The big what ifs of recent British politics: Labour

With six weeks to go, speculation is mounting over the election result. But what could have happened if certain individuals had made certain choices?

It’s always interesting to speculate about what would have happened if politicians and parties had made different decisions in the past. The first in this series on ‘what ifs’ will be on Labour in particular.

1) Wendy Alexander’s independence referendum

Who? Cast your mind back a few years ago when the SNP did not have a majority at Holyrood, but instead led a minority administration, dealing with other parties on a vote by vote basis. Before Jim Murphy, before Johann Lamont and before even Ian Gray, the leader of the Scottish Labour party was a woman named Wendy Alexander.

Back in 2008 the then Scottish Labour leader, frustrated with the SNP minority administration, considered putting forwards a referendum bill in Holyrood to see what the SNP would do and call their ‘bluff’.

According to the Daily Record, she said:

"You can't propose the break-up of the United Kingdom then run scared of the issue for three years. It's time for them to put up or shut up."

The referendum never took place until one parliament and one SNP majority later. It’s interesting to wonder what would have happened if Scotland had gone to the polls six years earlier. At the time polls suggested that support for independence was low and a quick campaign could have ensured a stronger ‘no’ vote than the one the country got in 2014. Perhaps in 2011 the SNP would have lost and Labour would be in a much stronger position north of the border. Perhaps...

2) Gordon Brown’s snap election in 2007

Following Gordon Brown’s ascension to the role of Prime Minister in 2007, after Tony Blair’s departure, there was a lot of speculation that Brown could call a snap election. According to the Telegraph, Labour MPs in key marginals urged the then Prime Minister to call an election. Brown failed to do so and stayed on until 2010.

However, if he had, there is a chance that David Cameron could have become Prime Minister in 2007 rather than 2010. On the other hand, in 2007 the financial crash had not yet happened and Brown was enjoying a honeymoon period as leader. Brown could have won and Labour could have stayed on until 2012.

In this case, as we have seen in our own version of events Brown was in part blamed for the financial crash so that could have seen someone else take the reigns of leadership - perhaps the other Miliband as was much speculated at one point.

Other what ifs?

What if David Miliband had won; would Labour be closer to victory in May? What if Tony Blair had never gone into Iraq or remained Prime Minister? What many more. It’s interesting to speculate, politics in Britain could have been completely different if a few people had made a few different decisions.

The exercise is not the most useful in the world, but come May 2015, if Labour do end up losing out then they will wonder what else they could have done to win: what if?


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