There is a difference between ‘fake news’ (not a new phenomenon, as any reader of a tabloid newspaper will know) and the counterfactual. Historians can use counterfactual scenarios to understand what instead happened. They are like novels of what could have happened. So what would have happened if the British public had narrowly voted in the EU referendum to ‘remain’?
EU Referendum Result: 51.5% remain, 48.5% result stay. Scotland votes remain very comfortably 65% to 35%, Northern Ireland remain 59% to 41%, Wales 50%-50%, England out 47% remain to 53% out.
The first point is that Prime Minister David Cameron hails the result as a success, and that a success is a success. There is certainly no justification for any further alteration to the EU relationship. However, it is clear that the large minority to come out determines a continued semi-detached membership, and that all future unifying measures in the EU will definitely exclude the United Kingdom.
However, UKIP is energised to fight the result and some forty Conservative MPs vow to campaign on to change opinion to come out of the EU. Cameron states that the issue is now settled for good, and the Conservative Government can concentrate on other matters.
The venom some Conservative MPs show David Cameron, however, spills into every area of government, and the Conservative Party becomes ungovernable itself and incapable of passing policy.
Jeremy Corbyn is seen as lukewarm towards Europe, as ineffectual, but some say he at least had the measure of opinion, and others say he showed lack of principle because had he fought for leaving he might have influenced just enough socialist voters to bring the UK out of Europe.
The Liberal Democrats hail the result and hope to rebuild their fortunes.
However, Cameron realises that his victory is hollow, because he cannot govern, and the Houses of Parliament repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act (only the Liberal Democrats and many in the House of Lords resist) replaced by the Parliamentary Elections Act so that in future a simple majority in the House of Commons alone after a Prime Minister’s proposal can call a General Election.
In other words, Cameron realises that the European Union referendum was not enough to lance the Tory boil, and it needs a General Election as well. Nevertheless, the advice is that too many of the Tory Party including especially the ‘leavers’ would be returned to office and would still hate him for gambling and winning the referendum.
Thus Cameron comes to the conclusion he must first stand down. Gove thinks he can stand, as a leave voice to rearrange the UK’s membership in Europe as more arm’s length, but the moderate understated Remainer Theresa May becomes the safe pair of hands as new Prime Minister.
A manifesto is produced that has behind it the Liberal and then Conservative Unionist Joseph Chamberlain philosophy behind it. She recognises the high vote for leaving shows a disconnect with politics among many, and institutes an interventionist, somewhat UK nationalist, economic policy with an end to austerity and neo-liberalism. This turns out to be far more than a ‘safe pair of hands’.
She then goes to the House of Commons for a vote to go to a General Election, daring the Labour Party to vote to go to the country. She has a divided party, but an advantage over a weak Corbyn as a disconnected politician with Labour voters.
The result is something of a shock, with a Conservative majority of about 100. Many of these new MPs may be eurosceptic, but owe loyalty to May. May now redefines the Conservative Party as centrist, interventionist, and early by-elections are won by her. There is no place for Gove or Boris Johnson in her government. The Liberal Democrats recover to 35 seats thanks to remain constituencies and a clear stance. Labour however implodes, and although Corbyn attempts to hang on this time the rump PLP will have none of it and forces a leadership election; the demoralised membership outside only just lets go of the socialist project given an alternative candidate, so that Corbyn stands down and Clive Lewis succeeds.
Clive Lewis then goes about making the Labour leadership office more efficient and effective and starts to organise opposition, but discovers that May is embedded and is rather difficult to shift because there is such a focus on social and interventionist policy. She declares that, “the Conservative Party is for everyone.” So the railways are forced to become one nationwide company, renamed British Rail, and NHS hospital trusts take over social services across England. There is even a National Investment Bank for high tech support. Councils and Housing Trusts are allowed to finance and build houses, with a new and surprising emphasis on renting. Councils have this principle housing task having lost social services. Local Income and Business taxes replace Business Rates and Council Tax.
(The contrast with the reality today is that the governmental energy going into exiting the EU excludes such emphasis on economic interventionist policy.)
At the following General Election the Liberal Democrats get an equal share of the vote as the Labour Party, and it looks like a tipping point can be approached where the Liberal Democrats become the main and liberal/ liberty opposition to a Statist Conservative Party.
Liberal and Thoughtful Website creator; critical examiner of social sciences and theology, religious liberal, ‘terror blogger’.
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