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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

DensleyBlair

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This is the kindest interpretation. By most practical measures Wales never made it past the 13th century and if you want to be cruel, arguably was never a thing until the English tried to kill it.
I actually don't disagree.

As I recall, in the nineties and noughties serious thought was put into revamping how we should imagine, teach and discuss the history of the 'Atlantic archipelago' and the three kingdoms within it. So Wales doesn't even get saved by the post modernists.
There is, blessedly, something of an uptick in the idea of 'Wales as post-colony' going on as we speak. Not that it's my area academically speaking, but my understanding is that the beginnings of this came sort of post devolution. Still sufficiently small a body, mind, that I was told a short essay I wrote on Welsh landscapes and the English Picturesque in late 2018 was "highly original". (In reality, I just took advantage of the gap in the market implicit in the 'three kingdoms' idea to apply existing Irish analysis in a Welsh context. But that's architecture school for you.)
 

TheButterflyComposer

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There is, blessedly, something of an uptick in the idea of 'Wales as post-colony' going on as we speak. Not that it's my area academically speaking, but my understanding is that the beginnings of this came sort of post devolution. Still sufficiently small a body, mind, that I was told a short essay I wrote on Welsh landscapes and the English Picturesque in late 2018 was "highly original". (In reality, I just took advantage of the gap in the market implicit in the 'three kingdoms' idea to apply existing Irish analysis in a Welsh context. But that's architecture school for you.)
Yeah at some point in the near future someone will copyPaste Irish colonial theory but Wales and win a few awards and sell a book, and then a little while later people will figure out what they did and feel foolish. Then either the backlash will make Wales part of England again with a weird history of rebellion and 'loyalty' or start a proper discussion about Wales. But it won't be for a while I think cos the three kingdoms idea is still pretty high handedly stuck in unis and specific academic discussion rather than mainstream.
 

Bullfilter

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Well, I’m just enjoying the awkwardness, tension, character development and that intriguing thing you get with alternate history where the familiar and actual blend with the new tangent to bring up little twists, surprises and (because it is also game-based, even if largely in the background at present) ah, paradoxes ;) I keep worrying here that Baldwin is being propelled by the accelerated events into an early grave (political and/or actual). A pity, as I’m finding a deal of affection for and empathy with him, despite his imperfections.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Well, I’m just enjoying the awkwardness, tension, character development and that intriguing thing you get with alternate history where the familiar and actual blend with the new tangent to bring up little twists, surprises and (because it is also game-based, even if largely in the background at present) ah, paradoxes ;) I keep worrying here that Baldwin is being propelled by the accelerated events into an early grave (political and/or actual). A pity, as I’m finding a deal of affection for and empathy with him, despite his imperfections.
What, Baldwin has a thunderclap heart attack, dies and the cabinet is thrown into chaos, parliament is deadlocked, the marriage goes through and suddenly there's a huge public political crisis with the Kings side full of popular orators and the government more looking pathetic?
 
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Bullfilter

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What, Baldwin has a thunderclap heart attack, dies and the cabinet is thrown into chaos, parliament is deadlocked, the marriage goes through and suddenly there's a huge public political crisis with the Kings side full of popular orators and the government more looking pathetic?
Who knows what will happen? Frogs falling from the sky? Cats and dogs, living together? A sharknado at Brighton Pier? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of A Royal Prerogative!
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Who knows what will happen? Frogs falling from the sky? Cats and dogs, living together? A sharknado at Brighton Pier? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of A Royal Prerogative!
Maybe there shall be a terrible accident at the 36 Olympics...
 
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Jape

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Just getting into the story this afternoon @Le Jones. Excellent writing, you do a great job of quickly establishing the 'vibe' of characters.

People are mentioning a Edward VIII staying around may equal Mosley. Though this AAR certainly wouldn't be hurt by chucking Ed, it would be interesting to see if he was instead connected to the old Welsh Wizard...
 

Specialist290

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Maybe there shall be a terrible accident at the 36 Olympics...
I've always wondered if the Black Forest cake from an alternate 1939 World's Fair would really be as delicious as everyone says.
 

Le Jones

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1.png


Chapter 21, Parliament, 14 May 1936

“Mr Winston Churchill,” the Speaker announced.

“Could I ask the Right Honourable and Gallant Gentleman,” the old man began, waving his order paper, as if beating time, “whether there has yet been reached, a decision, upon setting up a Ministry of Supply or a Ministry of Munitions in order to secure the punctual execution of the rearmament programmes now presented to Parliament?” There was interest in this, Eden could detect. Eden was not, really, a creature of Parliament. Although capable and comfortable ‘on his feet’, he nevertheless didn’t enjoy the endless gossiping of the lounges and tea rooms and could never really relax there. The Foreign Office had, truly, become his sanctuary, a palatial building that he could work from and in close proximity to the Commons. He found that when he wasn’t there, he missed it.

Eden rose and offered the old man a nod, a nod back the courteous reply in the manner of two knights saluting before battle is joined. “At this stage, no. My Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister is reserving judgment as to this matter,” he said suavely, forcing himself to supress his nerves, “pending further detailed study of the practicalities of the requirement.”

But Churchill wasn’t daunted. “Are we then to understand that the Government are satisfied that the programmes to which Parliament has assented are, in fact, being punctually executed?

Eden was in difficulty here, and he could see, from the backbenches, the old man’s cheeky grin. His stomach churning, Eden rose slowly to his feet. “I think that the answer which I have given is quite clear.” There was a degree of heckling and jeering at this; Eden was popular, but the House, always a theatre, could sense his nervousness. “If my Right Honourable Friend will remind himself of what the Prime Minister said in the Debate on the ninth of March, he will see that the matter has been closely considered.”

The Speaker spared Eden’s blushes, and moved on to Admiralty Questions. “Could I ask,” Stuart Russell, a bright, young, Conservative MP began, “the Secretary to the Admiralty whether contracts have yet been given for the construction of the two battleships of the 1936 programme, and, if not, when the allocation of these contracts may be expected?”

Kenneth Lindsay, another young man and the Civil Lord and Parliamentary Secretary of the Admiralty, looked bemused at the question; Eden, who was scribbling a note on the end of the Italian campaign in Africa, couldn’t resist a wry smile that it was someone else’s turn to suffer. Those bloody battleships again, he thought dryly. Old Monsell will be jittery after this.

Lindsay rose slowly and after a quick glance at his notes, offered what he hoped was a conscientious answer. “The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. As regards the second part, no definite date can be given at present, but it will be several months before the design drawings can be sufficiently advanced for tendering purposes.” Eden looked up, sharply. He remembered, weeks ago, seeing those designs, the final designs, in the First Sea Lord’s office. He couldn’t be certain, but he feared that Lindsay may have misled the House.

Sir Percy Harris, an unimaginative Liberal MP, wanted to pursue this point. “What do the Government propose to do with the four hundred and twenty five thousand pounds which they have asked the House to vote, if there is to be no contract this year?”

Lindsay rose with less patience with which he had faced Russell. “In order to take some preliminary steps which are necessary before battleships are built.”

Harris wouldn’t be deferred. “Is it suggested that the preliminary steps will cost four hundred thousand and twenty five pounds?” His heavy delivery did not attract the attention that he wanted. Eden was relieved. In the hands of a Churchill or an Amery it could have been dynamite. 425,000?

Lindsay could read the House and knew that he was safe, for today. He rose casually. “Yes,” he said simply.

Eden, his duty done, he made the most of a lull and rose to find the Prime Minister, before returning to his sanctuary. He again felt that he needed respite back as the Foreign Office, which is why he found Baldwin’s long-harnessed habit of ‘working the room’, as Wallis Simpson would no doubt put it, so baffling. Baldwin was a tightly drawn man, even more so than Eden, and yet he so often eschewed Downing Street for the libraries and social areas of both houses. Even now, in his clearly exhausted state, Eden knew that he would find him not in his Downing Street study, but in a tea room somewhere in Parliament. It was just so, as he spotted the PM in a tea room with Lord Halifax.

“Good morning Anthony,” Baldwin said, looking terrible but sounding energetic. “I was just discussing the King’s holiday. Was it you?” He sat, ‘holding court’, in a wing-backed leather armchair.

“Was it me what,” Eden said wearily, “Prime Minister.”

“It wasn’t you, was it? That told him to stay here.”

“Certainly not, although, ah, in principle, I agree with it. If he travels around Europe or, worse, America, he would only get himself into the foreign press.”

“Just so,” Halifax said slowly. “I completely agwee.”

“So who is advising him? Lloyd George? Again?” Baldwin turned to Halifax. “Find out for me, would you Edward? Talk to Monckton, talk to Dawson at The Times. They’re friends of yours. If he is staying here, then what is he up to?” Eden who had taken advantage of the conversation to get himself a tea, flounced into an armchair opposite Baldwin, who now realised that his Foreign Secretary presumably wanted to discuss something. “Something to discuss, Anthony?”

“Ye-es,” Eden said, slowly. “Young Lindsay made an ass of himself over the battleships. I think that all is agreed, but, I’m afraid,” he smiled insincerely, “he suggested that they weren’t.”

Baldwin rolled his eyes. “These self-defeating moments,” he said, real, almost tangible exhaustion in his voice. I’ll talk to Monsell about it. Was it that bad?”

Eden smiled sympathetically, like a doctor, or a bank manager delivering bad news. “Well, if we’re not spending the money on ships, what are we spending them on? That sort of stuff.”

“Thank you, Anthony,” Baldwin said, tired of the subject. “Was that all.”

“No, Prime Minister. The French.”

That can wait,” he said, rejecting the subject entirely.

Eden’s fixed expression suggested that it couldn’t. “I’m not entirely sure about that. The new chaps.”

Baldwin, who had not quite registered that there had been a change of government a few weeks ago, feigned awareness. “Ah yes. Well, Anthony?”

Eden tried, very hard, not to look exasperated. “Well, now that Sarraut’s out and the Front Populaire is in...”

“The Fwont Populaire?” That was Halifax, not knowing what the term meant.

“The left, Edward,” Eden said in a patronising tone. “but not, really, all of the radical left. I think.”

Baldwin, who kept moving to pick up a newspaper, offered a cheery and un-Prime Ministerial wave to a Conservative backbencher. “Delbos?”

“Yvon Delbos,” Eden said grandly, in explanation to Halifax. “He has expressed an invitation for me to go over there at some point.”

“His backgwound?” Halifax, also sensing Baldwin’s exhaustion, was trying to do some of the thinking for him.

“Radical socialist, Edward.” Halifax made a look of distaste.

Baldwin nodded. “What do you want of me, in all of this?” He was too tired to be tactful, so finally gave in to his frustration with Eden’s airy manner.

“I would like to accept the invitation, and go over there,” Eden said with a rare touch of force. “We need the French, and I want to get to know this new chap.”

Halifax nodded his agreement. “A sound enough pwoposal,” he murmured.

Baldwin yawned. “I think, Edward, that I agree, but,” he rubbed his chest, “I would prefer that you stay at home for the moment.”

Eden looked wounded. “May I ask,” he said crisply, “why?”

Something in Baldwin seemed to snap. “Alright, then, I don’t want the papers to lead with yet another Government minister getting himself into difficulty.”

“Thomas?” That was Halifax, in a conspiratorial tone.

Baldwin nodded. “He’s going to have to resign from Cabinet, and probably from the House.”

Halifax, whose private life was the model of Victorian propriety, nodded his approval. Eden, whose private life had been more rambunctious, looked to the ceiling in quiet irritation. “Are we sure, ah, Prime Minister,” he drawled, “that making a few ill-judged quips on a golf course is sufficient ground for destroying him.”

Baldwin looked sharply at his Foreign Secretary. He finally huffed loudly. “If we can keep this nonsense modest and not publicised I would be grateful.”

Halifax was intrigued. “But why, Pwime Minister? If the man has twansgwessed…”

“…there might be other battles, Edward, coming over the horizon. So, I have a dilemma: expend political capital to keep an idiot in the Commons, but avoid a minor scandal, knowing that there’s an even bigger one down the line, or sacrifice him in the hope that the press focusses on the smaller scandal and misses the larger one.”

“It would help, ah, Prime Minister,” Eden said, softly, “if we knew what the greater scandal was. I can surmise…”

“…don’t, Anthony,” Baldwin snapped. “Don’t make assumptions. Let’s just say that it’s the of the greatest magnitude.”

Halifax, who in this instance was in Baldwin’s confidence and understood to whom Baldwin was referring, looked sad. “Do you think, Pwime Minister,” Halifax probed gently, “that this particular calamity can be circumvented?” He thought back to their meeting with Archbishop Lang.

“I still hope to persuade him to see things as we do,” Baldwin said, heavily, repeating his ‘line’ of so many discussions.

Eden knew that they were talking of the King, but did not know, yet, that the Simpson marriage was being discussed. “Prime Minister, if there are domestic matters, then of course I will support you, but foreign affairs…”

“…might be effected by this situation,” Baldwin finished for him. “I do not want you to fly off and sign any bloody treaties, we can’t have another Hoare-Laval.” He gestured around him. “But I can hardly spend time charming our members and not let you do the same with your international colleagues. Do you think that you can work with this Delbos chap?”

“I must,” Eden said dramatically, “much will rest upon it.” Halifax rolled his eyes at Eden’s arrogance and presumption.

“Alright. Agree in principle to meet him, but give no dates. When we know how the domestic scene looks, we can decide how we use you.”

Halifax looked from Eden to Baldwin. “Perhaps I can assist.”

“You will, Edward, and more than you think. If this matter detonates as I fear it might, then we will all be needed,” he said ominously. “I have decided that Thomas is out of Cabinet, but for him to lose his seat, and risk a byelection in which the name of the Monarch could be an issue…”

“…unthinkable,” Halifax hissed.

Baldwin thanked his Cabinet colleagues and strode through the wandering passages of the Commons to another room, this one the office of the Conservative Chief Whip.


1591649922678.png


“Prime Minister,” Margesson, a lean, mean, figure, who seemed, to the avuncular Baldwin to carry a permanent air of menace, perched on his desk as Baldwin traipsed into his lair. He offered Baldwin a cigarette. Baldwin twitched and shook his head. “This is a rare honour.”

Baldwin smiled at the quip; he needed Margesson, a wily operator and reader of people who was, after five years, a highly experienced Chief Whip. His role was to administer the whipping system in the party, ensuring that members attended and voted in Parliament when the party leadership required a vote. He was also the guardian of MPs’ little secrets, transgressions, and other personal problems. It made him, as more than wit had recorded, something of the ‘Head Boy’ or Prefect of the Parliamentary Party. It was a job he did well and had steered the Tory MPs through the India debates, Ethiopia, Hoare-Laval and now, Baldwin hoped, whatever would come of the King’s intent to marry.

“Chief Whip,” Baldwin said formally, for his easy approachability had never really worked with Margesson, he knew the tricks better than anyone, “could you take the temperature please, on three issues.”

“Of course, Prime Minister,” Margesson agreed easily. He straightened his angular frame and began jotting in a notebook. “Might I ask how overt I need to be?”

Baldwin nodded. “Reasonably, Margesson, reasonably. I would like open soundings on Jimmy Thomas losing position and then his seat.”

“Thomas is, of course, a National Labour MP,” Margesson offered, “but I will take the temperature of our members. Do I reach across to the National Labour types”?

“Yes, and overtly. If we hang Thomas out to dry then I want the bloody Press to know that we consulted widely.”

“Of course.”

2a.png


Baldwin closed his eyes, sadly. He leaned in to Margesson. “The second and third soundings must be more discreet. I would like a view on a change of the Leadership.” Margesson, who had been scribbling, looked up in surprise. “An arranged one, and not rushed.”

“The likely candidates, Prime Minister?” He was giving nothing, nothing at all, away in the delivery. For all that Margesson reacted, Baldwin could have asked if the members liked jam or marmalade on their toast.

Baldwin sighed. “Neville as the favourite, and then either Eden or, God forbid, Sam Hoare,” he saw Margesson shaking his head. “You disagree?”

Margesson was too canny to say anything so solid as outright disagreement. “Let us say,” he said patiently, “that Hoare has limited appeal to the backbenchers. After last year…”

“…so Neville, or Anthony.” Baldwin cut across. “I’ll talk to them, both, soon.”

“Prime Minister,” Margesson said, closing his notebook, “if you are in need of a rest,” he said this speculatively but accurately, and Baldwin’s lack of response must have confirmed his suspicion, “then might I suggest we focus on you having a spell of recuperative absence.”

Baldwin was tired of circumlocutory converations. “D’you mean a holiday?”

“Yes I do. Or at least you getting out of London. A change of leadership would be, unfortunate if it was unnecessary.”

Baldwin nodded. “I’ll think on it,” he agreed.

“There was,” Margesson said, focussed, “a third sounding?”

“I must beg your discretion. I want you to look out for criticism, or salacious comment, on the Monarchy.”

That,” Margesson said, “will be difficult.” He looked, to Baldwin, as if he knew much (and given the closeness between some of his MPs and the King Baldwin hoped that he did). “But I will ask the Whips to report back anything, anything?”

“Anything,” Baldwin confirmed.

“Is His Majesty jeopardising the Government?”

Baldwin paused and thought. “Some, Chief Whip, would argue that he is endangering more than the Government.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

GAME EFFECT

While normal Government business ploughs on, the chaos of the Simpson affair begins to ‘trickle down’ from Baldwin and into the rest of Whitehall.

To Parliamentary matters first, and I have merged two separate question sessions to give a flavour of some of the state of Defence debate in early ’36. The Churchill question is precisely as put, given Baldwin’s increasing weakness I have put the stronger performer Eden in (instead of the already hated Sir John Simon) to answer. The truth is that the Minister of Supply (or Munitions) proposals were not, despite my admiration for Churchill, anything more (at this stage) than a sideshow. I am anticipating the usual flurry of ‘you’re wrong’ responses but there are frankly far greater questions needing attention in ’36 than the Ministries of Supply, Munitions, Food and Information and I have, to show that the old man was fallible, given the biting question (why the hell the Admiralty is ‘dragging ass’ on the KGVs) to a backbencher. To cause further mirth, I’ve followed (more or less) reality and had the follow up questioner completely fluff his lines. The additional ministries were important, but the greater need is surely to sort out the Whitehall apparatus first. The UK has an odd record with ministerial readjustments in peacetime (the DEA, anybody?) and expect nothing to happen for some time. But I hope that it shows a flavour of the debates swirling around Parliament in the mid ‘30s. There was a lot of it – the one thing that HANSARD reveals is the level (if not the standard) of questioning on international and Defence matters; it was weighty and must have consumed much of an MP’s (or minister’s) time; I am not sure that we do that today. Of course, that level of debate didn’t always translate into action by the Government…

The Thomas scandal blows itself out, and here the King has had an effect, with Baldwin much more alert to the effects on the Government as he was in reality. I won’t mention this weird little fiasco any further; it was a tawdry little matter that won’t have much more of an impact, but in reality he lost his Cabinet position and then (via the convoluted way in which this is managed) lost his seat. Here, with Baldwin (in my view prematurely) fearing that that the King could be an election issue (it won’t, if he gets Thomas out quickly enough), Thomas will be quietly moved to the backbenches having publicly resigned his Cabinet position. Anything, at this stage, to prevent scandal.

The French shift to the left gets a mention; Eden and Delbos actually did exchange chummy letters and would eventually meet in person, where they hit it off quite well. Of course in this AAR Baldwin is terrified of anything likely to prove controversial, so frankly fobs Eden off for a bit. Whether Eden can get to France will be left for a couple of months.

And then we get Baldwin, increasingly weary, palpably ill, seeking counsel from the Chief Whip. Opinion seems to divide (in many directions) on Margesson; I have gone for what I think he was, actually quite efficient at his job (his longevity would clearly support his not being incompetent) with a beguiling blend of the menacing and charming (some sources attest to him being devastatingly suave, others make him out to be a thug). His advice an counsel to Baldwin is adequate (if coolly delivered), but Baldwin is worried – to approach the Chief Whip on this is tantamount to “let me go, God, let me go.” It also risks further Royal revelations…

@stnylan: York will feature (Halifax will call on him soonish); you’re right, of course, all of this talk of Royal change (and we are, already, thinking of that as a course of action) has completely no regard for the poor schmuck they’re about to give it to.

@Captured Joe: Well, his ‘Royal’ Prerogative is actually wielded largely (almost entirely) by Baldwin and his Cabinet so no, unless you get a PM closely in step with the King (but he wouldn’t last long if he couldn’t command Parliament).

@DylanMultiverse: Thankfully not. I will test the constitution, but I won’t be too unrealistic.

@TheButterflyComposer: Thanks for adding the religious bits that I ignored in my legal response to @Captured Joe above.

@Cromwell: ‘Contained chaos’ sort of continues here, although with each new person brought into the debate it is more chaotic, and less contained, by the hour.

@Specialist290: Thank you for the nomination, again. And I’m glad that you found Lang as I do.

@El Pip: I’m going to say 'no' to the charge of being harsh on Lang. I’m actually rarely passionate about anything (ask the missus), but he was a truly unpalatable figure. Everything I have read on his dealing with KGV, Edward and George VI was that he was objectionable. Edward VIII was wrong, Lordy was he wrong, on a lot, but Lang attempted to bully, humiliate and cower him. Nope – he’s an arse. Can I ask that he be put on the Hindenburg, please, @the Butterfly ?

@TheButterflyComposer: It wasn’t until I read a bit about the subject for this AAR that I realised what a mess was made of the Catherine of Aragon marriage – crikey it was bad…

@El Pip: Weird legal issues? Welcome to my day job. My maddest adventure was a government paid flight to Spain for precisely 30 mins of work.

@TheButterflyComposer: I’m deliberately not going to tell you what I did until I need to – which is not for a bit!

@El Pip: I’d put money on a decent Government that isn’t absorbed with endless crises putting a ‘no fault’ divorce bill to Parliament, prenups as well come to think of it.

@DensleyBlair: Bugger, yes you’re correct.

@Captured Joe: God no, it’ll take a lot for that.

@DensleyBlair: I’m not yet including him.

@TheButterflyComposer: As I indicated, I may not strictly follow any chain.

@DensleyBlair: :)

@TheButterflyComposer: As a Dunelm graduate and a proud Northumbrian, I’m firmly of the view that County Durham as an entity has, under the Prince Bishops, wielded more autonomy than the Welsh for much of its history.

@DensleyBlair and @TheButterflyComposer: I’m really torn on devolution, really torn. For one, I am not satisfied that national identity goes with regional autonomy, and it is too easy to tie one to the other for short-term gain.

@Bullfilter: I know what you mean, and I am less scathing of Baldwin as a politician and as a man. He was woeful on foreign and defence affairs (kinda a drawback for a British PM in the 30s) but with the Abdication Crisis I am increasingly respectful of his efforts; he was treated contemptuously by Edward VIII.

@TheButterflyComposer: Er, no.

@Bullfilter: That should be my tagline…hang on…

@TheButterflyComposer: My list of people to put on that dammed zeppelin is growing with each update…

@Jape: Thank you, mon brave. When a forum character with talent such as yours comments, that means a lot.

@Specialist290: Remind me to post on it, if I can drag this creaking production to 1939!
 
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stnylan

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My goodness but Baldwin gives the impression of virtually falling asleep whilst standing.

I also think he might as well start telling the great officers of state, if not the whole cabinet. The rather heavy hints ... well Eden should be able to figure it out now, if he wants to, just via a simple elimination of other possibilities. I don't doubt that the Chief Whip will probably figure it out within a day or two just from natural curiosity about his orders.

I think an effective Whip - and most especially a Chief Whip - has to be able to put on multiple acts, and to know instinctly which act is right for which person at what time. And not mind being at least somewhat loathed by one's party colleagues.
 

DensleyBlair

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Eden looked up, sharply. He remembered, weeks ago, seeing those designs, the final designs, in the First Sea Lord’s office. He couldn’t be certain, but he feared that Lindsay may have misled the House.
Hmm. My first thought here was of some grand conspiracy – though I do wonder now whether it's just stage fright getting in the way of the facts.

“The Fwont Populaire?” That was Halifax, not knowing what the term meant.
Perhaps cruelly, I did laugh at this.

Baldwin, who kept moving to pick up a newspaper, offered a cheery and un-Prime Ministerial wave to a Conservative backbencher.
Between all the hints of a cheerier Baldwin, I had wondered whether he had either received some good news (hardly likely, let's be honest) or else set a date for "a break". Having been in the position a couple of times myself, I'm glad that I recognised the signs – if indeed they were deliberately placed; it is such a relief committing to getting out of a bad situation, and no doubt the prospect of retiring will give Baldwin some solace during what are certain to be a chaotic few months (at the least!)

Really great look at some of the more mundane business of Parliament. I enjoy the relationships between all of the various Tories, and am reminded of the fact that for many of them Parliament is probably but the last in a series of institutions in Gothic-style buildings to have defined their lives – likely filled by more or less the same people, too.

It feels like we are fast approaching the start of some true drama. I'm looking forward to it eagerly!
 

TheButterflyComposer

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“Mr Winston Churchill,” the Speaker announced.
Starting off with a big gun shooting blanks.

He couldn’t be certain, but he feared that Lindsay may have misled the House.
The ultimate sin.

“I must,” Eden said dramatically, “much will rest upon it.” Halifax rolled his eyes at Eden’s arrogance and presumption.
A moment of awareness from Halifax.

That,” Margesson said, “will be difficult.” He looked, to Baldwin, as if he knew much (and given the closeness between some of his MPs and the King Baldwin hoped that he did). “But I will ask the Whips to report back anything, anything?”
Well, that's that then. What with having that conversation in front of Eden and then telling the chief whip that, everyone's in the know will hear of this in days. Those against the monarch or mrs Simpson will figure out what she going on, freak out and try to have meetings with the PM about it. Those who are on davids side are going to hear about this and figure out the PM is going to try and do something drastic to stop the marriage.
And everyone else is going to figure out that something is up and start talking to all their friends about it.

It wasn’t until I read a bit about the subject for this AAR that I realised what a mess was made of the Catherine of Aragon marriage – crikey it was bad…
A really long, happy and exceedingly popular marriage on incredibly shake hands legal and theological ground ruined by the concept of male rule only. No one wanted the marriage to fail and yet when it went down, it took Catholicism down with it and nearly several kingdoms. And the solutions we're all awful as we'll, and the solutions to those solutions didn't really work either. And then the solutions to those solutions...

I’m really torn on devolution, really torn. For one, I am not satisfied that national identity goes with regional autonomy, and it is too easy to tie one to the other for short-term gain.
Scotland makes sense. Northern Ireland is required. Wales...? At least in many ways better than being ran from westminster. Then you have the English parliment ideas. Northern parliment and national? Split in various areas? Or just an English parliment for England, like the rest of the four nations, and a GB one in Westminster?
 

Cromwell

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Now that really is some Byzantine backstabbing in the Commons. I have to confess to reading that twice through before I could properly digest it.

It did make me muse on the possibility of more spying based updates in the future but this time with the whips as our agents. ;)

As for devolution it seems manifestly unfair to free Wales, Scotland and the north of Ireland from direct London rule and leaving the midlands and north with the same yoke around our necks forever.

Those inside the London bubble are just as divorced from the needs of Bradford and Birmingham as they are from those of Glasgow or Aberystwyth.
 
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Bullfilter

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The sense of creeping and inevitable doom is building nicely (or horribly, depending on one’s degree of sympathy for the various players). Read that last episode with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons playing in the background. The mood swings of the music were most appropriate. ;)
office of the Conservative Chief Whip.
Enter one of the (no doubt) inspirations for Francis Urquhart. Those cats I mentioned earlier are now amongst the pigeons, with the fur and feathers just about to start flying. :)
a lean, mean, figure, who seemed, to the avuncular Baldwin to carry a permanent air of menace
Tick.
with a beguiling blend of the menacing and charming
Tick.
@Bullfilter: That should be my tagline…hang on…
A very great honour. I doffs me cap to you, guvnor! :)
 
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Kurt_Steiner

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We need Hitler having one of his well-known "brain farts" and, after considering that Baldwin and Chamberlain are far more dangerous for him than Stalin, sends Skorzeny to kill them :cool:.
 

El Pip

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The truth is that the Minister of Supply (or Munitions) proposals were not, despite my admiration for Churchill, anything more (at this stage) than a sideshow. I am anticipating the usual flurry of ‘you’re wrong’ responses but there are frankly far greater questions needing attention in ’36 than the Ministries of Supply, Munitions, Food and Information and I have, to show that the old man was fallible, given the biting question (why the hell the Admiralty is ‘dragging ass’ on the KGVs) to a backbencher.
I'm torn on this one. I completely agree there are more urgent political issues to deal with and as a matter of government capacity the Ministry of Supply is not really required at this point or arguably at any point, even when finally formed it was more re-arranging personnel and window dressing than anything else. Most of the really long lead-time kit (warships, new aircraft) would not be in the MoS anyway, so it's not even urgent from that point of view.

But as a stalking horse to provoke some wider changes in policy it has some value, as a symbol that Britain is re-arming to send a large (relatively speaking) expeditionary force to the Continent it has even more value. So I sort of want to see a MoS, not for what it would actually do (not much that wouldn't happen anyway), but because it would only be formed when other, far more important, changes in policy had already happened.


Also I entirely agree with @Bullfilter you can see a lot of Margesson in Urquhart. And that is no bad thing.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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Le Jones

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Chapter 22, Downing Street, 18 May 1936

Baldwin was in the Cabinet Room, and skimmed through the latest batch of papers from Eden; it offered the usual grim tally of calamity and as usual Baldwin struggled to endure it. Civil unrest in Greece where police had fired on a crowd staging a protest, a new President and Prime Minister in Spain, and both Italy and Guatemala had withdrawn from the League of Nations. Baldwin sighed as he read the latest update from Haifa, where Halie Selassie had finally disembarked from HMS Enterprise. Baldwin, tired, looked up as Hankey entered.

“Made it across from next door has he?”

“Yes Sir, and the Foreign Secretary is also here.”

“Show ‘em both in,” he said heavily.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary entered. They looked like such an ‘odd couple’, one stuffy, crusty and Victorian in his wing collar and morning suit and the other, very ‘now’ in a light, modern suit, that Baldwin couldn’t resist a giggle. It was the first time in days that he had found cause to laugh.

“Prime Minister,” Hankey said, “five minutes.”

“Thank you, Maurice, stay, please, this concerns you as much as it does them.” Baldwin waved them to chairs opposite his. “Now gents, I have two matters to put before you. The first is that I am to have a few days of rest. Nothing too dramatic, but Lucy and I are going to Chequers.” Chamberlain and Eden exchanged glances. “I would, in any other situation, be going abroad, to take the cure somewhere. As it is, I have much to focus me here. I must remain close.”

Chamberlain smiled, but it was without feeling. He leaned forward, as if asserting himself.

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“Prime Minister,” he began, in his prim, high-pitched voice. “What does this mean for the Cabinet, for Parliament.”

“Aye, that’s the rub, isn’t Neville,” Baldwin replied, bluffly. “The truth is that you, Neville,” he pointed at Chamberlain, “will manage the Party and the routine domestic matters. You, Anthony,” he jabbed a finger at Eden, “will manage international and League affairs. We’ll see what needs to be done for Cabinet,” he looked to Hankey. “Maurice here will meet with your Department Permanent Under Secretaries, Fisher and Vansittart, and we’ll do what we can to shift the rubbish away from your desks,” he said tiredly.

Eden, who looked unhappily at the prospect of working with Chamberlain, looked at Hankey and then Baldwin. “Ah, Prime Minister, what does this, er, mean, for the business with the King?”

“You’re still getting reports?”

Eden offered the dazzling smile, making a modest shrug as he did. “Ye-es, every Embassy and High Commission puts the newspapers and snippets from their meetings in every diplomatic bag. Our Embassy in Washington and our High Commission in Canada are almost overwhelmed with it,” Eden said this with an oddly frenzied tone. “I fear that if we were to supply further controversy they would be swamped.”

Chamberlain, who had not been following this (his duties and his social circle meant that he did not often come across the King’s controversies) looked with interest at his colleague and rival. His mind searched for a way to impress Baldwin, despite the disadvantages of his lack of knowledge of the subject and Eden’s ‘head start’.

“Prime Minister, I wonder if I could assist, if more official means are prohibited. There is our friend from Central Office?”

Baldwin, who hadn’t really considered using Chamberlain’s network of informers and propogandists, hesitated before finally nodding. “But gently, Neville.”

“And while,” Eden said languidly, effortlessly more elegant and eloquent, “we wait for Neville’s work in the shadows, might I ask what you are doing, Prime Minister?”

Baldwin looked at Hankey, who nodded, then to the two Cabinet politicians. “It’s time to activate the Marlborough House contingency,” Baldwin said, hating the drama of the delivery.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It was Hankey’s fault; the Cabinet Secretary had been humming Handel’s Sarabande and Baldwin couldn’t get the oddly fitting piece out of his head as his car made the short trip to Marlborough House was a quick one. He passed through the ornate gates and over beautifully crisp gravel.

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The whole thing could have been, the motorcar aside, from the Georgian age. Baldwin, whose occasionally scruffy appearance had tormented George V, had dressed in his finest state uniform for this audience. Despite feeling like an extra from a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, and feeling very unwell thanks to the heat, he alighted and was escorted across the square. He needed support, not hostility.

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Handing his cloak to a flunky, he held his bicorne under his right arm at what he thought was the regulation angle and advanced, with his best approximation of a march, across a gorgeous, light, reception room. At the far distance (the room was like a miniature ballroom) sat a woman; like his wife (she was the same age as Baldwin and they were two years older than Lucy Baldwin) she was magnificently Victorian, in a light dress, doused liberally in jewels, and wearing (of course) elbow-length gloves.

“The Prime Minister, Ma’am,” the flunky announced.

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“Mr Baldwin,” the Queen Mother, recently emerged from the period of mourning, said in her deep, oddly accented voice.

Baldwin, who was still prostrating himself, struggled up, his face coloured and his breath short. “Ma’am,” he rasped, before (mercifully, Hankey must have warned them) being shown to a rather straight-backed chair.

“Your audience is most timely,” she began heavily, picking up a letter from a side table. “I have a letter, here, from the Duchess of York,” she waved the letter. “It is, I sense, very true. ‘I hope’, she writes, ‘that dear David will see reason and not abandon his people’. Very moving.”

“It is the much the same for all of us, Ma’am,” Baldwin said, glad, at least, that he didn’t have to delve deep into unpleasant revelations. The Queen Mother was, at least, ‘on the same page’ as him already.

Queen Mary, who had noted Baldwin’s genuine attempt to impress, suddenly seemed seized. She shook from her core, and a deep, earthy chuckle erupted. “Yes Mr Baldwin, this is quite the pretty kettle of fish!”

Baldwin, who didn’t know quite what to say next, felt the tic below his eye throb; he nevertheless recovered quite quickly. “Indeed, er, Ma’am.”

“Might I know what you propose to do about it?”

What I propose to do about? Me? I came here for your help, Baldwin thought, his head spinning. “Er, Ma’am, I am not sure how much more I or the Cabinet can achieve without substantial family pressure being brought to bear.”

If she had heard, she perhaps had not fully understood. She seemed deep in thought. “He was the same with Ward, and then with Furness. I hoped that this one would also pass. At least we have Bertie, and Elizabeth,” she said with feeling.

Baldwin wondered if the Yorks, with the Duke and his daughters ‘match fit’ and seemingly willing to comply with Royal protocol were part of the problem; the King could be safely ignored as there was an heir and two princesses ready and able to step up as required. Baldwin decided to inject some brutal reality into proceedings. “He intends, Ma’am, to marry Mrs Simpson. He has officially notified me of that intent.”

“That,” Queen Mary, snapped back into reality, said with passion, “is absolutely out of the question.” She shook her head. “Simply out of the question.”

“Ma’am the Government completely agrees. The Church will be mobilised, and I am canvassing the Dominions. They will see things as I do,” Baldwin was amused that his words so mirrored the ones he used to try and counsel her son. He was going to have to press her even further. “Might I ask, Ma’am, how much influence that you believe that Your Majesty can wield?” It was heavy and Victorian, but so was she.

She offered a shy smile. “Mr Baldwin, you know how things were done under the old Queen,” she said demurely, not used to discussing her feelings. “Unwavering respect to the hierarchy, unstinting service to the Crown. Duty first, self second. One does not wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve.”

Baldwin, who had been offering soothing ‘a ha’ noises and nods, tried again to bring some focus. “Does Your Majesty believe that she could engender a sense of duty in His Majesty?”

She frowned, magnificently haughtily. “I wrote to him, after the accession.” She closed her eyes sadly, remembering the words. “Ah yes. ‘The war made it possible for you to mix with all manner of people. But don’t think this means you can now act like other people. You must always remember your position and who you are’. He replied, of course, with his usual rebelliousness.” She picked up another letter. “Here, Mr Baldwin, read the second paragraph.

Baldwin took the letter. “Uh, second was it? Ah yes. ‘The idea that my birth should somehow or other set me apart from or above other people strikes me as wrong. If the levelling process of the Royal Naval College, Oxford, or the democracy of the battlefield has taught me anything, it is, firstly, that my desires interests are much the same as those of other people, and secondly, that however hard I try, my capacity was somehow not appreciable above the standards demanded by the fiercely competitive world outside the Palace walls’. Quite the letter, Ma’am.”

She made a gruff sound. “And you believe that marriage is his intention.”

“Yes Ma’am, I believe that he is now set upon it. The Palace staff is split between those who support him, and the more traditional elements from His Majesty King George’s reign.”

She closed her eyes. “I hear the rumours. And you would wish for us to intervene?”

“I believe that you must, Ma’am. It is now a matter of State,” he looked directly at her, “and family.”

She closed her eyes, nodded, and adopted a more formal posture. Baldwin, realising that his audience was over, stood, made to kiss (but did not actually kiss) the gloved hand, and retreated at the best bowing angle that he could muster. The ‘Marlborough House Contingency’ had been activated.

But would it be enough?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

GAME NOTES

A story of two parts, with Baldwin announcing that he is taking some time away from Whitehall, a visit to see Queen Mary the Queen Mother one of his last active tasks. I am deliberately not commenting on what Baldwin does after his spell of semi-retirement; I think that much will depend on how the King plays his hand. Risking the addition of yet another metaphor, the ball is now in the King’s court.

First, as is increasingly my want of late, a little roundup of foreign affairs and events taking place as they did in the real world. Clearly we all know that the SCW is on its way, and this is the first mention of the changes at the top that ‘fire the starting gun’ on what is coming next. The Greek and Haile Selassie bits are also accurate. We meet Chamberlain, properly; he had a small role in the Cabinet Meeting that discussed the Rhineland crisis, but here, I hope, we see the man. He is an extremely difficult man to admire; he was sharp, and smart, but he was scheming, utterly self-absorbed and, it is often forgotten, completely unscrupulous. He and Eden hated one another, which makes the battle to succeed Baldwin such a bitter one.

But it’s to domestic matters that we focus, with a bit of ‘fan service’; I vaguely recall a couple of mentions of Queen Mary and so hear she is. If I were to choose a word for her? Solid, perhaps stable if I was being more generous. She’s just implacable; she was more than slightly eccentric in some areas, my favourite of her foibles is her near kleptomania when she took a shine to a host’s art, practically inviting hosts to give them to her. She was, I suspect, as portrayed; not very bright (well, not imaginative anyway), unswervingly Victorian, but resolute in upholding what she believed to be the right thing to do. There is something else, though; since the death of her husband she has both lost and gained status and responsibility. Without her husband, and with errant children, she is frankly struggling to assert her will.

The words, specifically the Duchess of York, Edward’s letter and the Queen’s frumpy comments on marriage, come straight from their actual statements (although Edward’s was actually made far earlier, in the early 20s). They really do show that mother and son are irreconcilable in their differing views of the world and what it means to be royal. The Queen will do as she promised to Baldwin, and we’ll see what happens with that in a few updates’ time…

@stnylan: The thing about Margesson is that he was the perfectly adaptable whip; his ‘gear changes’ as Conservative priorities shifted were extraordinary.

@DensleyBlair: I’m going to be, deliberately, vague in this; I think that Baldwin has reconciled with himself that he’s to go, the question now is when.

@Specialist290: He was, he absolutely was.

@TheButterflyComposer: I think you’re right; in his rush to unburden himself upon Margesson, the nuance and guile that was Baldwin’s hallmark in the 20s has been squandered. He could have acted much more subtly, but has frankly blundered. In the real world he did not consult with the Cabinet and the Establishment until the crisis was much more advanced.

@Cromwell: There will be spies, I promise, coming up. And the scheming was deliberately complicated, because, well, it was!

@Bullfilter: It’s your fault; you mention music, and I, rather than Baldwin, had Sarabande in my head as he approached the Queen Mother’s residence.

@Kurt_Steiner: I think that they have their hands full at the minute!

@El Pip: I think that’s very balanced if I may; I came down on ‘non’ as at this stage, it really was championed by Churchill as a vehicle to get him back in the Cabinet. I think that it could and should happen, just not yet.
 
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DensleyBlair

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I wonder what shape of spanner a Tory succession will throw into the proverbial works as concerns the crisis. Gawd help Chamberlain if this is Baldwin washing his hands and saying his goodbyes.

That said, seeing as you've elected to remain unforthcoming about this, I shan't jumps to any conclusions. ;)