Echoes of A New Tomorrow: Life after Revolution in the Commonwealth of Britain

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Le Jones

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Oh very well done @DensleyBlair - you really capture Boothby's style (his gravelly recollections stand out among the British interviews in The World at War) and his schemy nature. Windscale does seem to have a 'Chernobyl effect' upon our revolutionary Brits.

Pre-revolutionary Oxford: very male, very posh.

This was a genuine LOL moment - the Brideshead Revisited photo was a very funny move.


Union discontent and opposition protests defined life in the Commonwealth as the Fifties came to an end. In defiance of Strachey’s crackdowns and Mosley’s new economic plan, not to mention his steadfast commitment to the nuclear deterrent, the workers and the youth of Britain made their displeasure with the regime freely known. Anti-nuclear marches between London and Bletchley Park attracted thousands of peace protestors every Easter weekend, while wildcat strikes and slowdowns hampered Mosley’s dream of an upswing in Britain’s economic fortunes going into the 1960s. All of this was in spite of the threat of arrest and sanction, and with every open display against his authority Mosley dug in further. Yet while his position was precarious, so long as he maintained his slim majority in the Assembly he was out of harm’s way. Then, in May 1959, Britain went to the polls.

You really do depict it as knife-edge moment, how Mosley reacts to all of this will be fascinating.
 

DensleyBlair

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Oh very well done @DensleyBlair - you really capture Boothby's style (his gravelly recollections stand out among the British interviews in The World at War) and his schemy nature. Windscale does seem to have a 'Chernobyl effect' upon our revolutionary Brits.

Thank you, my friend. Against my better judgement, I do have a small soft spot for the old sod.

This was a genuine LOL moment - the Brideshead Revisited photo was a very funny move.

Necessity is the mother of invention! The range of pictures otherwise available online for 1920s Oxford are pretty dire, so I thought I'd stick with what I knew. Brideshead is a classic, although I haven't read/seen it in some years now. Would probably be interesting to go back to now, being a little older and a little more worldly.

You really do depict it as knife-edge moment, how Mosley reacts to all of this will be fascinating.

I'm glad you think so. We shall find out very soon indeed!
 
Exit Mosley: The End of An Era, 1959–61 (Part Two)

DensleyBlair

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ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



EXIT MOSLEY
THE END OF AN ERA, 1959–61

FROM RECOLLECTIONS OF A REBEL
BOB BOOTHBY
1978


PART TWO: 1959–61



As the results of the 1959 legislative election began to be understood in London, it became clear that what had been threatened for years had finally happened: the Mosleyite majority had disappeared. On the back of swelling political engagement as voter turnout surpassed fifty per-cent for the first time in thirty years, David Lewis’s Popular Front gained forty-one seats to achieve its highest ever showing in the People’s Assembly, holding the loyalties of 135 members. Meanwhile the Party of Action sank to its worst showing since 1947, losing eighteen seats and counting on only 199 members of the Assembly. Completing the picture, and remaining a stubborn presence in the legislative chamber in spite of Mosley’s campaigns against them, the Independent Socialist bloc held 105 seats. The hardliner CPGB returned only eleven members, its most deflated showing since the Revolution.

This delicate balance already left Mosley with a dilemma, owing to the unavoidable fact of his considerable minority. What had been visibly true since 1955 was now backed up by the numbers, and it was clear that Mosley’s position was growing ever harder to justify. The Mosleyite coalition, comprising the mainstream Party of Action and the surviving governmentalist wing of the Popular Front, could count upon about 160 votes. The Bevanites, meanwhile, boasted a strength of something like 180 members of the Assembly – neither commanding a majority in their own right, but a fatal indicator that Mosley was by now surviving on borrowed time. All that kept him safe in September 1959, when the Assembly met to confirm the composition of the Executive Committee, was one final strongman performance; the Bevanite coalition having never formally declared its interest, and its existence being more of a matter of open secrecy, the formality of the reconfirmation vote did not lend itself to the staging of a dramatic parliamentary coup. David Lewis led the Tribunites, by now the main wing of the Popular Front, in voting against reconfirmation without proposing an alternative candidate. The Bevanites within the Party of Action voted with the government, and with the aid of the governmentalists within the Popular Front the executive was approved by a majority of eight. Yet by this point even Mosley could see the writing on the wall.



1950%20BEVAN%20FOOT.jpg

Michael Foot with Aneurin Bevan, two men at the forefront of the new reformist movement.


After being confirmed as Chairman of the Executive Committee for the final time, Mosley would have been within his rights to attempt to remain as head of the government until at least 1963, when he might pass on the leadership to a chosen successor in time for the next election. Far bolshier would have been to push on blindly, doubling down on his ‘by any means necessary’ authoritarian approach in an attempt to cow the opposition into line. Vindicated somewhat by the submission of the Bevanites in September, with the assured assistance of John Strachey Mosley maintained course going into 1960. The first, disastrous test of this commitment to ‘full speed ahead’ came with the conviction of the Heatherden Twelve.

I have already written about the severity with which the anti-censorship protestors were punished by the courts, and I have given my views on Strachey’s complicity in this sordid matter. I had known Strachey since my university days, when we had been up at Magdalene at the same time. I had watched him go from ardent Communist to compliant corporatist, and now as Domestic Director he gladly took up the role of Mosley’s attack dog. How far he had come, and how thoroughly convinced he was of the righteousness of the spell he was under: that which proclaimed the necessity of the Mosleyite way. Strachey was motivated at this time by what I believe was, deep down, probably a sincere love for the institutions of the Commonwealth. But a love of institution does not a love of country make. He was bound up with Mosley, and I am certain he sensed that if not Mosley, then it would have to be Bevan, whom he did not trust at all. Thus he fell into line.

The details of the Heatherden case are well known, and the convicted protestors have since their release spoken passionately and often about their brutalisation at the hands of Mosley’s regime. The legal basis to convict was, it must be said, sound enough; the premise of direct action rests on the fact that such action is, necessarily, against the law. What was patently unjust about the affair was on the one hand the dubious nature of the precise charges applied, which shifted the matter out of the realm of trespass and unlawful occupation and into that of conspiracy; and on the other hand the excessive character of the sentencing, which was clearly disproportionate to the offences committed. Having gained access to the film studios and made their attempt at occupation – rather haphazardly if one were to be critical – the occupiers were arrested, convicted on exaggerated charges of conspiracy and sentenced to various terms of several years imprisonment. The miscarriage of justice was plain for all to see, and its grievousness was only made all the more absurd by the fact that it had concerned what was essentially a group of student pranksters, who overnight had been transformed into political criminals of the highest order.



1960s CTTE OF 100.jpg

A young woman addresses protestors against the government in central London, 1960.


After the conclusion of the trial in late June 1960, Mosley and Strachey may have anticipated some drop in the level of visible protest directed against the government. They were hopelessly mistaken. The opposition were unintimidated, and in many cases their resolve was only strengthened by the revelation of just how far their enemy was willing to plunge. In Holloway, all through the summer students picketed the women’s prison where several of the Heatherden occupiers had been committed, and on several occasions they were confronted with physical force by the prison guards. In the middle of July, writers at the Daily Herald, that most sacred of government organs, voted to strike for two days in solidarity with the imprisoned protestors. Similar action was taken at the CBC, where staff including Tony Benn, the famous broadcaster who was at that time a junior producer in the current affairs department, participated in a twenty-four hour walkout. Two days later, a protestor threw a brick through a window in John Strachey’s ministerial apartments. Throughout the summer, the government was on the receiving end of unrest of the likes to which it had never previously been exposed.

Direct opposition was not limited to the streets. Upon its return from the summer vacation, David Lewis led the People’s Assembly in voting for a motion of censure denouncing the government’s perversion of the justice system. Mosley and Strachey remained bullish, but even they knew the situation would not be sustained for long without change. On 16th November 1960, Oswald Mosley celebrated his sixty-fourth birthday. Privately, he hoped to continue until June 1964, when he would be sixty-seven, and by which point he would have held the premiership for thirty years – a full nine years longer than Walpole, and longer than all but a dozen English monarchs since the Norman conquest. As 1960 gave way to 1961, it was evident that this was an unachievable dream. If Mosley were to preserve his legacy, he had to retake the initiative.



1966 BENN.jpg

Tony Benn, later a famous broadcaster, first came to prominence as a leader of the 1960 walkout.


Only at the highest levels of power had been Mosley insulated from a resurgent opposition. Following the reshuffle in 1957, the ‘inner circle’ of the Executive Committee could be said to be split three ways. Mosley was supported unfailingly by Strachey and Macmillan. They were usually opposed by Bevan and Jennie Lee, the Assembly Chair. In between the two camps, International Secretary Ken Younger and Dafacom Chairman Hilary Marquand remained independently minded, though could be counted upon to support Mosley by default. By the end of 1960, this balance had shifted subtly. Ken Younger, increasingly alienated by the Mosleyite political machine, found himself more and more sympathetic to Bevan and Lee. While he remained too independent to fall completely in line behind the Welshman, no longer could Mosley count upon the unswerving support of his inner cabinet by default. With this change, the Commonwealth was one step closer to reform.

In December, Mosley consulted with Strachey and Macmillan in the strictest confidence to sound them out on what was to be done. In Macmillan’s telling, sensitively told in his memoirs which started to appear from 1966, the trio met in Mosley’s ministerial apartments a fortnight before the Christmas recess. Mosley did not explicitly declare his intention to stand down, but spoke in an unusually subdued manner about ‘how to proceed’. He made no concessions to the view that the conduct of the executive had been improper, but admitted that public opinion was impeding the business of governing. As he saw it three options lay before them: the first was to double down on the policy of confrontation, and attempt to subdue the opposition by force; the second was for Strachey to resign; the third was for Mosley himself to go.

The three men soon came to the conclusion that they had not got the fight between them to attempt the first option, in the face of likely overwhelming opposition both within government and from outside. The second option was also ruled out as tantamount to an admission of wrongdoing. Therefore it was settled: Mosley had to step aside.



MOSLEY%201960S.jpg

Oswald Mosley, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth (1934–61).


Chairman Mosley retired on 6th January 1961, five months shy of his twenty-seventh anniversary in power. His successor was John Strachey (Harold Macmillan declined on grounds of age), who was bestowed with the unenviable task of securing the future of the Mosleyite project. Strachey’s whirlwind appointment was calculated to catch the opposition off guard, and in this it succeeded. Despite having been calling for Mosley’s resignation for years, after so long in power it was always going to be a shock when he finally stood down. With one move, time was once again on the side of the Mosleyites; Bevan’s supporters were momentarily stunned into inaction. This was, perhaps, the final ace up the old Chairman’s sleeve. He had bequeathed Strachey an advantage over the internal opposition, affording him a vital opportunity to consolidate his new position. It was the final hope the Mosleyite tendency had of maintaining its hold on power.

In September, the Party of Action would be meeting for its sixteenth general congress. Congresses were biennial affairs, at which the Party got its house in order and set its agenda for the next two years. This included electing the National Executive and the General Secretary, who by convention was also the Party’s candidate for the chairmanship of the Executive Committee. Since 1929, Mosley had never been opposed. In 1961, it seemed highly unlikely that Strachey would be afforded the same luxury. Bevan commanded a slight minority of support amongst the general party, but compared to Strachey he was well placed to expand his influence. Strachey, by contrast, lacked many of the attributes that had served to strengthen Mosley even in his darkest periods: charisma, dynamism and a solid track record in power. Between January and September, the two men thus waged an undeclared war for the hearts and minds of the party establishment. At the same time, Bevan was sure to continue his efforts in the Assembly, where his power base was strengthened by Mosley’s departure.



PLUA%20(FORGAN%20CIMMIE%20MOSLEY%20STRACHEY)%201928.jpg

John Strachey (far right), stood beside Mosley at the first meeting of the PLUA in 1928.


I returned from Lyon at the end of August to attend the congress, which took place that year in Brighton. Delegates travelled from all over the country, and over the four days much of the business of the event was taken up by regional administrators coordinating their various programmes on a national level. It was, unsurprisingly perhaps, an unlikely venue for high political drama. Nevertheless, this is what we got. I had seen neither Bevan nor Strachey since leaving for Eurosyn in 1957, and I was struck upon my return four years later by how harassed each man seemed to be. Only three years my senior, Bevan had always been a commanding figure, but his dark hair had turned entirely grey, and his face showed the signs of years spent carrying the weight of grave national political battles. Strachey, by contrast, was a far quieter figure, dark eyed and bald on top of his head. Where Mosley had been the epitome of aristocratic charm and imposing looks, his chosen successor projected the stern air of an Oxford don from a bye-gone age, and addressing the party in a v-necked jumper and two-piece suit he seemed the quintessential academic. Speaking on the final day of the congress, he talked earnestly of policy and price controls, lecturing the delegates on the successes of the Mosleyite project while giving dull assurances that he recognised its deficiencies. Bevan, who had cut his teeth as a public figure rousing the miners of South Wales during the Revolution, would devour this absurdly pedantic figure. The Welshman closed up proceedings to a thunderous reception, injecting the congress with an electricity unseen for years. Against the reality of Strachey, the best that Mosley had to offer to safeguard his legacy, I knew where my lot lay, and to Bevan’s mast I firmly affixed my colours.

With over sixty per-cent of the vote, Bevan won his long-awaited victory. Leadership of the Party was his, and two weeks later followed the Chairmanship of the Executive Committee. From Lyon, I watched as David Lewis obligingly led the Popular Front in voting against Strachey’s confirmation and endorsing Bevan in his place. The new Chairman took up office on 19th September 1961, promising political reform and a new policy of transparency. Within days, a political project decades in the making was overturned. The Mosleyite project was dead. The new decade belonged to Aneurin Bevan.
 
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DensleyBlair

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For those curious, here are the plain numeric results of the 1959 election:


—MAY 1959

PLUA: 44.2% (199 seats[1]) [-18]
PF: 29.9% (135 seats[2]) [+41]
Ind. Socialist: 23.4% (105 seats) [-12]
CPGB: 2.5% (11 seats) [-11]

Turnout: 54.6% (450 seats)

1: PLUA Assembly Members split roughly 120–79 between Mosleyites and Bevanites.
2: PF Assembly Memers split roughly 95–40 between Tribunites and Governmentalists.
 

stnylan

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And thus Mosely is undone, but at least he was able to chose - to some extent - the manner of his departure. A courtesy not always afforded to people who ride the wave of revolution. It also must have seemed to have come very quickly in the end ... as it often does, with the earlier cracks really on being perceived in hindsight.

And so to Bevan. I have a curiosity here, given some of the later items we have seen, about how Bevan will manage the veritable flood of pent-up demand for change there is. For that too is a wave that is difficult to ride.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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There is a lot of demand for change. Unless he's been planning this for decades, he's going to struggle.
 

DensleyBlair

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And thus Mosely is undone, but at least he was able to chose - to some extent - the manner of his departure. A courtesy not always afforded to people who ride the wave of revolution. It also must have seemed to have come very quickly in the end ... as it often does, with the earlier cracks really on being perceived in hindsight.

In the end Mosley had an alright time of it, leaving office. Previously there's been a Thatcher comparison, and I think it extends somewhat to his downfall. The popular unrest surrounding it can't truly be called revolutionary, but it's a defining moment, and a signal that the government has gone beyond the point of no return. Had he stayed any longer, I think his exit would have been far less dignified – and more than anything, I think vanity would prevent Mosley considering that possibility too strongly.

And so to Bevan. I have a curiosity here, given some of the later items we have seen, about how Bevan will manage the veritable flood of pent-up demand for change there is. For that too is a wave that is difficult to ride.
There is a lot of demand for change. Unless he's been planning this for decades, he's going to struggle.

And so to Bevan indeed. It will be a strange one; as you both suggest, he is in an unenviable position, even if he is the victor. He hasn't so much ridden a revolutionary wave too power as leveraged certain liberalising undercurrents in order to strengthen his position in government, which basically leaves the system intact while offering the possibility for some liberal reforms. And this, without wishing to foreshadow too heavily, is what we will see: a reformist who never quite gets to the root of the problems afflicting the Commonwealth in the middle of the century.

•​

I mentioned last week that I'd give a bit of a debrief post-Mosley, and outline few alternative scenarios that may or may not have left things better placed. Seeing as this timeline is now eighteen months in the making, looking back there are things I would do differently were I to start today, and while I don't have any plans for a redux in the foreseeable future (I'm not completely mad) I am sort of interested in going through some potential divergences – particularly as they relate to Mosley's fate.

I will say that the bare bones of the timeline – Mosley being in power from 1934–61 – has been set in stone since the beginning, and well before I'd even drafted the sequence of events going into the 1940s and '50s. In this sense, I think the 61 downfall ends up feeling about right for the course – but a lot of this is me post-rationalising predetermined arbitrary dates. This arbitrary historicism could possibly have been avoided in the first instance by leaning more heavily on gameplay, and particularly by using the Cold War Expansion mod instead of the New Era Mod. CWE I prefer for its historical depth, whereas the NEM feels a bit more like a simple timeline extension. (My dream, of course, would be an Echoes world Vicky mod with a 1945 start – but that is incredibly unlikely.)

In the end, I hit upon lifting Windscale wholesale as a Chernobyl-style catalyst for change – both because I felt it was an interesting event to take a look at, and because it fit quite nicely within my planned timeframe. This continues on the overall theme for the timeline, which is that historical events are reimagined and re-evaluated outside of the context of a Westminster-style democracy. I like doing this because I think it exposes certain things about how we perceive governmental malpractice traditionally, versus when we are conditioned to think of the government as somehow more authoritarian. (The other example is the decision to keep in the winter of 1946–7, but expand it into an early Winter of Discontent.)

In my mind, the Winter of Discontent presents the first real opportunity for a divergence that isn't entirely arbitrary; had Bevan worked more closely with the unions, they probably would have been able to oppose the emergent Mosley–Boothby axis and strangle directorialism in its crib. This would completely erase what I call the 'Long Mosleyite Fifties' (1945–61) and usher in Bevanism a decade early, still in a precarious position but with much more focused unrest to deal with – and without much of the illiberalism to overturn. The Socialist Front likely survives, and power sharing would become the governmental modus operandi; Britain by the Sixties would be shaped by an alternate post-war consensus, with Bevan at the starting point instead of Gaitskell and Butler. Plurality and internationalism would reign supreme, Europe would be in for a golden era of bread and roses, and they all lived happily ever after.

Slightly less utopian would be to have Mosley step down in 1954 after twenty years in office, a year before the 1955 Assembly election. This keeps in the foundations of the illiberal Fifties, and would probably offer the best chance of Party of Action dominance into the Sixties, likely I think by having Boothby take over for at least the rest of the decade. Whether this would alter much materially, I'm not sure, although I think it would have an interesting side effect on how the 'Mosley era' would be viewed historiographically; a neat twenty years in power from 1934–54 is even more neatly split in two, with the operative year being 1944. The first decade, 1934–44, takes in Mosley as a dynamic wartime leader, having (or at least claiming to have) masterminded the defeat of fascism both at home (1933~36), in Europe (1936~40) and in Asia (1940~44). The second decade, 1944–54, is then a period of decline where the Chairman mostly fails to 'win the peace', running out of ideas to renovate the economy going into the midcentury and growing increasingly illiberal. In my mind, this maps nicely onto a view of Mosley as Churchill: rousing in a crisis; all at sea everywhere else. Boothby and his successors would then manage the image of the Party of Action in power without necessarily doing much to change course.

It's quite possible in this scenario that the whole thing runs out of steam rather predictably with Harold Macmillan quitting circa 1963 – or maybe Boothby and Bevan have some sort of Blair/Brown secret treaty and Bevan takes over on schedule, with more or less similar results. The most notable change is probably Windscale being butterflies away, with the added bonus of male homosexuality being decriminalised way ahead of schedule in 1955.

The final scenario that offers any meaningful divergence, as I see it, probably relies on doing away with every trace of the Vicky play-through altogether, which would free up the possibility of Mosley coming to power some time other than 1934, and under different circumstances. But I think this isn't so much worth exploring, because everything would be up for debate and I may as well write a new (and entirely arbitrary) timeline. I think in this case I would have forced myself far less to confront the darker side of life in the Commonwealth, and the whole thing may well have just turned into a utopian exposition of how world syndicalist revolution in entirely possible. Thank goodness we avoided that one.
 

99KingHigh

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We have seen the rosy adulations of Mr Bevan. We are not convinced.

- RN
 
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DensleyBlair

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We have seen the rosy adulations of Mr Bevan. We are not convinced.

- RN

Mr Nixon is going to have to join the queue on that one.
 
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Kienzle

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A dignified exit for Mosley, and a bit less climactic than I'd expected. Now that it's apparent how much the Windscale disaster served as the catalyst for so much unrest and his subsequent loss of power, can we expect future governments to double down on coal in the 60s/70s?

At university, I had experienced homosexuality first hand, it being prevalent amongst the undergraduate community in Oxford at that time, and while I got through my own homosexual phase I made a private commitment to do something to alleviate the lot of those who do not should I ever make it into public office.

Dark. Speaking of which, what happened to Jeremy Thorpe in this timeline?
 
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DensleyBlair

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A dignified exit for Mosley, and a bit less climactic than I'd expected.

I think beneath the dignity everyone can see what's going on, bailing out while he can to save his skin. I decided on balance that the anticlimax was probably a decent enough form of poetic justice.

Now that it's apparent how much the Windscale disaster served as the catalyst for so much unrest and his subsequent loss of power, can we expect future governments to double down on coal in the 60s/70s?

We'll definitely see coal and the mining unions continue to play a big role, but frankly there really isn't the coal left to double down on by the second half of the century. As much as the moment might be against nuclear, it's not really in coal's favour either.


That sentiment was more or less lifted straight from Boothby's actual memoirs, and in that context I think it's easily enough explainable. Boothby was almost certainly bisexual, and furthermore almost certainly involved with some of London's most notorious gangsters in a manner that was not entirely… professional, shall we say. This was all an open secret in Parliament, but in his memoirs I think Boothby probably wished to retain what he saw as a scrap of dignity by glossing over his sexuality. Shutting it down as 'everyone did it at Oxford in my day' (which isn't necessarily untrue) is a decent enough way of precluding any further questions.

Speaking of which, what happened to Jeremy Thorpe in this timeline?

Almost certainly in Canada. His father and grandfather were both pretty straight-laced Tory MPs, so not likely to have gone over to Mosley's party. Thorpe was born a couple of months after our revolution, so it's quite possible that he has never even lived in Britain here.
 
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Red Adder's Last Hurrah

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ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



RED ADDER’S LAST HURRAH
CBC 2, 1973

BY
PETER COOK AND DUDLEY MOORE

WITH
PETER SELLERS
AS “DAI PEVAN, COAL KING OF THE COMMONWEALTH”


SUPPORTING CAST

JOHN LE MESURIER
AS “SUPERMAC, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE FOR ECONOMIC PLANNING”

IAN CARMICHAEL
AS “JIM STARCHEY, DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF DOMESTIC AFFAIRS”

AND
TERRY-THOMAS
AS “ROB ROONEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE EUROPEAN SYNDICATE”


A voice over begins over a black screen. We see stock footage of the revolution.
Britain, 1928: a country beset by turmoil on all fronts. Traditional politics had found itself battered by crisis after crisis after crisis. First, the miners’ strike turned into a general strike. Then, the general strike turned into a class war. The capitalist class collapsed. The aristocracy fled. The politicians trembled in fear as events spiralled out of their control. The country teetered on the edge of oblivion.
The stock footage ends. We see a silhouette against a dark screen.
Only one man stood between triumph and disaster. Only one man had the talent, the charm and the unbridled sex appeal required to lead the people of Britain out of the gutter and into the promised land.
We hear a crowd screaming and chanting. Men stand awestruck, one with a solitary tear of pure admiration running down his cheek. Women are overcome; one faints.
As his vision for a new world swept across the land, millions were drawn to his banner. His was a gospel of hope, a gospel of rebirth, a gospel of salvation. The prophet who preached it became a legend amongst men.
His name?
The silhouette gives way to the man himself, on stage before an hysterical crowd.


THE RED ADDER


The theme music begins, sung by a male voice choir in the fashion of a workers’ hymn. We see footage of Redadder stood on a rooftop, surveying his domain.

For twenty-seven years he’s reigned,
But will he make it up to thirty?
Controls on power are a pain,
To stay on top needs methods dirty!

Red Adder, Red Adder!
Beloved head of state.
Red Adder, Red Adder!
Can he escape his fate?

With jealous en’mies in the wings,
Betrayal lurks round every corner.
Does someone wait to do to him
What Addy did to Arthur Horner?

Red Adder, Red Adder,
That bastard scheming lout!
Red Adder, Red Adder,
His time is running out!

Camera pans back from rooftop to reveal Redadder stood on a stage set. Green screen shuts off behind him. We see a wind machine, which turns off. He leaves the set and exits stage left. Fade to black.


1970s PETE AND DUD.jpg

Pete (top) and Dud (bottom), aka Redadder and Baldwin.


INT. The office of the Chairman of the Executive Council—January 1961.

Redadder is furiously pacing muttering to himself in an agitated manner. He calls for Baldwin, who enters presently.


—You called, sir?

—Yes Baldwin. I’m afraid it’s a matter of some urgency. I’ve just received word that Dai Pevan has returned from exile.

—Dai Pevan? Not Dai Pevan the Coal King of the Commonwealth?

—Yes Baldwin, it is he.

—Dai Pevan, the stocky fella with the booming voice?

—The very same, Baldwin.

—Dai Pevan whose father mysteriously fell to his death in your presence thirty years ago?

—Look Baldwin, that was nothing more than a regrettable accident. And it was a long time ago besides!

—Well yes, sir. No one could have foreseen that a good natured camping trip between friends in Snowdonia could have ended in such tragedy. That uncovered mineshaft had no business being so close to so scenic a mountain path!

—Indeed. Snowdonia is positively riddled with danger for the unsuspecting rambler, as every seasoned traveller knows. Frankly it was Old Pevan’s fault for not taking proper precautions.

—Like packing a parachute, you mean?

—Well, I won’t deny it would’ve helped. But enough talk of malicious old rumours, eh Baldwin? We’ve got a far more pressing problem to deal with. Dai Pevan left the country in a furious rage thirty years ago, vowing one day to return and have his revenge on the man who killed his father!

—Oh, well that’ll be you then, sir.

—Yes Baldwin, I’m well aware of that! This is why we have a problem: if Pevan is back then it means he’s almost certainly on his way here to kill me!

—I don’t really follow, sir. If he’s only coming to kill you then what have I got to worry about?

—Listen here you presumptuous little twerp, if Pevan has his way with me then who do you think will come to protect you? Eh? Don’t forget, Baldwin: it was I who single-handedly rescued you from oblivion in Bewdley! I who saved you from a lifetime of church fête cake stalls and Women’s Institute lectures on the joy of abstinence. You’re not much to write home about as it is, Baldwin, but by god without me you would be nothing! Do you understand me, man? I am all that stands in the way between you and utter ruin! And as soon as I am gone it will be curtains for you, Baldwin. Specifically, lace curtains in an Edwardian bay window: a bored housewife idly drawing you back every few hours to gaze with barely concealed jealousy at the astounding array of ornaments on the neighbour’s mantelpiece; an unsatisfied husband pulling you closed to shield his sordid indiscretions with his younger secretary from the prying eyes of passers-by; a restless child thumbing the fabric wistfully and dreaming of the day he will be able to escape this sorry little hellhole for the glamour of the big city. That is you with me, do you understand, Baldwin? And that is why you have every reason to be just as worried as I am about Pevan’s reappearance.

—Well, when you put it like that, sir…

There is a knock at the door. In walks Comrade Supermac, Director of the Bureau for Economic Affairs.

—Ah, Supermac, what a nice surprise. I’m afraid Baldwin and I are in the middle of a spot of rather important business, but I will be more than happy to deal with whatever it is you need once—

—Don’t mention it, Redadder! I heard you were in a spot of bother, what? Old Dai Pevan back in Blighty, hmm?

—Well actually it’s the Young Dai Pevan, sir, what with Redadder sir having definitely not killed but been heavily implicated in the death of Old—

—Be quiet, Baldwin! Let the man speak!

—Hmm, yes, well, ah, I say that rotter Pevan is almost certainly on his way to see you off, what? And I thought you might, ah, desire a little bit of assistance in fending him off, hmm?

—Yes of course! Got another plan up your sleeve, eh Supermac old chum? Something to really kick that accursed Welshman into touch?

—Yes, well, quite Redadder. Planning is what we specialise in at the Office for Economic Planning, after all. I thought I would, that is to say, lend you the benefit of the old cranium, what?

—Excellent! Well, out with it then Supermac! What have you got for us?

—Well sir, I thought back to how we got ourselves out of our last little jam and it hit me: we must implement another round of premium bonds!

—Premium bonds, Supermac? How on earth do you propose that premium bonds might be in any way useful in our present predicament?

—I appreciate, sir, the subtlety of the plan might, at first, be hard to grasp, but let me put it like this: premium bonds are wildly popular, and never fail to install a healthy dose of faith and stability in the institutions of the Commonwealth. There is not a problem in the world that cannot be solved by, as they say, ah, plastering over the cracks with a healthy dose of panem et circenses, what? If we convince the British people to invest in your government, with, might I add, almost zero prospect of ever achieving a return, you will simply become too popular to defeat, Redadder! No man would dare challenge someone so wildly well loved as the man who gave the people premium bonds!

—A noble plan, Supermac, with only one flaw.

—Ah, yes, well Redadder, what would that be?

—It’s crap. I’ve got more chance of actually making some money from your poxy lottery than I do it protecting me from Pevan’s insatiable thirst for vengeance! Serves me right for ever putting my faith in you. No, thank you Supermac, but you have done quite enough. It was a valiant contribution, but I think we’ll manage without you from here. Good day!

Redadder signals for Baldwin to show Supermac out. Supermac stammers some words of protest as he leaves, to no avail.

—Well fat lot of good that was, Baldwin. Now that bloody Supermac has wasted valuable oxygen with his pie in the sky monetary schemes god knows how long we’ve got before Pevan shows up at the door!

There is yet another knock at the door. Redadder jumps; Baldwin just goes over to open it.

—Not so fast, Baldwin! What in heaven’s name do you think you’re doing, just opening the door to all and sundry. It might be him for Pete’s sake!

—Nah, I wouldn’t worry sir. It was a very weak and feeble knock. Hardly sounds like there’s a raging killer waiting in the vestibule.

—Yes, I suppose you’re right. Ahem, I really don’t know what came over me. Let them in, Baldwin.

Baldwin opens the door. In comes Jim Starchey, Director of the Bureau for Domestic Affairs.



1970 CARMICHAEL TERRY THOMAS.jpg

Ian Carmichael (Starchey) backstage with Terry-Thomas (Rooney).


—Starchey, how good of you to call at a time like this. Baldwin and I are in a fair bit of bother, you see—

—Not another word, sir, I have it all under control. I understand from the governmental grapevine that you have a certain problem you need, how shall I say, taking care of. If you please, sir, it would be my honour to render myself of service to your esteemed personage at this most trying hour of need.

—Thank you, Starchey. Finally, someone who knows what they’re doing around here! What is it that you have in mind? Strychnine? Cyanide? A day-old plate of moules-marinière?

—Nothing so… unseemly, sir. You know me, sir: there is nothing that pleases me more in this world than a perfectly executed cover up, but the situation is grave. We cannot take any liberties when a man’s life is at stake! And certainly not when the man in question is a character of such grace, such wit, such charm… such brilliance, as our own dear leader Comrade Redadder! I would sooner sacrifice every hair on my head than see that dastardly traitor Pevan lay a scratch on your brow!

—Reassuring words thank you Starchey. Even coming from a man with no hair. But we are rather running out of time, so I would appreciate it if you would cut to the chase a little.

—Ah, you know me, sir. If I may say so, I pride myself on my ability to cut corners! Getting results in record time and never skimping on quality, that’s me. What I propose, sir, is so ingenious in its simplicity that it simply cannot fail to work. The answer, as I see it, is simple: we must swap places!

—Swap places? Are you mad, Starchey? We look nothing alike! Pevan will know he’s been had the minute he sets eyes on me. Well, you.

—But that is it, sir: Pevan won’t suspect a thing! He’s been out of the country for thirty years, he won’t know you from Adam!

—Never mind Adam, Starchey. It’s me we need to worry about. But even if this unfathomable scheme does work, what do you propose we actually do? We can’t just trade places and let that be that. Even if Pevan does fall for it, he’ll soon realise his mistake and come for me anyway.

—That is the beauty of the plan, sir. While I humbly take you place, you can flee to safety. Somewhere out of the way, where no one will think to look. To the West Indies, perhaps. Or Rutland. Of course, we would have to make it convincing. I do not flatter myself that much, sir, that I could simply put on a wig and grow out my moustache and take your place – an almost impossible task, might I say, sir, and one which I request for myself only out of a humble desire to serve you, Comrade Chairman. But, in order to keep up appearances, I would have to take on some of the duties of your office. You know, direction of the economy, suppression of internal enemies… taste testing the new pudding menu at Mrs Miggins’ canteen. Just to make the act convincing in Pevan’s eyes, you understand.

—Yes, yes. I see how it will work. Well, maybe this is all there is left to do. Has to really come to this, Baldwin? A geopolitical pantomime act to save my own skin?

—There are worse ways to go, sir. Like being viciously impaled with your own ministerial stationery set by a man whose father you let fall to his death in a tragic rambling accident thirty years ago. And Comrade Starchey is right sir. He is good with cover ups.

—I suppose you’re right. Yes Starchey, I’ll take you up on your plan. You can become me, and I will become… a non-entity. But what about Baldwin?

—If I might suggest, sir, if I am to assume your office, then I will need someone to occupy my old one. Baldwin could become the new Director of Domestic Affairs.

—I can’t deny he’d be a good fit. You would certainly put the ‘oversight’ in ‘judicial oversight’ wouldn’t you, Baldwin?

—I have no idea what you mean, sir.

—Yes, well that’s evident. Baldwin at the Domestic Bureau might just be the gravest miscarriage of justice since the collected benches of the High Court failed to catch the last train home after a boozy day out at last year’s cricket final. But what must be done must be done. Good luck, Baldwin, and god help everyone who might be in the slightest way impacted by any decision you care to make in your new office. Which, thinking about it, is just about everyone in the country. Right, well I should be off then. Not how I imagined I’d go out, giving over my entire identity to a man who is a fairly compelling answer to the question: What would happen if you put a bald eagle in charge of the British legal system? But that’s life, isn’t it. Full of surprises. Terrible, perpetually disappointing surprises. So long, then. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t.

—Farewell, Redadder sir. Your legacy is in safe hands with me.

Redadder makes a solemn exit.

—I should probably go too, sir. See to my new office and all.

—Yes yes, Baldwin. You run along. I’ll get ready for Pevan’s arrival.

Baldwin exits. The screen goes black. When the picture returns, Starchey is sat at his new desk, dressed in a wig and sporting a drawn-on moustache in an attempt to look like Redadder. There is a knock on the door, and Baldwin enters.

—Sir, sir! He’s here! Dai Pevan is in the building!

—So Old King Coal returns at last, eh? Well, this time he’s unearthed more than he can deal with! Send him in, Baldwin.

—That’s not all, sir. He hasn’t come alone.

—Not alone? What do you mean he’s not alone? Who could he possibly have brought with him on his quest?

Suddenly the door bursts open. Starchey jumps up from his chair in shock. Baldwin is sent flying to the floor. Bathed in heroic light, a large figure stands silhouetted in the doorway.



1970 SELLERS TERRY THOMAS.jpg

Sellers (Pevan) and Terry-Thomas in between takes.


—Yes, it is I: Rob Rooney, Chairman of the European Syndicate!

—Rooney! What are you doing here?

—Well, Dai told me he was planning a trip back to Blighty and thought I’d join him. Been a while since I’ve sampled the local delicacies, if you know what I mean. Woof! Speaking of— Dai!

—Never! You’ll never take me! I’ll give you anything you want, don’t kill me please!

—What? No, not you! What are you mewling about? My god, Redadder. I know it’s been a while, but I really don’t remember you being this pathetic. Have you been ill or something? It doesn’t matter— Dai, they’re in here!

A second man appears in the doorway, again accompanied by a flash of heroic light. He is carrying a large pickaxe and wearing a miner’s helmet.

—Alright, Rooney? What’s occurring? Oh, you’ve found them then. Cracking. Alright, Redadder? How’s it going? You lost weight? If you don’t mind me saying so, you looks terrible. Likes you seen a ghost, you do. Anyway, we going to settle this then?

—Please, Pevan, I beg you: let me go and I’ll give you whatever you want! Just, please, don’t use that thing on me, please I beg you! Spare me!

—Bloody hell, he always been like this has he, Rooney? He’s a weaselly little bastard, isn’t he? You sure this is Chairman Redadder’s office?

—Don’t worry, Pevan, this is definitely the place. Redadder’s secretary personally assured me this is the place. I say now there was a thoroughly obliging girl. Woof!

—Oh, cool your jets for a minute please would you, Rooney? We got enough going on in here without bringing your proclivities into it, alright? Now, you listen to me Redadder: I haven’t come here to cause you grief, I haven’t. And I won’t use this on you, neither. As it goes, I stopped off down the pit for a quick shift before we arrived and haven’t been able to put my gear back yet. This is a precision instrument Redadder. Not for inappropriate use, you understand me? Now, I only ask that you give us what’s mine, alright? Before things get messy, like.

—Oh god no! Please, god, I’ll do anything. Don’t let things get messy, please!

—You’re a wise man, Redadder. I’ve seen first hand what Ronney can get up to when left to his own devices and let me tell you, I’ve paid dry cleaning bills like you wouldn’t believe. Now sling your hook!

Starchey clatters out of the room as fast as his legs will carry him. Baldwin picks himself off the floor and dusts himself down.

—I’ll see myself out if it’s all the same to you.

—Wait a minute, what’s your name boyo?

—Baldwin, sir.

—Baldwin, eh? And what is it you do around here then?

—Well ever since Chairman Redadder left, Mr Starchey put me in charge of the Bureau of Domestic Affairs.

—What do you mean Starchey? You mean that wasn’t Redadder after all?

—See! What did I tell you. Damned unconvincing show from our imposter, I must say. I knew the rotter Redadder would be up to his old tricks again, didn’t I tell you Pevan? A cad through and though that man, a real bounder of the highest order. Don’t worry, old chap, I’ll find out where the real Redadder is soon enough. I’m sure that my, ahem, source will be, ahem, happy to oblige.

—Christ sakes Rooney I could do without you coughing everywhere. Bad enough being down the pits, I don’t need your respiratory problems as well! Now then Comrade Baldwin, you tell me where the old Chairman is and all will be alright in your world. I’m a very reasonable man, things don’t need to get untoward.

Suddenly the door bursts open. Redadder strolls in carrying a large box full of belongings.

—Sorry Strachey, I’ll be out of your hair soon enough – what’s left of it, anyway. Just came back to pick up a few—

Redadder puts down his box and notices Pevan and Rooney. The four men stand frozen for a beat.

—Oh fu—

Cut to the closing titles. Underneath the names of the cast and crew, we see Pevan and Rooney chasing Redadder through the corridors of the Executive Office in classic slapstick style. Baldwin is haplessly following along behind them. The ending theme plays:


The Chairman’s stranded up shit creek
And planned his exit very crudely.
His saviours turned out rather weak,
So now they’re all off back to Bewdley.

Red Adder, Red Adder!
He’s used up all his luck.
Red Adder, Red Adder!
That nasty little fuck!

Dai Pevan, Dai Pevan!
A hero bright and bold.
Dai Pevan, Dai Pevan!
We’re glad he’s in control!
 
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stnylan

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Oh just marvellous. Really cracked me up.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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DensleyBlair

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TheButterflyComposer

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Well that will teach me not to find my images in a hurry.

I was genuinely thrown through a loop wondering if that was a deliberate joke or not
 
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DensleyBlair

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I was genuinely thrown through a loop wondering if that was a deliberate joke or not

Alas, you overestimate my ability to distinguish between aging character actors from the last century.
 

DensleyBlair

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Seeing as we’re halfway through the voting window and there have been about five ballots, I’ll do @Nikolai a favour and advertise that the ACA’s are currently ongoing and would adore all of your patronage.

(Whenever I post in this thread nowadays the view counter magically goes up by about 1k, so statistically this should at least get a couple more votes.)

Update-wise I’ve been sidetracked by a few things, like getting back into reading for pleasure, so writing up the Sixities is going a little erratically. I do have an in-depth look at the alt-Beatles in the works, however, so at least you know my priorities are in the right order. Normal service resumes next week with Dick Crossman’s diaries on Bevan’s entry, then there are a few socio-cultural updates before we get into some meaty Cold War stuff. So stand by your monitors.
 
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