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UK Playthrough: Iron Chancellor run

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Playing through various UK scenarios as Labour- can I change the course of history?

Some of elections I mention below weren’t covered by scenarios, or were too dramatically different from them. In these cases I calculated likely results using old polling, in-game swings and the U.K. Electoral Calculus website. However, I’ve just included the scenarios that I actually played through below.

Anyway, here are the results from what I call the 'Iron Chancellor' alternative reality:


After five years in office, Clement Attlee's government has introduced sweeping changes in health, education and welfare, but now finds itself seriously challenged by a resurgent Conservative party. 

Attlee's decision to call an election in February 1950, rather than spring or early summer, was criticised by many party members. Nonetheless, the Conservatives ran a surprisingly poor campaign, with Winston Churchill repeating his gaffe-prone performance from the 1945 election.

The result? An increased swing to Labour, giving them the highest vote share of the modern era. Churchill loses his seat in Woodford, as do many other leading Tory figures including Harold Macmillan. Anthony Eden, Churchill's most likely successor, squeaks through in Warwick and Leamington.


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Labour were able to entrench their position throughout the 50s and 60s, becoming, in Harold Wilson's words, 'the natural party of government'. A huge swing against Wilson at the 1969 election ended 24 years of Labour rule and brought Edward Heath to power. However, Heath's mishandling of the miner's strike resulted in an even bigger swing to Labour in May 1974, under its new leader James Callaghan.

Callaghan considered calling an election in late 1978, but preferred to hold on to see if the British economy rebounded after the IMF crisis. His calculation didn't pay off- Labour lose over 200 seats. However, the new Conservative leader, Margaret Thatcher, lacking unified support from the Tory press, fails to win a majority. Two seats short, she forms a minority administration instead.


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Labour's new leader, Michael Foot, is not seen as a viable Prime Minister as waiting, and the defection of many Labour MPs to the new SDP party has damaged his credibility even more. Coming off the high of the Falklands War, Mrs Thatcher calls an election for June 1983, hoping to split the opposition and finally win a majority.

Against expectations, however, Foot puts up a strong challenge. Labour lose seats, but so do the Conservatives, squeezed by the SDP/Liberal Alliance in their traditional strongholds. Once more, Mrs Thatcher leads a minority government- but will she be able to push through her radical programme?


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Facing deadlock in parliament over her proposed changes to welfare, the unions and the NHS, as well as the prospect of a vote of no confidence, Mrs Thatcher calls a snap election for May 1984. Opinion polls suggest an Alliance lead, but Conservative Central Office calculates that the vagaries of First Past the Post make the prospect of an outright Tory win possible- if not easy.

Forced out by the unions, Michael Foot has been replaced as Labour leader by Denis Healey, Callaghan's Chancellor of the Exchequer and a big beast from the right of the party. Healey is a media favourite and this fact, combined with Labour's strength in its traditional heartlands, sees a swing to the party and an outright majority of ten seats. 

It's a historically bad night for the Tories, their worst result in living memory. The Alliance overtake them in many areas of the South and shunt them to third place. David Steel and Roy Jenkins will serve as joint Leaders of the Opposition. Mrs Thatcher's gambit has failed, and she loses her own seat in Finchley to the Labour candidate. Sir Geoffrey Howe replaces her as interim leader, winning the later leadership election and leading the Tories to a partial revival in 1988.


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Labour dominate the next four decades. After Healey steps down in 1991, Roy Hattersley leads the party to victory in the 1992 and 1996 elections. Hattersley is replaced by Gordon Brown in 1998, who in turn is replaced by David Miliband in 2007. 2008 sees the election of a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, headed by David Cameron, but at the next election in 2013, Ed Balls- Miliband's own Iron Chancellor- wins in a landslide. After the 2018 election, Labour have a minority government, albeit against a weakened Conservative Party.

Margaret Thatcher, hobbled by her lack of a majority, was unable to push through her monetarist policies. However, Healey- as architect of the 1978 IMF deal, and a Labour advocate for moderate monetarism- proceeds along the same lines that she might have. Britain in 2021 is perhaps a little more tolerant and a little less worn down than it might have been under a radical, emboldened Tory government, but the effects of three decades of free market policies are largely the same. 


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