenced for the sake of a smooth transition from the Mountbatten dictatorship to democracy. This is the silence that the new documentary “Frank” by director Ken Loach hopes to break. The film puts a spotlight on one of the dictatorship’s most notorious Information Commissioners, Frank Pulley.” - New documentary breaks silence on Junta-era cop’s culture of torture, Ryan Parry, Daily Mirror (2009)


    The police had a less than glorious history during the Junta
    Chapter 59: Representation with Taxation
  • 1636475767934.png

    The ECB maintained iron discipline for eurozone members

    “The UK’s short-term borrowing costs jumped Tuesday as eurozone markets still fret about a potential Greek debt restructuring. The British Treasury sold 2.78 billion euros of short-term bills with the average 3-month yield jumping to 1.371 percent. The British auctions offered scant evidence that London has succeeded in decoupling itself from the debt woes of weaker euro zone partners. “These yield levels are still currently more cause for concern rather than outright alarm. But, there is little scope for further such funding costs before the market begins to spook,” said strategist Richard McGuire. Market concerns about British finances are focused on the cost of recapitalising regional savings banks and coping with the impact of a real estate crash.”
    - British borrowing costs jump, Paul Day, Reuters (2011)

    With the bailout of Greece imminent and other major EU countries on the brink, the European Banking Authority announced they would “test” 90 financial institutions across Europe to see if they had enough capital to survive a crisis. Of the eight banks that failed these capital tests, seven were based in the UK. In a scaving report the Banking Authority reported that British banks were too dependent on “troubled government bonds”. Despite the 140 billion euros having been pumped into British banks since the financial crisis, the investigation reported that British banks were “woefully undercapitalised”. With British banking in such a weak position, and the Greek bailout threatening a mass eurozone collapse, British finance was in an incredibly precarious position.

    Chancellor Alan Sugar announced new legislation in the face of the Banking Authorities’ Report. All banks operating in the United Kingdom would be required to comply with a core capital ratio of 8%, to be held as part of a “rainy day fund” should things get worse. Sugar made clear he expected the banks to raise this money themselves, but announced he would present a “Banking Reconstruction Incentive” (BRI) that would provide capital to British banks struggling to reach the 8% threshold as an absolute last resort. Economists predicted the BRI would cost between two and nine billion Euros, in reality it ended up costing the treasury nearly 17 billion euros as dozens of British banks called on emergency support.


    The Treasury underestimated Britain's lack of capital

    To pay for this sudden new expense (and to keep the socialists on side), Prime Minister Alan Johnson dipped a bit into his old populist streak by announcing a wealth tax. Brits with 700,000 euros of assets in real estate – excluding their main home – as well as in stocks and bank deposits would have to pay the new tax. However, transition Britain long had a tax evasion problem, especially among the ultra-wealthy elite. Despite London’s skylines being dotted with luxury penthouses, less than 10,000 people had annual taxable income above 600,000 euros in 2010. This would lead to the wealth tax producing a poultry billion euros to combat the hungry deficit.

    “In 1990, there were twelve OECD countries, all in Europe, that levied individual net wealth taxes. But, most of them repealed their wealth taxes in the 1990s and 2000s, including Austria, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Iceland, which had abolished its wealth tax in 2006, reintroduced it as a temporary ‘emergency’ measure between 2010 and 2014. Britain, which had introduced a 100% wealth tax reduction in 2008, reinstated the wealth tax in 2011. The reinstatement of the wealth tax was planned to be temporary but has been maintained since. France was the last country to repeal its wealth tax in 2018, replacing it with a tax on high-value immovable property. In 2020, Norway, Britain, Spain and Switzerland were the only OECD countries that still levied individual net wealth taxes.” - Why do Wealth Taxes Fail? Lecture by Sarah Perret, King’s College London (2020)

    Several weeks after the wealth tax crashed and burned, the SDP government announced it would also be raising VAT, going from 18% to 21%. Unlike the wealth-tax, VAT was famously regressive, being applied to the value of goods rather than the wealth of the consumer, especially hitting the SDP’s base of working class and union voters. Leader of the Opposition William Hague slammed the VAT raise as “anti-business, anti-worker and anti-British” in the House of Commons. The VAT changes were every political leader’s nightmare, a direct, undeniable tax-rise on the voting-age population and Johnson’s already dire polling continued to slip.


    Sugar's rage at the new taxes was a poorly kept secret

    The final measure taken to try and bring Britain closer to the black was announced by Education Secretary Peter Mandelson. The UK had always had free university tuition, under the Junta only those of the right stock, with the right political opinions, were allowed to pursue higher education, keeping the number of university students low. After democracy came to Britannia, the number of students exploded. The UK’s student population went from a few hundred thousands to over two million. Mandelson informed the Commons that the situation wasn’t tenable, and thus the Government would be ending free tuition, allowing universities to charge students for the first time, with a cap of 2,500 euros a year. Both VAT and tuition fees were massively unpopular, but the ship was sinking and a hole needed to be plugged, so the government trudged on with the reforms, raising around 13 billion euros and helping to stabilise the nation’s books. The United Kingdom wasn’t in great shape, but she still wasn’t Greece.

    Still it highlighted the disconnect in British society, the Junta was gone, but strict class barriers still remained. The silver-spooned etonians who had stood with the Junta still controlled much of Britain’s wealth and paid very little tax to show for it. It made Britain not only a weaker society, but a weaker economy. The downturn in Britain's housing market hadn’t helped, with millionaires hiding money in failed new towns or unfinished housing developments. Stronger European economies like France and Germany had cracked down on tax evasion during the financial crisis, cracking down on off-shore accounts. Whilst British territories such as Gibraltar and Jersey formed a pan-European hub for tax dodgers. The Juntistas had never left, they’d just taken their booty to the Channel Islands.

    “The offshore world is all around us. More than half of world trade passes, at least on paper, through tax havens. More than half of all banking assets and a third of foreign direct investment are routed offshore. An impression has been created in sections of the world's media, that the offshore system has been dismantled, or at least tamed. In fact quite the opposite has happened. The offshore system is in very rude health — and growing fast. It is no coincidence that London is the center of the most important part of the global offshore system. The City's offshore network has two inner rings – Britain's crown dependencies and its overseas territories. These rings are controlled by Britain, and combine futuristic offshore finance with Junta-era politics.” - The truth about tax havens, Private Eye (2011)


    The Juntistas had hid vast sums of wealth in offshore bank accounts
    Chapter 60: Outrage
  • 1636545471508.png

    Britain's young had helped stop a coup, now they wanted more

    “In London, some 80,000 protesters occupied a main square. Others gathered in Birmingham, Liverpool and Nottingham. The protesters are angry with the government's economic policies and the country's high unemployment. Police had ordered those camped out in London to leave by Sunday. But, as the ban came into effect at midnight, the crowds started cheering and police did not move in. The protest began six days ago in London's Lombard Street as a spontaneous sit-in by young Brits frustrated at 45% youth unemployment. The crowd camping out in the square overnight grew and the protest has spread to other cities across the country. According to the BBC, a total of some 200,000 protesters has gathered across the UK, including Sheffield, Bristol, Glasgow and Leicester.”
    - UK protesters defy ban with anti-government rallies, CNN News Bulletin

    The counter-coup in 2009, the general strike, and countless protests over the last few weeks. The tension on the streets of Britain had been growing for months. Britain’s youth especially were feeling abandoned by the political class. Despite the fact youth unemployment was well over 40%, young people saw the SDP and Alternative, parties overwhelmingly supported by the young, pushing through austerity policies and cutting back on the state. This wasn’t the first time Britain’s youth had been abandoned by the political establishment, during 2009 it was overwhelmingly students that faced down the military and Civil Assistance rioters on Britain's streets.

    In May 2011, the tension would snap, over 180,000 people, overwhelmingly young, took to the streets of London, and other cities up and down the country. In London the protesters would occupy Lombard Street, famed for its connection to the banking industry launching a peaceful sit-in bringing the whole street to a halt. The police responded poorly, charging the protesters and in the scuffle bins were set alight and shop windows were broken. By the end of the day over 40 people had been injured, including seven police officers, and 140 people were in prison. Despite this the protests remained on Lombard Street, pitching tents and singing songs.

    The Lombard Street protesters and others partaking in direct action in other cities became known as the “Outrage Movement”. Inspired by other youth protests like the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street movements. Predominantly organised through new forms of social media such as Twitter, organisers were able to summon huge crowds at a moments notice, with very little time for police to react. The police would clear protesters from one street, only for a new camp to materialise the next borough over. Protests and nighttime camp outs occurred in 42 towns and cities, from Birmingham to Swindon. Many of these camps would last for weeks, organising themselves into mini-communities with cleaning, banner making and even live music. Such was the extent of support for the Outrage Movement that some small business would deliver food to the camping protesters.


    Some called it the Second British Revolution

    “A youth-led rebellion is spreading across Europe as a new generation of protesters takes possession of squares in cities around the UK. Protests are also planned in Italy, where the tag #italianrevolution is a trend on Twitter. Plans have been announced for a piazza occupation in Florenceon Thursday night. In London demonstrators have refused to budge from the central Trafalgar Square despite a police charge on Tuesday night. Now they have occupied a quarter of the square, covering it with tarpaulins and tents, setting up kitchens and tapping at laptops. Similar scenes were being played out in Birmingham, where protesters held a Argentinian-style pan-bashing protest. "Everyone is here for their own reasons," said Louis Paterson, 20, an anthropology student who was handing out flyers in Victoria Square.”
    - UK rallies against cuts and corruption spread, Elizabeth Flock, Washington Post (2011)

    Several of the protesters would wear stamps on their lapels. This was a homage to the General Strike of 2003, originally organised by Britain’s postal workers, folks supportive of the strike would wear stamps in a show of solidarity. #BritishRevolution would trend on Twitter. Britain had already seen a regime collapse eight years earlier, could it happen again? International press would flock to London as the Outrage Movement proved to be one of the largest direct action organisations in recent memory. Der Spiegel noted the young Brits organising the protests as the “Facebook Generation”, in opposition to the top-down organising of the traditional left. Whilst the Hill-Norton Government had been brought down by the organising of union barons and communist party bosses, the Johnson administration faced much more dangerous disorganised protests.

    As the occupations wore on, London increasingly struggled to operate. Chancellor Alan Sugar ended up having to sleep one night in the Treasury after Outragers chained themselves around the building, refusing to let anyone leave. Armed Forces Day was cancelled out of concerns for the security of the Queen. Clashes between police and protests continued to escalate as police tactics to remove protesters became increasingly violent. One clash in Trafalgar Square was particularly nasty, with nearly 80 people being hospitalised as the police used dogs and water cannons. The heavy-handed approach of Met Commissioner Stephen House, a veteran of the Scottish Conflict, led some MPs to demand his resignation.


    Outrage managed to shut down the Commons for a day

    In response to the Battle of Trafalgar, Outrage called for a blockade of the House of Commons. Several thousand protests would surround the Palace of Westminster, as well as other estate buildings such as Portcullis House and the Norman Shaw Buildings. Riot police were deployed to escort MPs into the Commons. Some MPs were jostled and egged as they made their way into the Commons, with Industry Secretary Ed Balls being punched on the nose and knocked to the ground. Johnson had to make the journey to Parliament via police helicopter out of fear for his safety and over 100 MPs missed the Parliamentary session due to the protests. In the Commons Johnson slammed the Outrage protesters as conducting an “attack on democracy” by preventing MPs from going about their business.

    Whilst the violence in Westminster had been a black-spot on the mostly peaceful events of the Outrage Movement, they certainly showed a new way of doing politics. In camps outside banks and government departments, protesters organised people’s assemblies. In the overwhelmingly differential and hierarchical culture of British society, these young people organising themselves using mutual aid and social media was completely revolutionary. In every major British City there was an Outrage Movement. One photo went viral on social media showing three old ladies in Tunbridge Wells sipping gin and “occupying” the high-street outside their local Barclays - viva la revolution.

    “A group of fourteen police trod along a street in the centre of London, on a tense day marked by the peaceful protests of the Outrage Movement. The video of the fourteen police officers, and a 17 year old woman was filmed by a witness who followed the police and captured the events on a mobile telephone. The footage, three minutes long, shows the determined advance of the police officers to the area where the protesters are amassed. A young woman confronted the police, asking, 'What’s happening?', to which one officer responded with a direct punch to her face. The woman began to shout, and while another protester tried to pull her away, the police hit her various times with their truncheons. The police then turned on another young man who was taking photos from a few metres away.” - Graphic Video Of Police Brutality Angers Protesters In London, NPR News Report (2011)


    The boys in blue weren't holding back
    Last edited:
    Chapter 61: Yma O Hyd
  • 1636631438452.png

    Plaid's populist wing was in ascendance

    “Dafydd Iwan is rather different from most Plaid politicians. He thinks the crash of 2008 should have "resulted in the rejection of capitalism and many of its basic economic and political assumptions". He is also a proud republican, who refuses to attend the kind of official events at which the Queen turns up. If any of this chimes with your general view of what's wrong with the world, it's fair to say that you'd like him. If Iwan pursued his political career in the SDP, his opinions might ensure she was kept safely on the fringes. But in his home country, he is a high-profile voice – and the current favourite to take over the leadership of Plaid Cymru, should Jill Evans fall. Iwan believes in Welsh independence. And with the future of the union being argued over as never before, Iwan thinks there is an unprecedented opening.”
    - Could Plaid Cymru Split?, John Harris, The Guardian (2011)

    Yma O Hyd is a lovely Welsh folk song, translating roughly to “we’re still here”. The patriotic song succinctly described Wales’ role in the transition. Whilst Scotland had been the Junta’s naughty child, throwing toys out the pram and bombs at Dad, Wales had been relatively tame. The Welsh Freedom Army or WFA was a lot smaller and a lot less successful than either the SNLA or IRA, most Welsh resistance to the Junta took place peacefully, through civil rights marches and minor acts of dissent. Unlike in Scotland,, the Welsh Nationalists managed to hold together politically after the transition, with Plaid Cymru acting as an all-encompassing force for Welsh Nationalism, reaching from Conservatives to Socialists, devolutionists to separatists and everything in between.

    The political wing of the WFA was the Welsh Socialist Republican Movement, or Mudiad for short. Mudiad had failed to break through on the National stage and held only a handful of seats on the provincial level. Thus, with nowhere else to go many Welsh socialists had joined Plaid. This had always been a marriage of inconvenience, with Plaid’s liberal and socialist wings constantly scraping for dominance. Plaid’s left had mounted an outspoken campaign against the party supporting the Johnson administration, arguing the party had to be an independent socialist voice for Wales, not propping up a Westminster Government. As eagle-eye readers will know the liberals won out and Plaid gave their support to the SDP.


    Plaid was a big-tent party, some could say too big

    The most popular version of Yma O Hyd was performed by Dafydd Iwan, a Welsh folk singer, turned imprisoned dissident, turned Plaid MP. Iwan had roundly been seen as the leader of Plaid’s left and had been one of the party’s loudest voices against Sugar’s austerity budgets and the pathetic devolution deal struck up by the celtic parties. As the Outraged protests raged in the country, Iwan had been a leading voice at camps in Cardiff and Newport criticising the leadership of both the SDP and Plaid Cymru parties for selling out their voters. Iwan and his followers would increasingly clash with Plaid leader Jill Evans who had brought the party closer and closer to the SDP. Personal relations in Plaid would continue to break down and relations between the liberal and socialist wings would become more and more bitter.

    “Plaid Cymru leader Jill Evans has denied reports of a split in the party following criticism of her leadership and policy. MP Dafydd Iwan faces internal disciplinary action for questioning Plaid's election campaign priorities. But he won the backing of his local group members at a meeting on Tuesday. Ms Evans said there had been disagreements with one AM but she "would not call that a split". Speaking at a meet-the-public event in Colwyn Bay, Conwy, on Thursday she said: "I don't accept there are divisions in Plaid Cymru." Following Tuesday's meeting to discuss Iwan's future, one party member said the MP would "have to make compromises". The meeting was called following his criticism of Ms Evan's leadership over the past few months. The former folk singer had attacked his party's confidence and supply pact with the SDP.” - Plaid Cymru leader Jill Evans denies party split, BBC Wales News Bulletin (2011)

    In a public meeting in Cardiff, Iwan announced he would be leaving Plaid Cyrmu and setting up a brand new left-wing Welsh nationalist party. Iwan was joined by two other Plaid MPs, Leanne Wood and Ron Davies, as well a handful of provincial deputies. The new party would be dubbed “Forward Wales” and Iwan promised it would be a pluralistic force in Welsh politics, distant from the violence of the WFA and other paramilitary nationalist organisations. Nearly 6,000 people joined Iwan at the party launch, his celebrity status helping to propel Forward Wales into regional papers and the national spotlight. Forward Wales benefited from Iwan’s personal popularity and his huge name recognition, but this also led the party to accusations of being a one man band.


    Some polls showed support for Welsh independence as high as 60%

    For Plaid, with only six MPs, now three, the Forward Wales split had been a disaster. The party had been ripped in twain, joining Scottish politics with two separatist parties. Usually the internal machinations of Plaid Cymru wouldn’t make front-line news, but Iwan announced that Forward Wales would not be providing support to the SDP Government in Westminster. This reduced Johnson’s majority from five seats to just two. There was a very good chance a tiny Welsh socialist party with only three MPs could bring the entire Johnson government crashing down. In the launch speech Iwan described the SDP as a “busted flush” and declared Forward Wales would secure an independent Wales in just ten years.
    The Plaid split was further proof of the established party system splintering. Both the SDP and National were facing further divisions of their own, and they feared if Forward Wales was a success it could set a dangerous example to factions within their own party. The Forward Wales split also created a conundrum for the Socialist Alternative, if Forward Wales could walk away from the Johnson Government, then why couldn’t they? But all in all it was a numbers game, the only number that mattered, the Parliamentary majority, went from five to two. The Government was two bullets, or one well placed grenade, away from losing it’s majority.

    “Can things get any worse for Alan Johnson, Britain's beleaguered prime minister? Austerity measures, labour reform and strikes have taken their toll. Opinion polls show support for his SDP plummeting to 29%, while unemployment, at over 20%, remains twice the euro-zone average. Speculation is rife over who will succeed Mr Johnson as party leader, and whether he will step down before or after the next general election. The question now is not whether Mr Johnson will go, but when. Will he lead the party to electoral defeat in 2013 and fall on his sword afterwards, or will he stand down before, making way for a fresh leader? The National Party's lead in polls has risen to 14 points, nearly enough to give it an absolute majority in parliament. Mr Johnson has said, privately, that he will make the decision next year, according to the Sun.” - Johnson’s Endgame, The Economist (2011)


    The battle for Johnson's job was already commencing behind the scenes
    New Statesman Article: SDP Leadership Runners and Riders
  • SDP leadership: runners and riders

    By Caroline Crampton

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

    Ed Balls


    Province: West Yorkshire

    Age: 45

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

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

    Key Allies: Kevin Brennan, Vernon Coaker and Kerry McCarthy

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

    Floella Benjamin


    Province: South Outer London

    Age: 63

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

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

    Key Allies: Paddy Ashdown, Tim Farron, Navnit Dholakia

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

    Rosie Boycott


    Province: Dorset

    Age: 61

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

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

    Key Allies: Miranda Whitehead, Helen Pankhurst, Kat Banyard

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

    Andy Burnham


    Province: Merseyside

    Age: 41

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

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

    Key Allies: Hazel Blears, David Blunkett and Gerry Sutcliffe

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

    Yvette Cooper


    Province: Highlands & Islands

    Age: 43

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

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

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

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

    Chris Huhne


    Province: Hampshire

    Age: 59

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

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

    Key Allies: Lynne Featherstone, Sandra Gidley and Charles Kennedy

    Soundbite: “We are the party of freedom”

    Peter Mandelson


    Age: 59

    Province: Herefordshire

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

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

    Key Allies: Nick Brown, John Hutton, Geoff Hoon

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

    David Miliband


    Province: Northumberland

    Age: 46

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

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

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

    Key Allies: Douglas Alexander, Caroline Flint and Willie Bain

    Alan Sugar


    Age: 65

    Province: Inner East London

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

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

    Key Allies: John Lee, Martin Taylor, John Mills

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

    Polly Toynbee


    Province: Hampshire

    Age: 63

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

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

    Key Allies: Shirley Williams, Andrew Copson, Robert Ashby

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

    The Longshots

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

    • New Statesman, April 2012
    Last edited:
    Chapter 62: Dear Alan
  • 1636799608728.png

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

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

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

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

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


    Mandelson and Miliband were among Johnson's preferred successors

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

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

    Both members of the Balls' power couple got promotions

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

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

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


    Johnson's political career was comparable to a Shakespearean Tragedy
    Last edited:
    Chapter 63: The Line
  • 1636974843321.png

    Johnson would enter the history books with a mixed record

    “Britain's embattled prime minister announced Saturday he will not seek re-election in 2013. Alan Johnson told a meeting of party leaders he would limit his time in office to two terms, opening a process of primaries to elect his successor. Analysts say the SDP is almost certain to lose next year unless the troubled economy improves. He made the announcement ahead of local elections as a series of polls over the last year showed the centre-right National Party far in the lead. Johnson insisted in his speech that the austerity measures have stabilised Britain's economy. He then announced that he "will not be a candidate in the forthcoming general elections." He also said his decision is best for the country, his party and his family.”
    - Britain's embattled PM won't seek another term, CNN News Bulletin (2012)

    Like a wounded lion the SDP stumbled on towards local elections, and the vultures began to circle. Incumbent parties traditionally took a beating at second tier elections, and with the protests, strike and being on the verge of a bailout, these elections would be brutal for the SDP. Johnson especially was incredibly unpopular, with an approval rating of minus 36 points; he was a dangerous millstone around the SDP’s neck. Whilst in the 2009 election Johnson had been more popular than the SDP brand, going into 2012 the situation had reversed. Johnson had managed to anger both sides of the political spectrum, pushing away the left with his austerity budget and the right with his socially liberal reforms.


    The powerful Church of England were hoping for a National victory

    After losing three of his most heavy hitting Cabinet Ministers, and with local elections looming, Johnson made an unprecedented announcement. In a speech outside Downing Street Johnson announced he would not lead the SDP into the next general election, due for 2013, and would look to make way for a fresher, younger face. The man who had led Britain into democracy, and held the ship steady for seven years, was bowing out with some form of grace left. In a country where political leaders would rule their citizens until death did them part, seeing a Prime Minister bow out of his own accord was completely unprecedented. To Johnson’s supporters he was free from the constraints of electoralism, now able to take the tough decisions to avoid a bailout. To his critics he was now a lame duck, leaving the country leaderless.

    Rather than help the SDP’s chances, Johnson’s announcement proved a distraction for the party, talk quickly devolved into the runners and riders for party leadership. Senior Cabinet Ministers, including Rosie Boycott, Alan Sugar and Polly Toynbee, would engage in a bitter cold war on the campaign trail as they hoped to set out their stalls for party leadership. Senior MPs were quickly expected to choose sides as the party’s social democratic, progressive and neo-liberal wings all dug in for a protracted leadership battle - as the electorate watched on. Johnson had effectively thrown a hand grenade into the centre of his party.

    “High unemployment and a stagnant economy will deal Britain's ruling SDP heavy losses in local elections. Polls show the SDP will lose Birmingham and Nottingham as well as their absolute majority in their Leeds stronghold. The centre-right opposition National Party may also win Newcastle in a close vote. The city has one of the UK’s highest jobless rates and has become a key electoral battleground. “We need a change, a change in the economy. We’ve got to grow in something besides construction,” said Anna Martin, a 25-year-old forensic psychology student from Preston. Anna says she has voted SDP before but on May 22 will vote for any party but. The UK slid into recession in 2008, as a housing bubble burst, destroying hundreds of thousands of construction jobs and piling up bad debt at banks.” -Britain's jobless voters could turn against Social Democrats, Sarah Morris, Reuters (2012)


    Sugar was a highly divisive figure on the campaign trial

    The main benefactor of Johnson falling on his sword would be National Leader William Hague. Hague had radically overhauled his top team to make the National Party look like a party of government, and himself look like a future Prime Minister. Shadow Cabinet members were banned from wearing military dress in public, only to wear crisp suits. Hague especially wanted to target the midlands, appearing at multiple campaign stops in Nottingham suburbs and Warwickshire villages. Hague hired a new head political strategist, former Obama staffer Jim Messina to coordinate the election campaign. Messenia would coin the term “Herefordshire Man” to describe the target demographic National was chasing, a lower middle class white man in small town Herefordshire, who was fed up with the SDP but had an emotional distrust of the National Party.

    Reform also saw a surge in the polls during the local election campaign, especially targeting voters who had abandoned the SNP, but would never in their lives vote National. This included loyalist Scots and the upper-middle class in posh parts of cities like Bristol. Especially in rural councils where the SDP had absolutely no chance of winning, Reform was able to pitch itself as the only party able to stop National. Reform had before outperformed at a local level compared to its general election results so Brown, Rowling and others at the top of the party were eager for Reform to prove it could be a powerful political force, different from both the “economic irresponsibility” of the SDP and the “dangerous euroscepticism” of National.

    On the night of the election, the result was even worse for the SDP than most had imagined. Johnson’s announcement had not stemmed the bleeding as the SDP lost thousands of seats in a record swing against the party. A plurality of lost seats were picked up by National whilst Reform and the Socialist Alternative were also able to pick up a few protesting SDP voters to the right and left. Interestingly the local elections also showed a sharp decline in the number of independent and residents association councillors. Analysts argued this was proof of British democracy maturing, political parties were better able to establish themselves, voters were now much happier to vote on national political issues and with national loyalties, rather than voting for Steve the pub landlord from the RA. It had been a nice, stable, partisan landslide against the SDP.

    “The impact of the global economic crisis was felt well beyond the economic and financial realms. The crisis also had severe political consequences. Britain followed in the path of many other European countries that saw their governments suffer the wrath of their voters. The SDP was re-elected in a general election in 2009. Soon thereafter, economic conditions deteriorated and the government’s popularity declined . Between 2009 and 2012, there were several electoral contests in the UK at the local and regional level. One common pattern was the outcome: the defeat of the Social Democratic Party and the victory of the National Party. At local levels the SDP suffered historical losses, losing control of local governments that they ruled for years.” - The Economic Crisis in Britain 2008–2013, Lecture by Steve Coulter, LSE (2016)


    Britain's working class had turned on the SDP
    Chapter 64: Bailout
  • 1637064370472.png

    NatWest was the largest UK bank to go under

    “Britain's bank bailout may seem the latest small step towards tackling the eurozone's debt crisis. But this is an extraordinary moment. The UK is not a tiny economy on the fringes of the continent, but the third largest in the eurozone. Delivering prosperity to a country that was backwater within living memory was the crowning achievement of the single currency. Yet the acknowledgement that London can no longer safeguard its own banks, which are riddled with bad loans, reveals a harsh truth. Being part of the euro club has drawn the UK into a frenzy of cut-price credit, and a catastrophic crash. €140bn will not be enough to prevent a full-blooded bailout of the government at a later date.”
    - The UK's bank bailout will not assuage the need for strong economic measures, Nicholas Kulish, New York Times (2012)

    It wasn’t enough, the tuition fees, the tax rises, nothing seemed to stop Britain’s banking sector collapsing. The country knew it was in real trouble when NatWest went under. NatWest had over 100 billion euros in capital, making it the 11th largest bank in the United Kingdom. Economists calculated that the British financial sector would need another 140 billion euros to prevent full financial collapse - 140 billion euros the Treasury didn’t have. Britain would have to follow Hungary, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus and Spain in requesting a nationally humiliating bailout. EU Finance Ministers were summoned to Copenhagen to discuss a solution to the British problem.

    Whilst Britain’s 140 billion euro bill wasn’t as large as the nearly 400 billion euros Brussels was pumping into Greece to keep it afloat, it would still represent the second biggest bailout in European history, nearly doubling previous silver medalist Portugal’s bill of 77 billion euros. Europe’s austerity “Troika” led by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Sarkozy would demand a heavy price for the Treasury’s salvation. After several days of negotiation the EU’s total bailout fund was negotiated down to 98 billion euros, with the other 40 billion coming from the private sector and the British finances. The European Council agreed the bailout would be a banks focused bailout, rather than a government focused bailout like those in Greece and Portugal.


    Johnson had avoided a Greek-style capitulation

    The bright-side of a “bank’s focused bailout” was that the EU would not demand harsh austerity like they had to Athens, Lisbon and Dublin. Instead, most of the strings attached to the bailout included reform of Britain’s banking sector, this included opening the City of London up to further international competition, and removing Junta-era “national security” restrictions on foreign companies buying British. These reforms would allow EU banks to buy shares in failing UK banks and generally bring the UK further in line with the European financial sector. Despite the British negotiating out of the worst austerity mandates, there were some public spending strings attached, most notably increasing Britain’s generous retirement age from 64 to 68, as well as a 23% cut to Britain’s unemployment payment, from 400 euros a month to 308 euros a month.

    “Britain unveiled new austerity measures on Wednesday as Prime Minister Johnson yielded to EU pressure to avoid a full state bailout. The SDP leader announced cuts in unemployment benefits in a speech interrupted by jeers and boos from both benches. “These measures are not pleasant, but they are necessary. Our public spending exceeds our income by tens of billions of euros,” he told parliament. Anti-austerity protests in London turned violent with police firing rubber bullets at protesters. Thousands of demonstrators joined miners who had staged a long march in protest at cuts in mining subsidies. Analysts said the draconian savings plan showed Britain was already under de facto supervision from Brussels. This is despite the fact it has not requested a sovereign bailout and retains access to bond markets.”
    - UK unveils new austerity under European pressure, Reuters (2012)

    The bailouts were seen as a moderate success by the British delegation, they had received most of the money they needed to prevent a second recession, and had avoided the mass public sector restructuring that had befallen Greece. Chancellor Sugar especially was eager to sign. It wasn’t just Brussels putting pressure on the Johnson administration, over in Washington Treasury Secretary Gene Sperling welcomed the bailout as an “important step for the health of the British economy” and urged the government to sign up. Under a normal Parliament the measures would probably pass the Commons easily, but Johnson only had a majority of two, and his allies in the Alternative and RISE were on their last nerve.


    The Outrage protests had only gotten bigger

    With his political career dead in the water anyway, Johnson decided to take a death or glory approach to getting the bailout passed, knowing it would define his premiership. Aides described Johnson as a “man possessed” as he rang round his own MPs to ensure political backing for the bailout bill. Whilst he was able to use every last drop of political capital to beg, charm or threaten the SDP into backing the budget, when it came to his confidence and supply partners he hit a political wall. Meacher was outraged at the raising of the retirement age, and at the idea of the EU dictating how Britain could spend its money, already facing pressure from the Outraged protests and his fellow MPs, Meacher announced the Alternative would vote against the budget. Seeing the writing on the walls, the SNP and Plaid would also confirm their intentions to vote against.

    National was in no mood to dig Johnson out of the mess he made, even after a desperate last minute negotiation for a national unity government, Hague refused to even see Johnson. His Press Secretary, Gabrielle Bertin, told journalists National would be voting against the bailout as Hague believed he could get a “better deal for Britain”. She called on Johnson to visit the Palace and request a snap election to move the political deadlock forward. The vote would go to Parliament, losing 286 votes to 205 votes in favour. The bailout was dead in the water, the fall of the government was likely to follow. Speaking outside Downing Street Johnson announced he had asked the SDP’s Executive Committee to call an Extraordinary Federal Congress to elect a new party leader, once this new leader was elected he would step aside and give them a chance to form a new government. Alan Johnson’s premiership was over.

    “After the 2009 coup, I said I would do all that I could to ensure a strong, stable and principled government was formed, able to tackle Britain's challenges. I like to think I've done just that. Now my constitutional duty is to make sure that an economic collapse can be avoided following last today's vote. I have informed the President of the SDP that it is my intention to tender my resignation to the Party's Executive Committee. I wish the next prime minister well as they make the important choices for the future. Whoever is elected leader of my party can count on my full loyalty. I call on all true democrats to be proud of being part of our experiment, today more than ever. That is how I say goodbye, sure of the fact that it has been an honour to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.” - Alan Johnson’s Resignation Speech “2012”


    Historians would debate Johnson's record for years to come
    LSE Lecture - Assessing the Premiership of Alan Johnson
  • 1637080241800.png

    Assessing the Premiership of Alan Johnson

    Lecturer by Professor Toby James

    The legislative record of Alan Johnson’s government has been buried under the avalanche of criticisms due to the economic crisis.

    The fact that Johnson’s economic policies in 2010 moved from Keynesianism to cuts buried his reputation even deeper. Yet his dilemma was that of all social-democratic parties in power. Social-democracy can function in times of economic growth, as Johnson's first government did - but during economic crises, social-democratic governments can no longer deliver the social benefits on which their electoral base rests. It is no coincidence that only 4 or 5 social democratic governments have survived the crisis in Europe. Of those survivors, several are in power as a result of electoral cycles rather than electoral consolidation.

    When assessing the Johnson Premiership we must of course assess his unique position as a transition politician. Transitions to democracy refer to specific historical processes of change to democracy. The phrase assumes democratisation was an open-ended process that could be closed through legislation. Yet it is a term that has been much abused. Nor is it a term that refers to any corpus of interpretation. It is more of a political claim than an interpretative or analytical category.

    We must stress that Johnson's policies were marked by continuity with previous administrations. Though we can and should acknowledge Johnson’s efforts to promote a socially liberal agenda, his policies were characterised at best by incoherence and at worst by unrealised commitments.

    Analysing Johnson's economic policy makes the bleakest assessment of them all. Johnson failed to address the core problems of the British economy such as low productivity and the loss of competitiveness. He saw EU accession as a silver bullet to Britain's economic woes, and was overly eager to conform to Brussels directives.

    In terms of political assessment we must acknowledge the skill with which Johnson negotiated the complex business of minority government. Johnson should also be commended for maintaining a relatively stable peace with the mainstream SNLA. Peace in Scotland is even more surprising when you consider that no major devolution deal was passed during Johnson's premiership. Despite this, initiatives for provincial reform came peacefully from the periphery rather than the centre.

    Johnson's foreign policy was marked by contradiction and by continuity with that of the Junta. Whilst he did oversee the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, he continued to support American adventurers abroad in Afghanistan and Libya. Britain remained a willing member of the US hegemony

    Social legislation is the only area where claims of radical innovation can be made by the Johnson administration. The SDP were foremost among the European left in shifting from the old politics of redistribution, welfare and workers’ rights to new policies around the environment, gender parity, gay rights and multiculturalism. This transformation was driven more by the SDP leadership than by the effects of societal change. In terms of social legislation Johnson’s government can be a model for social-democracy elsewhere. However, the gains made by the SDP in the elections of 2009 among new social constituencies were dissipated by the effects of the economic crisis.

    In conclusion, whilst the Johnson Governments can broadly be seen as a failure, there are some major successes to point to. From the legalisation of gay marriage, (one of the first Anglophone countries to do so) to the fastest EU accession on record, Johnson's policy achievements may outlast the economic crisis that destroyed him.

    Seminar Question: Critically Assess the Premiership of Alan Johnson 2005-2012
    2012 SDP Leadership Election, Part 1
  • 1637150600255.png

    Johnson privately supported David Miliband as his successor

    “The next SDP leader to succeed Alan Johnson will be announced on the 27th of July at an Emergency Federal Congress. Since Johnson resigned after his defeat in the bailout vote SDP members have anticipated his replacement. The nomination deadline at 12pm on Monday revealed three candidates running for leadership: Andy Burnham, David Milband and Alan Sugar. After Mary Creagh dropped out on Friday, a mere few days before the closing date, it was a rush to the finishing line. Burnham was a last-minute entry after receiving Executive Committee nominations by the Amicus union. His left-wing economics, and criticism of Johnson's immigration policy have set him apart from other candidates. SDP members have been given just over a month to decide between the three candidates.”
    - The SDP’s new leadership candidates, BBC News Bulletin (2012)

    The SDP’s Emergency Federal Congress was set for the 27th of July, less than two months away from Johnson’s resignation, there was no time to waste. The party was under little illusions, whoever won this leadership election would be taking the party into a general election, the Socialist Alternative pact was unsalvageable. Thus the party was eager to avoid all out war and Executive Committee members were encouraged to be conservative with their nominations. Immediately both Justice Secretary David Miliband and Chancellor Alan Sugar declared their candidacy, and the party establishment began to pick sides. Deputy Prime Minister Rosie Boycott and Foreign Secretary Polly Toynbee both ruled themselves out of running, giving their support to Miliband. Meanwhile leading figures on the right of the party, such as Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell gave their support to Sugar.

    Other possible contenders for the leadership such as Ed Balls, Clare Grenada and Sandi Toksvig would also rule themselves out. West Yorkshire MP Mary Creagh failed to get two Executive Committee Members to propose and second her, so dropped out early. The only person emerging to challenge Miliband and Sugar as an outsider was 41 year old Andy Burnham, a trade unionist who had only been promoted to the Cabinet a few weeks ago. Of the three candidates, Sugar was seen as the most right-wing running on a campaign of accepting the bailout, and ending any further cooperation with the Socialist Alternative. Miliband on the other hand, was the pragmatist Johnsonite candidate. Whilst he also supported the bailout deal, he said the SDP had to be open to working with all parties.


    Sugar was the candidate for the Europhillic, pro-bailout wing of the party

    Burnham had the most radical policy platform, running as a populist. He called for a stronger embrace of the trade unions, and renaming the SDP to the “People’s Party”. He coupled his left-wing economic position with more socially conservative attitudes, especially towards the EU, promising a block on any further transfer of powers to Brussels, and attacking his opponents for having “federalist” tendencies. Burnham also called on the party to have a “genuine conversation” around it’s immigration policy, seen as the harshest on immigration of the three candidates. Whilst supportive of an EU bailout, Burnham pledged to renegotiate the terms with the Troika.

    “Andy Burnham will join the race to replace Alan Johnson, saying the SDP "have our fingers in our ears and our hands over our eyes" over immigration. Burnham added his voice to the emerging consensus that the SDP is failing to act on immigration. While he said he would "avoid disowning our past" on immigration, he said: "we have our fingers in our ears and our hands over our eyes. We don't want to talk about it. "For me the big task is for Social Democrats to reconnect with people who are feeling this. They need to feel that the Social Democrats understand what they are saying and then will take steps to address it." He extended his criticism to the party's inability to explain the rules on welfare and pensions.” - Andy Burnham joins SDP leadership race with immigration pledge, Allegra Stratton, The Guardian (2010)

    Miliband would quickly emerge as the front-runner, gaining the backing of Cabinet big beasts such as Alistair Darling, Floella Benjamin, and both sides of the Balls/Cooper power couple. Whilst Johnson didn’t directly endorse a candidate, Miliband was generally seen as his preferred favourite. Miliband also got the backing of two out of the “big three” trade unions, being the AGO and GWNU, with Burnham receiving the backing of Amicus. Miliband was by far the most experienced, spending seven years in Cabinet, to Sugar’s three and Burnham’s zero. He was also telegenic and good on camera, having spent decades running PR for the British Democracy Foundation in Paris. Miliband also had the backing of over half of the SDP’s MPs at 110 official MP endorsements.


    Burnham would fight an old fashioned social democratic campaign

    Sugar ran a very well funded campaign, hiring high-flying strategists from the US to bulk out his staff team. He had more paid organisers than Miliband and Burnham put together. However Sugar had little base in the party to speak of. Whilst he had joined the SDP at its inception, he had never really been involved aside from an occasional donation until 2008. Many activists resented him being parachuted into the top and electoral list and then into the Treasury. His unwavering support for austerity had also made him no friends in the trade union movement, with not a single trade union giving their backing to Sugar’s campaign. Despite this Sugar’s pitch to members involved proclaiming himself as the most electable candidate, and the SDP leader William Hague “feared most”.

    Of the three Burnham’s campaigns would see the most momentum. Going from a practical unknown outside of nerdy political circles, Burnham would launch barnstorming visits to Northern and Midland towns the SDP had lost during the local election. In one speech in Stoke - Burnham would promise not only to negotiate the terms of Britain’s bailout deal but to put the terms of the deal in a “People’s Vote”, a national referendum - giving the public the opportunity to refuse the bailout. Whilst this was condemned as “economic suicide” by pro-bailout MPs such as Ivan Lewis and David Howarth, it was especially popular with grassroots SDP members as Burnham’s climbed in the polls.

    “A former Irish Labor SPAD who is now a Notting Hill resident makes for an unlikely working-class hero. But with the SDP desperate to reconnect with its roots, Andy Burnham is seen as a rare authentic voice from the party's heartland. Drinking cappuccino, the 41-year-old admits he is no longer working class. But as MP for Merseyside he is better placed to speak for the people bearing the brunt of cuts now that SDP's aspirational bubble has burst. He is unsurprised by our survey that only 28 per cent of people now consider themselves working class, saying a once "noble" bloc has been "demonised". From Shameless to Wife Swap, the working classes have become something to ridicule or fear as a "mob at the gate". - Andy Burnham: How the SDP lost its heart, Matt Chorley, The Independent (2012)


    Midlands and Northern English towns had swung against the SDP at the locals
    BBC News Bulletin: SPD Leadership Debate
  • Candidate debate highlights deep divisions within Social Democratic Party

    By Adam Fleming

    Weeks of internal confrontation within the SDP climaxed on Monday with a three-way debate between the candidates. On July 27-29th, 1,373 party delegates will decide who gets to lead a divided party whose fracture lines showed at the debate, held at Callaghan House in London.

    Alan Sugar laid the blame for the party’s continuing crisis on Alan Johnson, and his preferred successor David Miliband. Sugar, who is focusing on Miliband as the rival to beat, said that his constant “swerving” on the issues during the debate would lead to defeat for the SDP. At the local elections, the SDP lost nearly 9,000 Councillors, representing their worst ever electoral result. Leader Alan Johnson was forced into a humiliating resignation after failing to pass an EU bailout through Parliament.

    “David, the problem is you,” said Sugar on Monday, accusing his rival of lacking a clear project. “I don’t think you are pro-bailout or anti-bailout: you are pro-David Miliband and you do whatever is in your own best interest.”

    The third man, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, blamed both Miliband and Sugar for getting a bad deal with the European Troika. The bailout, and subsequent austerity move is a betrayal that the party grassroots have not forgiven

    “Alan, I hope you will acknowledge that you got a bad deal in Copenhagen,” he told him.

    Besides attacking one another, all nominees also made campaign promises. “If the SDP, with me at the helm, does not do better at the polls, I will leave; I will not lay the responsibility at anyone else’s feet,” said Sugar. And Burnham announced that “if I am secretary general, my first measure will be to fly to Brussels to renegotiate the Copenhagen deal.”

    David Miliband accused both his rivals of helping create a rift within the Social Democrats. He warned that the SDP “runs the risk of splintering and disappearing” if either man won.

    Miliband has portrayed himself as the only candidate who can find common ground between the different factions of the party. “We are divided and confronted with extinction,”

    Miliband accused Sugar of plotting against Johnson's leadership and hammered him for suggesting a grand coalition with William Hague.

    Miliband is seen as the favourite, but figures from earlier this month revealed that the contest is closer than expected. Polls have shown Sugar slipping in support and Burnham surging upwards. One YouGov poll showed Sugar only favoured by 20% of party members.

    Both Miliband and Sugar have taken it easy on Burnham in the campaign, in a bid to attract some of his supporters. However Burnham's rise in the polls suggest this strategy may change. Adam Fleming, BBC News
    Last edited:
    2012 SDP Leadership Election Part 2
  • 1637584751135.png

    Alan Milburn, the SDP's former deputy leader waded into the debate

    “Coverage of the SDP leadership race has reached a new degree of intensity. Much of the focus centres around an article former Deputy Leader Alan Milburn has written for the Guardian. Milburn has urged SDP delegates not to vote for anti-bailout candidate Andy Burnham. Addressing his appeal to delegates, Mr Millburn writes: "If Burnham becomes leader, the party faces a very difficult period" One of Burnham's supporters, MP Jon Trickett, says Mr Burnham represents the "dismantling of the leave it all to the EU ideology'." Burnham's campaign is focused on issues including council housing, social insecurity and immigration. At a campaign stop in Sandwell, West Midlands Mr Burnham told journalists: "My campaigning agenda is shifting the terms of debate."
    - SDP faces 'annihilation', says Alan Millburn, BBC News Bulletin (2012)

    With Burnham’s eurosceptic crusade gaining traction, Callaghan House began to scramble. SDP bigwigs knew Burnham only had to gain a plurality of votes to win the party leadership, with Miliband and Sugar splitting the pro-European moderate vote, Burnham could easily sneak into the party leadership. The Miliband campaign dispatched a delegation, led by Health Secretary Douglas Alexander, to try and talk the Chancellor into backing out. Eventually the two men would meet in the uber-posh Ivy Restaurant in Soho to hash out a plan. Miliband made Sugar quite the offer, he promised to make Sugar the most powerful Chancellor ever, secure in his role at Number 11. However Sugar appeared to have missed the memo, instead demanding Miliband drop out of the race and promise his delegates to Sugar’s campaign. This was despite the fact Miliband had twice as many MPs and promised delegates as Sugar, as well as the backing of two major trade unions.


    The "Ivy Deal" fell at the first hurdle

    Needless to say both men left disappointed, there would be no deals. Instead both candidates cranked up their attack on Burnham. SDP big beasts like former Chancellor Simon Hughes and Senate Leader Liam Byrne gave their backing to Miliband, condemning Burnham for running a “dangerous” campaign. In Brussels too the EU was becoming increasingly panicked, the British economy couldn’t survive a protracted negotiation as well as a possible general election. Thus the party establishment firmly threw its weight behind Miliband, allowing him to rally his support. Sugar meanwhile continued to collapse in polling, as pro-bailout members abandoned him for fear of Burnham. By the time the Extraordinary Federal Congress rolled around in Edinburgh, the contest had gone from a battle between Miliband and Sugar, to a last scramble to push Burnham away and secure the crown for Miliband.

    Analysts on the conference floor reported an incredibly close race, with dozens of delegates still deciding. Surrogates all three campaigns launched a mad scramble across the Congress floor to secure support for their man. After a two day conference, at midday on the 29th of July, party delegates cast their ballots. The result was a Miliband victory by the slimmest of margins, a little over 20 delegates in it. The strong organising machinery of the Miliband campaign, coupled with Burnham’s relatively low name recognition allowed Miliband to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He had run as a unity candidate and he now had to bring all wings of his party back together and prepare for a bruising general election, few envied Miliband’s position.

    “I started this leadership campaign saddened by defeat and concerned about the future of the party. The results in May were bad. Very very bad. I salute the outstanding efforts of party members and trade unions, all weather friends who stood with us. But it was Dunkirk, not D-Day. Eight out of ten of our neighbours, relatives, workmates did not vote for us. We have just 200 SDP Controlled Councils out of 3,600 in the South of England. We have a mountain to climb. A mountain of suspicion and mistrust from the public. A mountain of money that National has in their back pocket. A mountain of hard thinking about a world that is changing. This leadership election, the new members, the new councillors, shows something is stirring. Something inspiring. And I hope you will join me.” - David Miliband’s Victory Speech (2012)

    Miliband went to work over the weeks following his election in a futile attempt to form a Government. Whilst his cup of tea with Michael Meacher had been cordial and friendly, the Alternative had been pushed to the edge and were unwilling to march their troops behind a Miliband Government. Reform refused to support any Government involving celtic separatists so any form of centrist Government with the SNP and Plaid was out of the question. William Hague was salivating at the chance to become Prime Minister, so a grand coalition like Alan Sugar had suggested was completely out of the question. After over a month of trying, Miliband was unable to form a government. Thus outgoing Prime Minister Alan Johnson went to see her Majesty, it was time for a snap election.


    Miliband didn't get to spend a single night in Downing Street

    The Queen gave her blessing and the date was set. It was to be a winter election, with polling day on November the 20th 2012. After three years the ramshackle government of Alan Johnson had cobbled together with the Alternative and the SNP had finally come to an end. It had lasted longer than most of its critics had assumed, surviving a u-turn to austerity and even a military coup. But the wolves could only be kept at bay so long. The Alternative had been freed. Whilst Milband’s election had given the SDP a small boost, National were still nine points ahead at 35% to the SDP’s 26%. With third parties like the Alternative (11%) and Reform (9%) seeing record polling, it was to be the most volatile election yet.

    “Official campaigning for Britain's general election begins Friday. The incumbent SDP faces a stiff challenge from three rivals in the tightest race in decades. Whilst the centre-right National are leading, with some polls showing that more than one in five potential voters are undecided, it is impossible to predict who will win. "These are the most volatile elections ever," YouGov's Jerry Latter told the Associated Press. As well as the two main parties, two other parties - the left-wing Alternative and centrist Reform - have gained traction in the polls. The four main party leaders set out their positions this week in an hour-long live interview each hosted by the BBC. David Miliband's Social Democratic Party has been worn down by austerity measures and the unemployment rate.” - Campaigning for volatile UK general election begins, Associated Press


    A record number of UK residents reported plans to vote third party in polls
    Last edited:
    2012 General Election, Part 1
  • 1637664260764.png

    Few rated Miliband's chances

    “Britain's ruling socialist government is expected to fall - with polls predicting a victory for the National Party. Voters hit by sky-high unemployment, piles of debt and a bleak future say they will dump the SDP on Sunday and hand their national mess to the opposition. But National Leader William Hague will inherit a huge crisis as fears grow that Britain's yields on 10 year bonds rise towards the 7 per cent mark. A win for the 51-year-old, who has a decreasing popularity rating, would bring the conservatives back to power for the first time in eight years. It would see him taking over from Prime Minister Alan Johnson who has put a liberal social policy on the UK by legalizing gay marriage. But on economic matters Johnson has been criticised as first denying, then reacting late to the global financial crisis.”
    - UK's socialist government set to get the boot, Fox News Bulletin (2012)

    Political pundits do love to categorise things, where declaring the 2012 snap election as the “bitter winter” or the “unemployment election”, the commenteriat were throwing dozens of names at the snap contest. All these names had one thing in common, a broad theme of cynicism and disappointment. After seven years of democracy and an accession to the EU, many British voters were feeling betrayed. Unemployment stood at 22% and millions were slipping back into poverty not seen for years. National were leading in the polls by around 9-10% in most polls, but their victory was more a “victory by default” a reflection of anger at the SDP, rather than a full-throated endorsement of National. Polls showed both Hague and Miliband as broadly unpopular and apathy at an all-time high.

    The main beneficiaries of this anger at the establishment were Britain’s third parties. The Alternative had managed to wash-off much of the blood of the Johnson administration and were breaking double-digits in some polls. With both the SDP and National broadly supporting the austerity bailout agenda, and with no other left-wing options, the Alternative was really the only choice for anti-bailout voters. Meacher attempted to capture some of the anti-establishment magic of the outrage protests, promising his party would be a voice for the voiceless and downtrodden. This allowed the Alternative to both hold onto it’s young voters in the inner-city and reach out to small town eurosceptic voters through the Alternative’s opposition to the Troika.


    Hague and Miliband both had negative approval ratings

    Reform too benefited from the decline of the major parties, in particular the slow-motion implosion of the SDP. Reform was able to take advantage of middle-class liberal voters who had abandoned David Miliband, but couldn’t bring themselves to vote National. Reform had particularly surged in some parts of London during the local elections taking control of affluent South London boroughs like Richmond, Kingston and Lambeth, Reform would target London constituencies with a laser-focus, hoping to supplant the Alternative as the capital’s third largest party. Reform was also the only party making an unabashed pro-EU case in it’s campaign, with leader Sarah Brown arguing the two main parties had “surrendered” Britain’s seat at the EU table.

    “The attribution of responsibility is especially important given the economic crisis. Citizens could blame – or exonerate – different parties for the situation. In the 2012 contest, those who voted for National and Reform were less likely to attribute responsibility for the economic situation to the EU. Voters for all parties – including the SA and RISE – tended to blame the SDP government for the economic situation. Differences in the determinants of voting were concentrated in a few variables. One of them was of course ideology. Voters of the SA, Reform and RISE were particularly dissatisfied with the workings of democracy. Those of Reform and SA also shared an intense lack of confidence towards politicians. The latter were especially active in their use of the internet, political blogs and social networks.” - The 2012 UK Election, Lecture by Christopher Kirkland, University of York (2013)

    2012 would also be the UK’s first election with social media as a tangible battleground, whilst Twitter and Facebook had been around for the 2009 election, social media political campaigns were still in their infancy - now all major parties had dedicated social media teams working around the clock. The Outrage protests, organised via social media, had shown the political class how these platforms could be used for mass organisation. Whilst the smaller parties were having some success with viral Twitter adverts, as usual the main parties were slow and sluggish, struggling to keep up. For example William Hague’s follower count increased by a little over 5% over the course of the campaign, compared to Meacher’s whose follower total shot up by over a third during the first month of the election. In one viral gaffe Hague tweeted “"I just got up to 2.215 in #DoodleJump!” Later explaining his nephew had accidentally posted the message whilst playing on Hague’s phone.


    National's social media posts would target their base, with little attempt to reach out towards undecided voters

    Hague’s follower count fed into a large pattern of his campaign presence, described by one National MP as “ok - but not brilliant”, Hague had come into the election with high expectations, and whilst he performed well as the Commons Dispatch Box, he struggled to connect with ordinary voters. In one off the cuff speech in Blackpool Hague stuttered, saying “Britain… is full of British people” in a gaffe that was widely mocked on social media. Some within the party also worried that Hague’s campaign of targeting traditional working class SDP areas in the Midlands risked “overstretching” the campaign, especially as Reform was making inroads in National’s bougier heartlands.

    Unionist parties were also rapidly losing ground in Scotland, the SNP was rebuilding their support, being able to claim at least some credit for Johnson’s downfall. Even the Marxist Workers Party of Scotland was tipped to win two or three seats in some polls. The biggest winners however were the RISE party, the poor devolution deal had allowed RISE to bounce back from death’s door. Alex Neil had only ever been an interim leader, having been the person to wield the knife against Tommy Sheridan, he had been replaced by Patrick Harvie, a 38 year old gay rights activist. Harvie’s assent had made him the first openly LGBT leader of any major UK political party, able to appeal to liberal SDP voters and hardcore nationalists, he had nearly doubled RISE’s standing in the poll. It was a pattern repeated in every periphery of British society: an army of smaller parties were chomping away at the big two.

    “Britain’s small political parties are gaining support from disillusioned voters, an opinion poll showed on Sunday. If general elections were held today, the result would be the most fragmented since Britain’s return to democracy in 2005, the YouGov poll showed. Britain’s National Party would still beat its SDP rival in an election with 36% of the vote, down from the 42% it won in 2009. The SDP would win 29% of the vote, down from 41% in 2011. To govern the SDP would need a coalition with leftist party Socialist Alternative, for which support has doubled to 9%. Voters have grown disenchanted with the ruling SDP party, which has implemented austerity measures. Meanwhile, support for small centrist party Reform has grown, with it projected to capture 7% of the vote versus 3% percent in 2009.” - Voter support for UK’s small political parties grows, Reuters (2012)


    The Outrage protests were still ongoing, feeding into anti-establishment feeling