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Microfiction from the SLP Community: Part 1

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

By Gary Oswald, Mark Tentarelli, Bob Mumby and Charles EP Murphy


Sea Lion Press has always had the aim of providing a platform for Alternate History Fiction, discussion and essays. This blog has hosted over a thousand essays, the vignette contests in the forums have produced over 500 short stories and ultimately the publishing wing of the company has published more than 130 books.


But not all AH fiction takes such traditional formats. The SLP forums are full of narratives and stories but probably the most common form of creativity is microfiction, various quick formats to express ideas designed for that medium, like lists of leaders, wikiboxes, maps and timelines.


In an Interview I did with her last year, SLP writer Lena Worwood said the following "I feel like microfic is a big part of our identity as alternate historians. We've never been a fandom for a particular author, in fact big name authors have earned bans from community pages when they've stepped out of line. It's about exploring ideas together and entertaining each other. So microfics have to be an end in themselves.


I loved these stories as a kid and I think the microfics we make now could be a similar jumping on point for new enthusiasts.


There's something wonderfully democratic about micro fics - you don't need to read a pile of books and all the academic journals you can find, you don't need to write for hours. You can read a thing, have an idea, and share the idea with others and they can enjoy your idea. I love that. If we can, as a community, expand the ways people can communicate ideas and the kind of ideas its okay to talk about in alternate history, I think it could be a key part in diversifying this genre."


So in a handful of articles, we're going to shine a spotlight on that and share some of that microfiction, starting with the lists of leaders format. The thread for lists of leaders on the slp forums has had over 7,000 posts and every month there is a challenge for new lists in that forum. So what attracts so many people to that format and what can be produced in it?


In a previous article on this I said "One of the most common forms of micro fiction is a list of people, who hold a specific position, sometimes with a paragraph explaining the background, sometimes by itself.


Like most micro fiction, lists like this work by implication. It hints at a broader context which the reader must work out.


So if, for instance, a list of Managers of the England Men's National Football Team included Johnny Marr, the reader could work out that his trial at Manchester City youth team was successful and so the Smiths never formed, if it included Duncan Edwards, the reader could form the conclusion that the Munich Air Disaster never happened. And from the dates of the managers, they could deduce which had been successful and which had not. Such a format implies rather than states, but can still paint a picture.


Likewise, if that same list has the England team shut down for several years due to war, change its name or be merged into another team, that hints at broader political happenings. And in many ways, it's more effective to have those darker implications expressed indirectly through a sports list which doesn't directly mention it.


It can also be an idea that can later be expanded on, many of SLP's novels are based around ideas first expressed in that kind of list. Once you have thought up a world, you can then explore it in much more traditional narratives."


So a list is useful mainly in implying things that it doesn't say, using words efficiently to paint a picture quickly.


Chairman of the East African Federation


1967-76: Dedan Kimathi (National Union)

1976-79: Edward Mutesa (Values)

1979-80: Barthélémy Bisengimana (Values)

1980-86: Abdulrahman Muhammad Babu (Revolutionary Worker's League)

1986-90: Pierre Mulele (Revolutionary Worker's League)

1990-91: Paul Bomani (National Union)

1991-96: Pierre Buyoya (National Union)

1996-97: Pierre Buyoya (Unity)

1997-2003: John Garang (Liberty)

2003-05: Charity Ngilu (Democratic Movement)

2005-12: Mohamed Bacar (Liberty)

2012-: Shriti Vadera (Democratic Movement)


The above, very simple, list does not say very much in itself, but the names imply which countries exactly are a member of this Federation and the conflicts it is facing, the two 'Liberty' leaders for instance were armed separatists within their OTL countries of Sudan and Comoros, implying a country split over the rights of provinces vs centralisation.


But lists can also flesh out the scenario far more. Take for instance, the following much more detailed list by Bob Mumby, the author of Chasing Shadows.


Presidents of the USA 1869-1895


1869-1877: Ulysses S. Grant (Republican)

1868 (with Schuyler Colfax) def. Horatio Seymour (Democratic)

1872 (with Henry Wilson) def. Thomas A. Hendricks (Democratic), Benjamin GratzBrown (Liberal Republican / Democratic), HoraceGreeley(Liberal Republican/ Democratic), Charles Jones Jenkins (Democratic), David Davis (Liberal Republican)

1876 Hayes Assassination; declaration of Martial Law; [disputed] establishment of 'Grant Regime'

1877-1877: Thomas W. Ferry (Republican), Acting

1877 State governors begin declaring the 'legitimate' victor along partisan lines

1877-1877: Ulysses S. Grant (Republican) / Samuel J. Tilden (Democratic)

1876 [disputed]; Samuel J. Tilden (Democratic), Ulysses S. Grant (Republican), William A. Wheeler (Republican), Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican)

1877 Senate and House discipline collapses; partisans declare they have the numbers to elect the 'legitimate' President

1877 Beginning of the Revolution; The Great Railroad Strike, cutting across partisan and state boundaries - National Guard, federal and informal militias are divided and ill-prepared

1877-1877: William A. Wheeler (Republican)

1877 Grant Resignation citing health concerns; Wheeler comes to the Bloody Compromise with Democrats, promising withdrawal of federal troops from the South - hoping to unite against the striking workers

1877 Southern Rising; former federal troops join forces with black militias against 'Redeemer' forces - later join up with KOL forces

1877-1879: Thomas W. Ferry (Republican)

1877 Fall of Washington DC to revolutionaries; Wheeler resigns and president pro tempore Ferry rapidly seeks a peace with the revolutionaries

1878 Consummation of the Revolution; KOL, black militias and loyalist federal army crush remaining pockets of 'Redeemers'

1879-1883: Uriah Smith Stephens (Nonpartisan / Socialist Labor)

1878 (with James Parsons) def. David Davis (Nonpartisan / Republican/ Democratic), Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (Straight-Out Democratic)

1879 'Revolutionary' Constitutional Convention; formalises many demands of the labor movement, and establishes single term, six year Presidency

1882 President Stephens declines invitation to run for the additional term he alone is entitled to, having become disillusioned since the KOL's victory in the Second Revolution

1883-1889: Terence V.Powderly (Nonpartisan / National Workingmen's/ Democratic)

1882(with Henry George) def. James Parsons (Socialist Labor), Benjamin F. Butler (Republican)

1883 Vice Presidential election crisis; bitterly divided electoral college for the Vice Presidential nomination results in the narrow election of the Republican nominee Henry George

1884 Passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, very public dispute between President and Vice President, resulting in polarisation of the party political system

1889-1892: Henry George (Socialist Labor / Republican)

1888 (with Joseph Rainey) def. Denis Kearney (National Workingmen's / Democratic)

1892-1894: Joseph Rainey (Republican)

1892 George Assassination amidst passage of a reversal of the Chinese Exclusion Act; riots break out over Rainey's accession, KOL splits badly

1893 Attempted impeachment of Rainey, SLP-Republican majority manages to block it but only narrowly

1893 President Rainey v United States; Rainey is initially denied capacity to run for a term in his own right, citing that he would served half a term already; SLP and Republicans dispute this as racially motivated

1894 President Rainey v United States; Rainey appoints Justices to 'pack' the Court, which promptly rules in his favour

1894-1895: Jacob Dolson Cox (Lily-White Republican)

1894 Impeachment of Rainey; Court 'packing' leads to Lily-White Republicans blanching and joining NWP-Democrat coalition to remove him from office

1895-0000: Samuel Gompers (National Workingmen's / Democratic/ Lily-White Republican) / Eugene V. Debs (Socialist Labor / Black-and-Tan Republican)

1894 [disputed]; Samuel Gompers (National Workingmen's / Democratic/ Lily-White Republican), Eugene V. Debs (Socialist Labor / Black-and-Tan Republican), Joseph Rainey (Sociaist Labor / Black-and-Tan Republican)

1894 Attempted 'Second Redemption'; NWP aligned KOL factions make a widespread show of force to prevent Black-Americans from voting, in order to ensure victory; Railroad brotherhoods and Western miners organise in favour of Debs; SLP aligned KOL factions march on the Capitol; neither side acknowledges the others legitimacy


1894 was supposed to be the year that Americans picked their President who would see in the new century, hopefully. But its has come to naught as once more, the United States is plunged into domestic insurgency and conflagration. The 1877 Revolution was supposed to enshrine American Democracy as sacrosanct, the United States as the first "Worker's Republic" irrespective of race or colour. But over the intervening years, nativism has once more reared its head, and the new party system has radicalised over the question of Chinese Exclusion. Despite the 1879 Constitution enshrining the place of naturalised Americans within the political process, some of those very same Americans have taken the opportunity to deny others the right to make their Worker's Republic a welcoming home. And as the gyre widens, the Revolution has taken to consuming its own sacred cows. The Democrats, long hobbled by association with the Confederacy and Kukluxism, have taken the opportunity to begin a 'Second Redemption' of the South. Meanwhile the Republicans 'Loyal Leagues' see a sudden resurgence joining socialist factions of the Knights of Labor in a great march on Washington to protest the accession of the British-born Samuel Gompers and the assumed entrenchment of white supremacy that will follow...

 

But you can also go more far obscure and niche than you could do in a traditional narrative, because you're not going to outstay your welcome.


Mark Tentarelli for instance wrote this chess list.


World Chess Champions (1975-2021)


1975-1991: Anatoly Karpov (SUN)

1975: Bobby Fischer (USA)

1978: Viktor Korchnoi (XXA)

1981: Viktor Korchnoi (CHE)

1984: Garry Kasparov (SUN) [1]

1987: Garry Kasparov (SUN) [2]

1990: Jan Timman (NLD)

1991-1993: Anatoly Karpov (RUS) [3]

1993-1994: Nigel Short (GBR) [4]

1993: Anatoly Karpov (RUS)

1994-1999: Anatoly Karpov (RUS) [5]

1994: Nigel Short (GBR)

1996: Viswanathan Anand (IND)

1999-2005: Alexei Shirov (ESP) [6]

1999: Anatoly Karpov (RUS)

2002: Demis Hassabis (GBR)

2005-2008: Judit Polgár (HUN) [7]

2005: Alexei Shirov (ESP)

2006: Alexei Shirov (ESP)

2008-2020: Demis Hassabis (GBR) [8]

2008: Judit Polgár (HUN) [9]

2011: Vladimir Kramnik (RUS)

2014: Ellen Carlsen (NOR)

2017: Levon Aronian (ARM)

2020-:Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS) [10]

2020: Demis Hassabis (GBR)


That in itself, tells a story to those familiar with Chess. The names that are there and the names that aren't. But Mark also annotated the list with footnotes (shown below) to flesh out some of the details, a common choice.

 

[1] On December 7th, 1984, Karpov plays the more pressing 22.Nf3 instead of 22.Qd3 and Kasparov's somewhat imprecise response leaves him at a small but significant material disadvantage, which Karpov is able to exploit - in suitably Karpovian fashion - to slowly smother his opponent's play and win the decisive sixth game. More draws than expected, to be sure, but it would take very rose-tinted glasses to see the 6-0 shut out as anything other than a total humiliation for the up-and-coming Kasparov.


[2] And yet he clawed his way back in the next Candidates Tournament - although many would contend that he never really regained his "edge" after the catastrophe in 1984 - and went on to lose to Karpov. Again. What followed was a year of further recriminations, internal politicking, and in June of 1988, Kasparov's defection at the end of the tournament in Belfort, France, alleging sustained collusion and psychological pressure from both FIDE and the USSR. Hopes briefly skyrocketed that Kasparov could do what Korchnoi had not and finally notch a win for the West, but with Kasparov's refusal to even compete on FIDE's terms the torch was passed to the stalwart - but underwhelming - Jan Timman of the Netherlands. Timman lost.


[3] But Karpov's steel façade began to crack in the early '90s, with both the collapse of his home country and the news that Kasparov had finally done the one thing he never could - defeat Bobby Fischer. The 1992 Kasparov - Fischer match dominated headlines at the time, but is now considered an embarrassment for both men; Fischer for losing, handily, and Kasparov for choosing to take on someone twenty years out of practice (and to say the least, unwell) just so he could claim the hollow title of Champion of the West. But, at the time, Karpov was rattled.


[4] And that was enough for him to lose, in a stunning upset, to GM Nigel Short, who created a brief spot of excitement and a British chess boom to punctuate the high highs and low lows of the Moore years. Stories that when asked about the new champion's reign Karpov simply responded "Short." are, of course, completely anecdotal.


[5] Karpov thrashed Short in '94 in arguably the most dominant performance of his career and reclaimed the title for five more turbulent years, leaving him second only to Emanuel Lasker as far as longevity is concerned, although far more polarizing: in terms of sheer talent, unquestionably one of the greatest of all time, but you would be hard-pressed to find a player outside of Russia who truly celebrated his total domination of the era and willingness to toe the Kremlin line.


[6] Which makes it fitting, possibly, that when he finally lost his battle with time it was accompanied by the bright candle of émigré Alexei Shirov, whose aggressive tactical flair made for thrilling victories over the aging Karpov (and his stylistic heir Hassabis) but at times cast a shadow on the real 'soundness' of his play - especially since he finally lost the battle of Man vs. Machine to the distinctly Karpovian positioning of Deepest Blue.


[7] Live by the sword, die by the sword. Shirov brought about his own downfall with, characteristically, a gamble - but this time an organizational one. Hoping to avoid the proverbial 'draw death' and put a more aggressive stamp on the game, FIDE's adoption of short knockout qualifiers, with his backing, resulted in chaos and what less creative journalists called a 'Cinderella run' for Hungarian GM Judit Polgár, the best of three sisters who had utterly dominated the world of women's chess. Polgár's combativeness was a far cry from both of his past opponents and, Shirov was already on the wane, and in a 'shocker' that should have surprised no one who'd seen their recent play, Polgár won, handily. The rematch was even more one-sided. But all nice things must come to an end, and Polgár, who herself had admitted that the game was "30 to 40% psychology", was subject to personal harassment on an unprecedented level and withering criticism over the course of her tenure for not being 'committed' enough to the sport, not least when she had the temerity to admit she was considering having children - and elevated by the caprices of a knockout system, she simply didn't have the staying power of a Botvinnik or Karpov.


[8] But at least she got knocked out by the best. "Demigod" Hassabis had been the brightest star of the Short Boom, a serious contender for WC since 1999, and even made it to the final in 2002, only to be pipped by Shirov. But his smooth, positional play seemed passé and, in the meteoric world of chess, his moment seemed to have passed. But it had just arrived. A whole new generation of players were now growing up with chess computers but it was Hassabis that saw their limits, picking up not just new lines of theory but new realms of it - materialistic chess was a thing of the past. Less quick attacks, more quicksand. Opponents wandered in and didn't come out. The incumbent champion happened to be one of them.


[9] Polgár was denied an immediate rematch in 2009 - ironically, on the grounds that Shirov had demonstrated the futility of such a tradition. She continues to be a worldwide ambassador for girls getting involved in chess, so it remains to be seen whether FIDE will succeed in their goal of actively hounding all women out of the game.


[10] Even with all the technological advances at his fingertips, Hassabis has no monopoly on a deep mind, and after twelve dominant years - by far the best run since Karpov - his more wary approach finally went down in flames at the hands of a daring, swashbuckling Russian. Kasparov, busy crushing American three year olds on daytime TV, would be proud.

 

And the addition of footnotes allows you to say a lot more with your lists, it is now rare to see one without them. Below is another list by Mark Tentarelli, where in most of the story is told in the footnotes.

 

1801-1809: Thomas Jefferson (R-VA) / Aaron Burr (R-NY)

1800: John Adams (F-MA) / Charles C. Pinckney (F-SC) [1]

1804: Charles C. Pinckney (F-SC) / Rufus King (F-NY)

1809-1813: Charles C. Pinckney (JF-SC) /James Monroe (JR-VA) [2]

1808: Aaron Burr (R-NY) / James Monroe (R-VA),Charles C. Pinckney (F-SC) / Rufus King (F-NY)

1813-1821: Aaron Burr (R-NY) / Andrew Jackson (R-TN) [3]

1812: Charles C. Pinckney (F-SC) / James Ross (F-PA)

1816: Thomas Jefferson (JF-VA) /James Ross (F-PA) [4]

1821-1822: John Quincy Adams (R-MA) /James Wilkinson (R-LA) [5]

1820: James Monroe (JF-VA) / William Plumer (JF-NH)

1822-1825: John Quincy Adams (I-MA) / James Wilkinson (I-LA)

1825-1829: Theodosia Burr Alston (R-SC) / Henry Clay (R-KY) [7]

1824: John Quincy Adams (I-MA) / John C. Calhoun (I-SC) [6]

1829-: Theodosia Burr Alston (R-SC) / Andrew Jackson (R-TN)

1828: Daniel Webster (F-MA) / Robert Y. Hayne (F-SC)

1832: Alexander Hamilton (F-NY) / Roger B. Taney (F-MD)

1836: (postponed for duration of war) [8]


[1] The primary sources are annoyingly unclear on this, but the one elector that was supposed to vote for Jefferson / Someone Else - you know who you are - actually gets their shit together and the election goes off without a hitch. Aaron Burr remains an ostensibly loyal VP that does not feel pushed to kill Hamilton or commit light treason, and despite slight scumminess is the "obvious" successor in 1808 - Madison goes down narrowly in the Rep. caucus balloting because he is a Virginian and a dweeb, and Burr is off to the races. President Jefferson acts accordingly by deciding that this is the perfect time to kneecap him.


[2] "Oh no, what a shame" says President Jefferson after Virginia and the Carolinas all abruptly decide to vote for Monroe and not Burr - Pinckney may be Hamilton's pawn and a bit dull, but he's still A Decent Southern Gentleman as opposed to Burr, the American Catiline that Jefferson has been having a slow-motion anxiety attack about for the last eight years. Saving the republic is good and all, but Federalism With Jeffersonian Characteristics immediately turns into a shitshow because (a) the North is very much Not Happy with the fact that they've been shut out of the ticket entirely (b) Pinckney's galaxy brain idea to let Hamilton be Sec. of State now while Jefferson is Sec. of the Treasury means that the US is dirt poor and now at war with France. Why, exactly, is not clear, since the Louisiana purchase *still* happened, but after a year of naval shadow-boxing the American people have had enough. Burr Is Back.


[3] Burr is also tired of the Southern states fucking with him and does not bother to hide it. The Haitian-American Rapproachment (our oldest and most enduring alliance) is followed up by an island-hopping campaign that tears apart the Spanish Empire from California to Cartagena and is shaped most of all by military policy - set by the White House - to comply with independentist stances on "property rights" whenever asked. The South fumes (and southern soldiers were less than keen to comply) but Burr enjoys being simpatico with the new independence movements so that he can do lots of business with them, and isn't it a nice coincidence that he gets to wipe the moral stain of slavery from the Earth wherever it is found?


[4] Only something as galvanizing as the Liberation Of Cuba could get Jefferson to go back on all his principles and seek a third term, and his quixotic fusion run, backed by New England merchants and Southern slavers, comes very very close. But no cigar. You could argue that Burr's much beloved 12th Amendment was itself the deciding factor - women voters (of property) tend to be a lot more bothered by the Sally Hemings Affair for some reason.


[5] Adams is an unexpected successor, to say the least, but Burr made enough hay out of the 'third term' issue in 1816 that he is not keen to disgrace himself four years later, and Adams is one of the few people with widespread appeal to Federalists (indeed, he'd only left the party because Hamilton had essentially hounded him out) and sufficient firmness on "Caribbean policy" to please Burr. With the return of peace and prosperity, poor James Monroe - resented even by his own running mate - proves to be a fusion ticket too far. In the end only one Federalist elector even bothers to vote for him. But Adams and Wilkinson promptly betray core Democratic-Republican principles - namely the "do whatever Burr says" principle - and so they have to go.


[6] Some historians term this the Adamsian-Federalist (fusion) ticket and honestly do they even hear themselves?


[7] Theodosia had transformed the role of White House hostess into "the President's right hand" and is nominated for Vice President as a quaint token of Henry Clay's commitment to Burrite thought (and to counteract Clay's own reputation for skirt-chasing). But although Clay narrowly comes out ahead of Adams, one elector unaccountable fails to do their job and Clay and Alston get, well, the exact same number of votes. The Federalist majority in the lame-duck House concludes that they have an obvious way to embarass the administration and besides, how competent can a woman possibly be? They will live to regret this. Clay, meanwhile, spends a fairly miserable four years ranting about a "Corrupt Bargain" and about how Burr had tapped Adams to plant just this dynastic precedent in the voter's mind and with him backing Theodosia his rule over the party would never, ever, end and American democracy will be plunged into a thousand years of darkness, etc. etc.


[8] The year is 1836 and Aaron Burr is on his death bed. But he has lived to see so many things. Vice President Jackson, old friend of the family, trying to duel any man that has questioned Her Excellency's honor for the last eight years. The decrepit Hamilton and his pitiful insurgent government - the champions of "property" - pursued to their last redoubts after years of bloody war, American and Haitian soldiers closing in. Coronation plans.


The final triumph of the Burrs is - not dark. But beautiful and terrible as the dawn.

 

And this British politics tale by Charles EP Murphy takes that further by including the footnotes within the list itself, making it essentially an essay.

 

2010-2015: David Cameron (Conservative) in coalition with Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat)


2015-16: Ed Miliband (Labour) in supply-and-confidence deal with Alex Salmond (SNP)


Labour reached minority government promising it would not enter a coalition with the SNP - but with the Liberal Democrats near dead, they had no choice but a supply-and-confidence deal which isn't the same thing honest. Miliband grants Scotland all the extra devolutionary powers that, he notes, the government agreed Scotland should get if it stayed in the union but hasn't got around to, and hopes this keeps the SNP quiet about Trident. If the SNP win the next Scottish election, he promises, there will be a second referendum.


Things turn out difficult as while there's enough votes to get through the reversal of austerity policies, the freezing of energy bills and the like, the SNP do want to argue about Trident. He also agrees to withdraw British support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen, getting him accused by the Sun and Tory leader Boris Johnson as allowing terror to run rampant, but agrees to a 'free vote' on attacking ISIS in Syria, seeing him attacked by the left. Still, the government's holding together...


...except Salmond and the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon are starting to fall out because both have the ear of the Prime Minister, and Salmond still thinks he runs the whole party. The SNP were already disquiet over how Salmond shoved Angus Robertson out of the way to become the Commons leader, and Sturgeon's wishing she hadn't agreed to it. There's also a problem for the SNP as now it unquestioned dominance in both Scotland and the whole of the UK, people are starting to ask questions about its record. Tempers fray.


Then the allegations about Salmond's sexual misconduct come out. And it includes attempted rape. And now the SNP's in civil war about dumping him or not, and DID STURGEON ARRANGE THIS (no), and Labour's being tarred with it. Miliband can't wait until the next Holyrood election and Johnson is dominating him in the polls. So, in Feb:


2016: Ed Miliband (Labour) in supply-and-confidence deal with Tim Farron (Liberal Democrat) and Margaret Ritchie (SDLP)


Now Labour's a handful of seats below majority, reliant on rebels from the SNP or Tories to go their way and utter lockstep in Labour to get anything else done. And anything else has to go through two other parties. Some social liberal reforms can go through, it's assumed, but it turns out trans rights provoke a few hardcore dissidents within Labour and now that's a big national issue, while Boris Johnson bellows at this silly thing Labour's wasting time on. The other big social issue was forcing same-sex marriage on Northern Ireland, which creates a huge and virulent issue there but is popular enough in Westminster and in their parties to mitigate part of the trans rights war.


Then the DUP try to call no confidence in the government. Johnson goes with it - this is his chance. And in the feuding SNP, a number of MPs are angry at being shafted. The pound's value drops as the world expects Miliband to fall.


2016-7: Ed Miliband (Labour) in supply-and-confidence deal with Tim Farron (Liberal Democrat) and Margaret Ritchie (SDLP)


He very narrowly wins as the SNP support is smaller than Johnson needed and Plaid Cymru is quietly bought off with promises of greater Welsh devolution. Miliband triumphantly declares: "Crisis, what crisis?"


Now there's 5th of May and all its many elections to go...


A Lab-Lib coalition has majority in Wales; the SDLP has increased its seats in Stormont and the DUP lost seats to the UUP for failing in Westminster; Labour wins various Mayoral elections... but Labour's council seats are down while the Lib Dems are up...


...and Labour very narrowly lost the Ogmore by-election to UKIP's candidate. So now they're down a seat while UKIP has doubled theirs and boosted their AM seats. Now both Farage and Johnson are riding high.


And in Holyrood, the SNP have lost their majority while Ruth Davidson's Tories have surged to 23. A Lab-Lib-Green coalition of pure chaos is narrowly in charge.


Miliband faces a leadership challenge from Caroline Flint and beats her, but only at 57% majority. Johnson and Farage are discussing a teamup as long as Johnson agrees to an EU membership referendum, which means Tory-UKIP alliances that put the Welsh Assembly under strain and flip several councils. The DUP comes in as well, determined to show it's still the big boy in loyalist politics. Miliband's shaky government looks even shakier now and could fall at any moment, the world thinks, and the economy starts to contract. (Correct) rumours spread that Farron is thinking of yanking support.


Miliband feels there's only one option: he's going to have to call an election. The government will not stand and at least this way, Labour sets the terms. An election is called for early January 2017 (everyone in press and party PR thinks hard about "NEW YEAR" puns and slogans). Miliband shows a hitherto unsuspected strain of irreverant humour and bolshiness because what the hell, he's already the underdog and trying to stay serious hasn't worked. Being silly works for Boris, right?


The right wing, of course, will clearly win a small majority.


2017-18: Ed Miliband (Labour)


Two things help Miliband win: the cash-for-ash scandal growing in Northern Ireland and Donald Trump's victory in America. Both things make a lot of voters wonder about the people Johnson's connecting himself with and worry he might be like the other blond funny-on-TV guy. Certainly, with chaos in America, do people want yet another coalition government but one not yet tested? And the europhile Tory voters don't like the sound of this referendum and a number switch to the Liberal Democrats.


Meanwhile, Labour can reclaim many lost Scottish seats and sees a brief "youthquake" bump due to the 'new Ed'. Add in Ogmore falling back to Labour, and it's a two-seat majority!


Now with a majority, and with more 'Milibandite' MPs on his side with the new lot, Ed Miliband can get more left-wing policies through. The trans rights fight is had again because now, he feels, he can win the damn thing and narrowly does. What can go wrong?


Many of the new 'metro mayors' in 2017 go Tory or Lib Dem, is one thing. People are making note of the rising crime rates and are blaming Labour for it, is another - most of this is inherited issues and Labour is working to fix it, but all people see is stabbed kids. The collapse of the Stormont government as the DUP has their final tantrum is another, now Westminster has to take over many functions but can never take too many for fear of 'direct rule'. Trump's mess across the world forces Britain to make difficult choices and Miliband, both due to politics and personality, is unable to keep Trump on side (and doesn't want to if he's honest). With America cooling on the special relationship, Britain has to look to the EU and now the eurosceptics are unhappy & surging again.


Then Grenfell Tower catches fire. The death toll is obscene - there's flammable cladding all over Britain. The government commits to removing it, which is a huge cost and means when the NHS inevitably has a bad winter, there's no spare money to bung at it. A small tax rise is necessary. That goes down like cold sick.


When a former Russian spy and his daughter are poisoned in a chemical weapon attack in spring of 2018, the blame goes to... Miliband, for look how weak he's left us, eh? Eh?? The government eventually identifies the Russian agents who did it and has friendly nations across Europe kick spies out, but America is "not convinced" by the evidence. Britain takes a harder line now on Russia (they've been suspecting Putin's hand behind the surge of pro-UKIP, anti-Europe internet propaganda for a while) and that's a whole extra thing to juggle.


By autumn of 2018, deaths and resignations have cost Miliband his majority. And with Britain committed to opposing Russia, to fixing the NHS, to climate change action, well, he can't handle this as a minority or in supply-and-confidence:


2018-2019: Ed Miliband (Labour) in coalition with Tim Farron (Liberal Democrat)


The lure of power wins Farron over, believing he can avoid Clegg's mistakes. Labour has to agree to some harder fiscal rules, restraining what it can do, and some business-friendly rules, and generally is shifting back towards Blair's way; they also agree to a referendum on proportional representation. To get twenty-one MPs, Miliband has to go with it. The left matters about betrayal (so, in fact, do some of the centre-right who shifted to Farron...).


In exchange, Miliband gets the Fixed Term Parliament Act removed. He's going to make use of that, if he can.


A huge crisis hits in December 2018, one Miliband hoped never to have to deal with: Trump withdraws uniliaterally from Syria when ISIS is still a threat, and Miliband has to send soldiers in with Macron to replace them. The public mood is mixed, as ISIS need to be stopped but how long will British soldiers be Over There, being shot at? A large swathe of Syria is now Anglo-French responsibility and that means more conflict with Russia & damaged relations with Turkey, who don't like Britain and France keeping the Kurds propped up.


In 2019, Turkey threatens that it will just go in to Kurd-held Syria whether there's European soldiers there or not. A four-day crisis takes place.


The end of December sees both a great success and a great failure for Miliband. The success is when he and other European powers helps Brazilian President Haddad and other Latin American nations put down the various fires across the Amazon, and commit to a multinational agreement to protect and replant the rainforest. Everyone goes into the COP25 meeting optimistic (until Australia catches fire), with big proposals of what to do and new change.


The failure is the NATO summit, where Trump and Erdogan both are Very Unhappy and are making demands for change the other members won't wear. Things deteriorate and Turkey announces if things don't change, it's leaving NATO. Trump starts making threatening noises of his own. Macron has plans for this, and Miliband's dragged along - Christmas dawns with Britain hearing our entire security and defence set-up might be getting changed.


Farron's getting cold feet. He knows - he's too involved - this isn't Eddie's fault, he knows something had to be done, he knows all that but support's starting to go back to the Tories. He can't afford being stuck with this government.


The problem is, not all of his party want to go - certainly not Business Minister Jo Swinson. So 2019 ends with a Liberal Democrat internal conflict and leadership struggle, which means...


2020-20xx: Ed Miliband (Labour) in coalition with Jo Swinson (Liberal Democrat)


His majority has shrunk by two seats as two of the more right-wing Lib Dems defect to the Tories. This is not what he needs as NATO reforms to make up for the loss of Turkey - and, as they expected, for America to start withdrawing. A huge British deployment is made in the Baltics and Syria both, as a "don't you dare" gesture at Russia. How long will they be there? Miliband doesn't know.


Now he just hopes he can make it to COP26 in London.

 

Next week we will look at some of the twists to the above format that other writers have produced.

 
 

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