Something for the weekend: the great and glorious Lib Dem game of “what if?”

At the Glasgow conference in October 2014, there was something of an organisational snafu surrounding the BOTYs (Liberal Democrat Voice Blogs of the Year) awards ceremony. At the start of the session, the actual awards themselves, were not in the conference room where they needed to be. They were in a room upstairs in the hotel. The snag was that the room in question was locked. And the only person who we knew had a key was inside the room sleeping the sleep of the righteous – no doubt smilingly cuddling up to all our shiny BOTYs.

Suffice it to say that, while all this was sorted out, we, the assembled Lib Dem blogospheria, had plenty of time for idle chatter fuelled by the output of the nearby hotel bar.

Amongst a few of us, we started a discussion about “what if”. What if, during the 2006 leadership election, that fabled consignment of (mythical?) postal votes which was supposed to be mostly in favour of Chris Huhne had arrived at the Electoral Reform Society in time to be counted and Chris Huhne has actually won the election and become our leader?

Well, that’s easy. He would have lasted as long as the traffic offence on the motorway in Essex had come to light and then been replaced by Nick Clegg.

Ah. But I think his marriage wouldn’t have broken up in such circumstances.

– Said one oracle. That led us into another ten minutes of whatiffery. I thought the conversation would peter out, especially when I started introducing an element of whimsical fantasy into the prognostications. But the discussion was sustained. The appetite for whatiffery was amazing.

So let’s see if, in the comments field below, we can complete the full Lib Dem list of “what ifs?” and what would have happened if they had happened. Here’s a few to start us off:

  • What if, in October 1885 when they met at Hawarden Castle, Gladstone had remembered to mention his plans for Ireland to Joseph Chamberlain and the latter had been persuaded about those plans?
  • What if, in 1999, Chris Huhne had taken an advanced driving course and, from that day forth, kept within the speed limit?
  • What if we’d not gone into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010?
  • What if we’d insisted on the abolition of tuition fees in the coalition agreement?
  • What if Vince Cable had taken over as leader in 2013? or 2014?

Go on, then. You know you want to.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

Read more by or more about , , , or .
This entry was posted in Something for the Weekend.
Advert

32 Comments

  • No, I dont. Thank you for the offer though.

  • “…Well, that’s easy. He would have lasted as long as the traffic offence on the motorway in Essex had come to light and then been replaced …”

    Not so fast! Students of the workings of the Crown Prosecution Service might have reason to disagree with this.

    If Mr Huhne had been the DPM would the CPS have been quite so dogged in insisting that the police go back a third time to investigate ?
    No doubt lots of people will line up to say that the CPS is above criticism and politics and never makes a wrong move.
    The curious workings of the CPS are however in the news again this weekend when it would appear that there will be a reversal of their decision to turn a blind eye to accusations against Labour Peer (and former MP) Lord Janner.

    The CPS took this decision despite the very vocal objections of the police.
    Lord Janner had previously been well known for his support for legislation to insist that former 1940s German officials be arrested and taken to court even when they were well over eighty years old and suffering from dementia.

  • Paul – you are a veritable social service. I have been nagging my children and doing the washing and now you have provided me with a worthwhile pastime for my Saturday afternoon.

    What if Lord Bonkers had challenged Campbell-Bannerman for the leadership in 1906?…….

  • @John Tilley
    “Lord Janner had previously been well known for his support for legislation to insist that former 1940s German officials be arrested and taken to court even when they were well over eighty years old and suffering from dementia.”

    The first 34 words of that assertion are definitely true; the last 4, I’m not so sure. Do you have any quotes? There have been some recent articles in the press about the Szymon Serafinowicz case, but in all the quotes I’ve seen Janner did not criticise the decision of the jury to drop the case; instead he lamented the fact that Serafinowicz was not brought to justice sooner when he was fit to stand trial, which of course is not the same thing at all.

    Defendants cannot face a trial in a crown court if they are unfit to make a plea. Would you like to see that principle done away with?

  • John Tilley 27th Jun '15 - 1:01pm

    Stuart
    There used to be quotes on the website of The Board of Deputies. I have just looked but today they seem to have far fewer references to their long-time President, Lord Janner.

    No doubt someone can produce something from his speeches at the time.

    I was not thinking about the case which you mention but about his role at the time that the legislation went through. Perhaps someone with more skill at sifting through Hansard could help — I have never found the on-line versions that handy, perhaps because I belong to the lucky generation who used to have a nice new paper Hansard dropped into my In-tray every day. It was one of the best parts of my job.

  • Ruth Bright raises an interesting question. Do we know if Lord Bonkers was already a peer in 1906 or was he still MP for North or South Rutland ? And is he the first Lord Bonkers or did he inherit the title from a Bonkers predecessor ? I do not know whether his Lordship is a reader of Lib Dem Voice, but doubtless some well-behaved orphan will notice these queries and report them to him.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Jun '15 - 4:05pm

    Chris Huhne was an MEP at the time of the traffic offence. He might have been afford a taxi or a driver.
    Although he was a member of the 2010 negotiating team it is not automatic that he would have led the party into a coalition with the Tories. He had been a member of the Labour Party before he was in the SDP. He voted Democrat in the name debate.

  • I think some people have not quite got the idea of this one……

    How about “What if Spitting Image had never made their Steel and Owen dolls?”

  • Simon McGrath 27th Jun '15 - 4:36pm

    @John Tilley
    “The curious workings of the CPS are however in the news again this weekend when it would appear that there will be a reversal of their decision to turn a blind eye to accusations against Labour Peer (and former MP) Lord Janner.”

    They didnt turn a blind eye. They had a medical report from 4 doctors who all agreed that Janner is so demented he cannot defend himself. Does your definition of Liberalism include prosecuting people incapable of defending themselves ?

  • Simon McGrath 27th Jun '15 - 4:45pm

    On the point of the article how about this.
    After the Easter rising in 1916 Asquith stops the execution of the Irish rebels, having them imprisoned instead. This means that Irish public opinion continues to be highly hostile to them and Sinn Fein don’t win the 1918 election in Ireland. There is no declaration of independence and Ireland is given Home Rule.
    Irish MPs continue to sit in Westminster and the whole political situation of the 1920s and 1930s is changed.

  • Ah! What if we had pushed for the abolition of fees? We would have been seen as a party that kept its word. Simples!

  • @John Tilley
    “I was not thinking about the case which you mention but about his role at the time that the legislation went through.”

    Did said legislation specifically allow for the prosecution of the senile? That would go against established legal principles.

  • Matt (Bristol) 27th Jun '15 - 8:13pm

    Simon Mcgrath — wow; you are positing a situation where a federal UK could have entered WWII with access to the southern Irish naval ports…

    I think Gladstonian might-have-beens are infinite, including several scenarios with him never actually becoming a Liberal and therefore his rivalry with Disraeli being conducted with them both inside a version of the Tory party.

    Also – what if the many ‘National’ coalitions of the 20s and 30s had resulted in the creation of one, large, centrist National party, in government to the 40s at least, facing a small Labour party on the Left, and a tiny, reactionary ‘true’ Conservative party on the Right?

  • peter tyzack 28th Jun '15 - 10:00am

    agree with Flo, what if we had voted against or abstained(ignoring Cabinet protocols).. I’ll bet they would have found something else to tar us with, and the media would have been no more generous in their coverage of our good works.
    So ‘what if’ the Media had played with a straight bat, given us fair and honest coverage….

  • peter tyzack 28th Jun '15 - 10:01am

    What if we had demanded STV without a stupid referendum.

  • This is rather pointless, isn’t it? As my dear departed mother used to say, “If the dog hadn’t stopped to take a bathroom break, it might have caught the rabbit.” Although she used a much more Anglo-Saxon term than “bathroom break”…

  • peter tyzack 28th Jun ’15 – 10:00am……………..agree with Flo, what if we had voted against or abstained(ignoring Cabinet protocols).. I’ll bet they would have found something else to tar us with, and the media would have been no more generous in their coverage of our good works……………. So ‘what if’ the Media had played with a straight bat, given us fair and honest coverage…………..

    I, too, agree with Flo….However, there is a difference between the media finding something and us giving them the ‘guns already loaded’……
    The media, and I include the BBC, are almost entirely pro-Tory so the chance of ‘fair and honest coverage’ for any opposition party is a non-starter….

  • John Tilley 28th Jun '15 - 2:45pm

    Simon McGrath
    — the latest published reports indicate that the CPS decision will be overturned.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/lord-janner-historic-sex-offence-allegations-will-be-heard-in-court-says-legal-review-10349713.html

  • @Peter Tyzack
    Abstaining was still breaking the pledge, so that would have made no difference. Well I suppose if everyone had abstained the Tories would maybe not have got the increase through (although you have to remember Labour were ready to do the same if they had won…)

    Personally I think if we had kept the pledge but done everything else we did in coalition we would have got 12-15% and 30 MPs this May. People would have listened to what we said more and we would have got some support amongst students at least!

  • Simon McGrath 28th Jun '15 - 10:46pm

    @john Tilley – can you explain why you think prosecuting someone who can’t defend themselves is liberal ?

  • Ruth Bright 29th Jun '15 - 9:14am

    Simon – there are many forms of dementia and the disease progresses in a variety of different ways. If Janner has never had a brain scan we don’t even know whether he has dementia at all. Interestingly under the last government people with dementia were not exempted from the work capability assessments.

  • (Matt Bristol) 29th Jun '15 - 10:44am

    Nick Barlow — I was more envisaging merger emerging out of the Baldwin-Chamberlain years, and Neville Chamberlain’s vision of a ‘National’ party coming to fruitiion, with the Tory right splitting off to form a smaller party, ie we’d end up with something very similar to how Canadian politics was for many years, with a dominant centre party. I recognise this would require some way to magically have achieved a compromise on free trade.

    But the issue is the same as the Clement Davies point you propose — if the Liberal party had ceased to exist as a party of opposition by the 1950s (whether through staying as a party of government, or through merger into another party), what would have happened to the ideas around democratisation of the political system championed by Liberals since the 60s, ie community politics, electoral reform, etc.?

    If there is already a powerful, comfortable, stable non-ideological centrist party of government (something we haven’t seen in this country, arguably, since the 1885 general election), how is the discomforting, reforming voice of the ‘radical centre’ (for want of another phrase) going to be expressed and heard apart from via backbench revolts?

    I feel that Nick Clegg maybe did have a sort-of answer to this, but only in a fictitional world where the Tory Right left Cameron behind and went off and joined UKIP — you could then have had a semi-permanent coalition betweeen the ‘steady as she goes’ Cameronites and the ‘radical’ Cleggites, in opposition to ‘loony’ Labour and UKIP. However, this is fantasy politics based around the false assumptions that a) Cameron wasn’t that far right b) Labour holds no temptations as a partner for the LibDems, and c) Cameron would willingly give up his right wing, whilst his his rightwing would willingly give up influence over power, for semi-permanent opposition.

  • Simon McGrath 29th Jun '15 - 11:16am

    @ruth bright – 4 doctors have said he is not capable of standing trial . It doesnt really matter what form of dementia he has.

  • ” At the start of the session, the actual awards themselves, were not in the conference room where they needed to be. They were in a room upstairs in the hotel. The snag was that the room in question was locked. And the only person who we knew had a key was inside the room sleeping the sleep of the righteous – no doubt smilingly cuddling up to all our shiny BOTYs.”

    *blush*

    I’m never going to be forgiven for this, am I? I was knackered! LOL

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Jun '15 - 4:24pm

    Given that the party has given its name Liberal Democrats, I wonder in view of certain preceding comments whether there are some Liberals who are opposed to the democratic, Victims’ Right to Review System which allows victims to challenge professional judgments.

    Are professionals always correct in their judgments?

    My concern is, ‘what if’ victims had been denied this right?

  • (Matt Bristol) 29th Jun '15 - 4:39pm

    NIck Barlow “The interesting dynamic there would be if the liberal faction of the centre-right party keeps a separate identity”.

    Well, repeated experiments with the Liberal Unionists / ‘Imperial Preference’ faction under Chamberlain and the Liberal Nationals under Simon suggest that it doesn’t tend to happen in our system.

    You probably need a different electoral system, or at least regional governments and parties. I guess about the only way it could happen longterm in an FPTP system is on a territorial basis (whereby an independent Scottish Conservative Social Liberal Democratic and Labour Party, say, develops a distinct but complementary policy agenda to its semi-permanent ‘major’ partner, the Liberal Conservative Labour and Social Democratic Party of the UK).

    Maybe if the 1914 Home Rule Act had somehow magically survived intact, the Irish Nationalists would have survived as longstanding complementary partners of the Liberals, but…

    Party/factional identity-retention post-merger or coalition is a fascinating topic (to me). My MA (some time ago) was on how the remnant ‘Whigs’ presented themselves in the 1880s as a grouping within the Liberal party…

  • John Tilley 29th Jun '15 - 4:55pm

    Simon McGrath 28th Jun ’15 – 10:46pm
    @john Tilley – can you explain why you think prosecuting someone who can’t defend themselves is liberal ?

    Simon, no I cannot although as I have never said such a thing I am interested to know why you ask, An attempt to divert the discussion away from Lord Janner perhaps?

    I could give you a pretty good case for why someone who signed the relevant document to reserve his place in The House of Lords on 15th April 2015 is perhaps not suffering from a completely debilitating form of dementia.

    I take the rather simplistic view that If you can sit in the House of Lords you can face a trial in a court. Do you hold a different view?

    Today’s report in The Guardian indicates the views of the independent QC who has reviewed the CPS decision. You may not like it.

  • David Faggiani 29th Jun '15 - 5:10pm

    What if….. Iain Duncan-Smith had survived his coup in 2003, led the Tories into the 2005 election disastrously, and the Lib Dems had actually overtaken the Tories, at least in national Vote Share, whilst still gaining fewer seats? (I should say, this is my teenage self talking, because in 2003 I was 18, and thought this might be about to happen…)

  • Richard Underhill 18th Mar '16 - 12:42pm

    On the Irish Question (s) try “1916 THE MORNINGS AFTER From the Courts Martial to the Tribunals” by Tim Pat Cogan ISBN (HB) 9781784080099, published 2015, £18.99 in hardback.
    The bibliography included 12 books he has written, including “Michael Collins: A Biography, Hutchinson 1990” whom he described as having been “assassinated”.
    He does not quote as a source “The day Michael Collins was shot by Meda Ryan ISBN 1 85371 041 5, 1989, Poolbeg press, Dublin”.
    This states that Michael Collins was shot at long distance in a skirmish following an ambush during the civil war. He was a tall man, he was standing up, he was wearing uniform, he died.
    Emerging unscathed from Tim Pat Coogan’s book are a lawyer who became the Irish President, Mary Robinson and a political party, the Progressive Democrats, who had to deal with Charles Haughey.
    Also mentioned is the late Ian Paisley and his successor as Peter Robinson (not to be confused with Mary Robinson).

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

    No recent comment found.