Friday, April 08, 2011

What if John Smith Had Lived?

Fascinating stuff, although ultimately we don't know what would have happened, although one can make shrewd guesses.
But as Macmillan once said, it's the events which dictate what happens in politics, not the if's. A Smith premiership would likely have been different from a Blair premiership, but other than that we do not know


Paul Linford said...

Francis Beckett was trying too hard to make his counterfactual more interesting in an effort to sell his book. The truth is more prosaic - John Smith would have been a good Prime Minister, but would not have fundamentally altered the course of Labour Party history or that of the nation, and would still have been succeeded by Tony Blair, not Ken Livingstone as Beckett preposterously suggests.

Whatever the likes of Mr Beckett may think of him now, what they have to remember is that Blair had a huge following in the country and the media in the early days of his political career, and was seen as something akin to a British JFK. Smith would have won the 1997 election easily, but the entire narrative of his government would have been dominated by the uestion: "When's he going to go and hand over to Tony?" The answer, I think, would have been in about 2002/3, shortly after winning a second term. Okay, so
there would probably have been no Iraq War, and Gordon Brown would never have become Prime Minister, but economically and politically, I think we'd still be much where we are now.

Martin Robb said...

It's all wishful thinking, I'm afraid. Labour was not on course to win under Smith and it was only Blair's leadership and renewal of the party and its programme that overcame the voting public's deeply engrained resistance to Labour (see Philip Gould's book on this: the polls of the time tell the story).

By the way, congrats on your normblog profile, Paul. Now that I've started to blog under my true identity, I can reveal that I'm your near neighbour - in Hitchin.