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When did OTL leaders become 'plausible'?

Elektronaut

The Atheist Conservative
Conversely I'm much less sure post-2019 of the old left consensus that any Labour leader could have won against Major in 1997, or even that it was nailed on for Smith. There's probably a horribly depressing timeline to be written called 'One More Heave'.
I don't think any Labour leader could have won 1997, but I do think any realistic Labour leader would have - Beckett, Prescott, Cook, Brown, Smith etc. None of these would have positioned the party substantially to the left of Blair, given a '94 or '92 leadership start date. Smith certainly would have won, though with a probably seriously reduced majority over Blair - likely high double figures rather than high triple.

Obviously though if the chronosphere deposits Benn or Corbyn into the leadership, it's game on and the fear of such would give the Tories the shot in the arm they needed.
 

Yokai Man

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I don't think any Labour leader could have won 1997, but I do think any realistic Labour leader would have - Beckett, Prescott, Cook, Brown, Smith etc. None of these would have positioned the party substantially to the left of Blair, given a '94 or '92 leadership start date. Smith certainly would have won, though with a probably seriously reduced majority over Blair - likely high double figures rather than high triple.

Obviously though if the chronosphere deposits Benn or Corbyn into the leadership, it's game on and the fear of such would give the Tories the shot in the arm they needed.
I wonder if Livingstone,in a scenario where Gould doesn’t run and somehow manages to win against Smith,could do that for the Conservatives.
 

Elektronaut

The Atheist Conservative
I wonder if Livingstone,in a scenario where Gould doesn’t run and somehow manages to win against Smith,could do that for the Conservatives.
I know some people on here flirt with a hard left nineties resurgence but really they were totally done by this point and had been since Benn's ego trip in '88 split the left (again) and practically had been earlier than that. There's no way Livingstone is winning against someone who was a strong candidate seen as acceptable to the left like Smith.
 

Kato

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I don't think any Labour leader could have won 1997, but I do think any realistic Labour leader would have - Beckett, Prescott, Cook, Brown, Smith etc. None of these would have positioned the party substantially to the left of Blair, given a '94 or '92 leadership start date. Smith certainly would have won, though with a probably seriously reduced majority over Blair - likely high double figures rather than high triple.

Obviously though if the chronosphere deposits Benn or Corbyn into the leadership, it's game on and the fear of such would give the Tories the shot in the arm they needed.
Apologies - I should have made it clearer in my previous post that I was positing an argument I've heard put forward in left circles rather than one which I think necessarily holds merit. I do however think that there is something very specific to Blair that made the historical situation such a total blow-out on so many fronts, but I acknowledge that's a scale of victory rather than a 'would they have won?' question.

I'm conscious that you did a very good Smith TL over on the other place.
 

Elektronaut

The Atheist Conservative
Apologies - I should have made it clearer in my previous post that I was positing an argument I've heard put forward in left circles rather than one which I think necessarily holds merit.
Not a problem, don't worry about it.

I think it's one of those arguments which is premised on Corbyn being much more historically mainstream than he was. As I noted recently he garnered the support of a lot of people who were mainstream, but that didn't make his leadership so. I think a lot of people both in and outside of Labour, including some of Corbyn's own supporters, missed this.

I do however think that there is something very specific to Blair that made the historical situation such a total blow-out on so many fronts, but I acknowledge that's a scale of victory rather than a 'would they have won?' question.
I think Blair personally being very much a middle-England figure who was seen as likeable - the past is another country - and A Leader had a lot to do with it, but also New Labour being ruthlessly committed to winning at all costs - there was serious scarring from '92, and they absolutely weren't prepared to leave any kind of exposure at all. With hindsight you can definitely make the argument that they overcompensated, but I think their notion was understandable given what they'd been through.

I think there was a serious loss fatigue in Labour's core support which allowed it to do this and which wasn't necessarily transferable to all circumstances, and I think a lot of people involved in New Labour subsequently forgot that politics is fluid.

I'm conscious that you did a very good Smith TL over on the other place.
There's some things which still stand up but I wrote it a long time ago now and a lot of it is not great. I'd revise it substantially if I ever went back to it. Obviously though I do still think Smith would have won the election.

I think the timeline suffered from the very fact that Smith's left-leaning-ness gets overstated and there would have been a decent though far from complete degree of continuity with the government of OTL.
 

Meadow

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Until Gaitskell gets poorly, I don't know how many people saw Wilson as anything other than a 'he's ambitious but would probably only get the leadership in his prime in another universe', because Hugh was going to win and then presumably be PM for at least five years.
 

Meadow

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Ed Miliband, Osborne, and now Corbyn are among those who I'd consider far less likely in hindsight than they were talked up to be at the time.

Conversely I'm much less sure post-2019 of the old left consensus that any Labour leader could have won against Major in 1997, or even that it was nailed on for Smith. There's probably a horribly depressing timeline to be written called 'One More Heave'.
Smith dies in the spring of 1992, Labour actually does a tiny bit better due to sympathy but an enraged Kinnock pushed over the edge by the loss of his obvious successor declines to resign and sees off a challenge, then never gets round to resigning before 1997... then loses again.

The leadership election after that would be interesting.
 

Coiler

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I should have added that this discussion is open to ALL political leaders - I've only come at it from a UK PM angle because that's what I know most, but Presidents and Premiers are very welcome.
I think the term "plausibility" is one I'm a little uncomfortable with. For me, (if it's important to the story), establishing a sense of how and why they got there is more important. I'm not sure I really want to overanalyze many of the failures I've seen, because most ultimately stem from the greater "soft AH in the nominal structure of hard AH" problem in general and more specifically a too-common perception that OTL office holders are inevitable while non-OTL office holders aren't.
 

Meadow

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I think the term "plausibility" is one I'm a little uncomfortable with. For me, (if it's important to the story), establishing a sense of how and why they got there is more important. I'm not sure I really want to overanalyze many of the failures I've seen, because most ultimately stem from the greater "soft AH in the nominal structure of hard AH" problem in general and more specifically a too-common perception that OTL office holders are inevitable while non-OTL office holders aren't.
I see this thread as a discussion of memory over whether The Public And Press At The Time considered people inevitable – rather like Trump as a mentioned example, asking whether someone was inevitable or not isn't a conversation that can be had subjectively: objectively, Trump became President so technically, given history did happen that way and as far as we know there aren't parallel universes, he was inevitable.
 

AndrewH

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I should have added that this discussion is open to ALL political leaders - I've only come at it from a UK PM angle because that's what I know most, but Presidents and Premiers are very welcome.
Ford's rise to the Presidency is obviously one that I can't imagine anybody saw coming until the Watergate proceedings were at their peak, and even though Reagan had been a serious heavyweight politician since '67-'68, there was still a good amount of people in 1980 who thought of him as "that dumb actor who will never win anything."

1992 is another good year for Presidential contenders that I can't imagine a lot of people took a seriously (I'll defer to others with more knowledge about that cycle specifically, I've never been well-read or terribly interested in late 80's and 90's politics in America), given that the heavyweights stayed out of the race because the conventional wisdom was that Bush Sr. was going to win another term. Clinton IIRC was seen as someone who would run for the White House but wouldn't win the nomination much less the Presidency, and, well.
 

Coiler

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I see this thread as a discussion of memory over whether The Public And Press At The Time considered people inevitable – rather like Trump as a mentioned example, asking whether someone was inevitable or not isn't a conversation that can be had subjectively: objectively, Trump became President so technically, given history did happen that way and as far as we know there aren't parallel universes, he was inevitable.
In that sense, the sort of "inevitable" figure brings Scott Walker and Kamala Harris to mind, different parties and different cycles but still having many of the same issues. They both checked all the boxes for a formidable contender on paper, but failed when the campaigning actually started.
 

AlfieJ

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I remember Neil Kinnock consoling Bryan Gould by saying that it is possible for him to become the leader of Smith doesn’t win the next election,as he genuinely thought that Gould was the party’s best shot if the Conservatives won again in 1997.

Him or Livingstone could run for the leadership in a scenario where Smith loses to Major.
Gould was predicted as a potential leader of the Labour party from 1987. In 1988, while the leadership challenge was ongoing, Roy was looking wobbly and Kinnock had fallen into a bout of depression, Tom Sawyer even told Gould to prepare to contest the leadership. According to Gould's memoir and my own interviews with Kinnock, it appears he more specifically told Gould to stand for deputy in 1992 because he didn't think Smith would last (though obviously he couldn't have known at the time that he'd be dead in 18 months) and wanted Gould in position to pick up the pieces. If Gould had stood only for Deputy rather than both in 1992 he probably would have got the quiet support of Smith if not active endorsement and probably could have concentrated his forces more effectively, at least beating Prescott to second place. If he had won he obviously would have been in prime position when Smith died.

Livingstone was approached by Scargil and Jim Mortimer in 1988 and asked to stand instead of Benn. While that didn't mean much, he also had a far better relationship with Ron Todd of the TGWU than Benn had. He probably would have run Kinnock much closer than Benn if he had the (roughly) 1.5 million block votes from the TWGU. Livingstone reckon the clincher was getting booted off the NEC in 1989, which was the result largely of Kinnock chucking the absolute kitchen sink at the contest to get him off. Whether that would have been enough to shore up enough of the PLP (particularly those of the left won over by Gould or even Smith) is still rather debatable. That being said, he had been offered a ministerial position around 1996 by Blair. If he had a career trajectory at that point more akin to, say, Peter Hain, he could well have been in a better position as a lefty challenger to Brown in 07.

The problem with Livingstone is that he never decided on whether he wanted to be leader of the Labour Party or leader of the Left of the Labour Party, and took the wrong course at the wrong time for both. When he was most amiable to the leadership (1985-1989), the leadership were most hostile to him, and vice versa in the mid-90s to early 2000s.
 
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Elektronaut

The Atheist Conservative
Smith dies in the spring of 1992, Labour actually does a tiny bit better due to sympathy but an enraged Kinnock pushed over the edge by the loss of his obvious successor declines to resign and sees off a challenge, then never gets round to resigning before 1997... then loses again.

The leadership election after that would be interesting.
Smith was the obvious successor but he definitely wasn't close to Kinnock and the relationship was Not Good by the time of the election so he'd be more amenable to resignation in this scenario.

This kind of scenario is really absolutely made for Gord tbh. Any errors in the campaign can be dismissed due to inexperience and what he's inherited then he goes on to fill the Smith-shaped quasi-dynastic emotional hole after it.

That's assuming Kinnock doesn't bring the out-of-favour Gould into the role precisely to head off the first point from above. But Brown had been in the economic portfolios for years and Gould was shunted aside and out of favour for a reason.
 

Meadow

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Smith was the obvious successor but he definitely wasn't close to Kinnock and the relationship was Not Good by the time of the election so he'd be more amenable to resignation in this scenario.

This kind of scenario is really absolutely made for Gord tbh. Any errors in the campaign can be dismissed due to inexperience and what's he's inherited then he goes on to fill the Smith-shaped quasi-dynastic hole after it.

That's assuming Kinnock doesn't bring the out-of-favour Gould into the role precisely to head off the first point from above. But Brown had been in the economic portfolios for years and Gould was shunted aside and out of favour for a reason.
Yeah, I was more starting from the premise of 'how the fuck do you get Neil!97' and going backwards.
 

AlfieJ

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Smith dies in the spring of 1992, Labour actually does a tiny bit better due to sympathy but an enraged Kinnock pushed over the edge by the loss of his obvious successor declines to resign and sees off a challenge, then never gets round to resigning before 1997... then loses again.

The leadership election after that would be interesting.
Some Labour MPs did actually want him to stay on, not just in a “I have to say I support you but you need to fuck off by Friday” sort of way. The inspiration a lot of people went for was just how many elections fucking Mitterrand lost before eventually winning.
 

Comisario

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Until Gaitskell gets poorly, I don't know how many people saw Wilson as anything other than a 'he's ambitious but would probably only get the leadership in his prime in another universe', because Hugh was going to win and then presumably be PM for at least five years.
Because it's become something of a favourite of mine through thesis research, there's actually an interesting TL in which Gaitskell and Bevan don't disabuse themselves of the notion that Morrison was the inevitable next leader after Attlee. There was actually a stitch-up planned whereby they would both refuse to run in order to force a Morrison coronation as part of a wider project of calling a stalemate between their respective camps. Gaitskell accepted Morrison as the man to unite them as late as October 1955 and Bevan readily acquiesced to Manny Shinwell's suggestion of standing down for the old deputy leader of the party.

Harold Wilson, just 39 years of age but having the experience of previously being a cabinet minister, privately asserted that he would run in any sort of stitch-up scenario. He didn't like Morrison at all and had already been peeling away from the core Bevanite group (Bevan was accusing him of "MacDonaldism" by '55 and Wilson was eclipsing his former ally in shadcab elections) whilst still not being an established part of the Gaitskellite group either: he was a left-leaning inbetweener with a convincing pitch of "have you seen the bloke they're forcing on us?". Had Gaitskell and Bevan both disappointed the young Wilson, then there was every possibility that his dark-horse candidacy - backed by Crossman, anti-Morrisonian Gaitskellites, and anti-Morrisonian Bevanites - could have won out.

This means Harold Wilson being leader at 39 years of age and a 43 year old Wilson facing Macmillan (or whoever succeeds Eden here) in '59.
 

Charles EP M.

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Americans, correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the feeling that Biden became a 'plausible' president very soon after Trump won simply because he didn't run in 2016 and so worked as a "he coulda won" figure. If he'd actually run for the candidacy, he'd be squeezed out by Clinton and Sanders and What If Biden Was President would be a tongue-in-cheek AH thing that isn't taken too seriously.


I do need to reread their PM Johnson stuff now we've actually got him.
 

Yokai Man

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An interesting scenario that I talked about before,even if I’m not quite sure about the plausibility,is Cameron becoming an MP in ‘92,replacing Lamont as Chancellor and becoming Prime Minister after John Major resigns due to the 1995 leadership contest and somehow winning against Portillo,facing off Blair in a general election as both keep trying to one up the other.
 

Kato

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a too-common perception that OTL office holders are inevitable while non-OTL office holders aren't.
That's more or less the perception I'm hoping to subvert with this discussion thread. Which OTL office holder's wouldn't have seemed plausible at all, had it not actually happened? Corbyn as Leader of the Opposition feels like one to me, as mentioned already.

I suppose this is the 'but fiction has to make sense' factor, where in 'Hard AH' the test for plausibility is actually higher than it is in reality.

even though Reagan had been a serious heavyweight politician since '67-'68, there was still a good amount of people in 1980 who thought of him as "that dumb actor who will never win anything."
A good benchmark, which I was temped to put in the OP, is the joke from Back to the Future ("Ronald Reagan, the actor?"). That joke only works because of the very specific circumstances of 1955 vs 1985 America; but assuming other places and times, and a less than 30 year gap, how much name recognition did OTL office holder have before they 'made it', and which of them would have earned the same incredulous response?
 
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