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POD Cast. Part 1. 12 October 1984

By David Flin

Brighton, 12 October 1984.

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

This is the start of a new series. This is an Alternate History forum, and SLP publishes books about all sorts of alternate history. Some have subtle Points of Departure (POD), such as UKIP being given a platform in the leaders debates for the 2015 UK General Election. Others have obvious PODs, such as Germany launching the planned invasion of Britain during WW2, Operation Sealion.

But all of alternate history involves a change. That’s rather the point, after all.

Some changes don’t make that difference to history.

To take an example, it’s hard to get the Trent Crisis of 1861 changed in such a way as to make a major difference to the American Civil War (ACW). The British Government had no incentive to do anything other than minimise the crisis. The best outcome of a war with the USA, for Britain, is nothing changing. There’s nothing to gain from a successful war.

However, were the war to go badly for Britain, Canada is at risk.

On the other side, the USA is busy fighting the rebellious Confederacy, and making heavy weather of it. The last thing that it needs is to get involved in a shooting war with the most powerful navy in the world. Especially over the issue of imposing a blockade on the Confederacy.

Both sides have every incentive to calm things down and no incentive to take a hard-line approach.

Those are boring PODs. “Something changes, but it has little effect,” doesn’t make for interesting timelines, except in the hands of a very skillful author.

There are also PODs where a change can have a dramatic change in how things develop from that point. An example of this would be the Brighton Bomb of 12 October, 1984. The IRA planted a bomb at the Conservative Party conference, with the intention of killing the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. In OTL, the bomb exploded, killing 5 people and injuring 34, some seriously.

If the bomb had succeeded in achieving the aim of the IRA, that of killing Thatcher, then there are any number of plausible consequences resulting from that. Britain could become outraged and impose a heavy reaction. Or, as this was in the wake of the Miner’s Strike, a divisive time in British politics, it could have led to those who strongly opposed her cheering the news.

In OTL, there were a number of individuals who publicly expressed the view that it was a shame the bomb didn’t kill Thatcher. Whether they would have retained that view in the event of it happening, or if the statements were simply an expression of their dislike for Thatcher’s style of governance is one of those unknowable situations.

The consequences resulting from a successful assassination of Thatcher are unpredictable.

Those are two examples of what have been described as resilient and brittle PODs respectively. The first type is, for Alternate History, pretty boring. The second type, however, can be fascinating.

And that’s what this series of articles will be about. Looking into possible consequences of specific brittle PODs.

It will also, where applicable, indicate AH stories in which that POD has been used.

By pure coincidence – and if you believe that, I’ve a bridge to sell to you – I’ve written a book that has as a POD Thatcher being killed in that specific bombing. Six East End Boys picks up events thirty years after the POD, and rather glosses over what happened in that interim period, because the focus of the book is on the setting 30 years later.

London's Burning.

Six East End Boys, by David Flin.

It is a POD that hasn’t received a lot of AH attention, and one that arguably deserves greater attention for modern, UK-centric, political AH stories. As I have indicated, there are many ways things could go.

It is likely to solidify calls for taking firmer action against the IRA, which could stiffen Republican sentiment in Northern Ireland; it could easily lead to additonal violence in Northern Ireland with Loyalists taking revenge, leading to Republicans taking revenge, leading to...

... leading to violence probably in excess of even that of the mid 1970s.

How will the sympathies for the IRA that had been present in Irish areas of Boston be affected?

How will the Republic of Ireland respond? In OTL, the IRA was, at this time, a proscribed organisation in the Republic, and it is probable that the Government of the Republic would take a dim view of a proscribed organisation killing a head of government of a foreign power in its name. This might impact Ireland’s standing within the EU: not expulsion. Curiously, the EU doesn’t have a mechanism for expulsion, but withholding of funds if the Irish Government isn’t active in carrying out a purge on the IRA might be on the cards.

As for the effects on the British political scene, those are literally incalculable. The Labour Party at the time was very unpopular, struggling to recover from its nadir of 1983, when it was about as popular as Bubonic Plague. There were enough people on the left of the party who would have applauded the murder that the party would take another huge hit to its reputation (that was, at this time, already in tatters). It could prove to be the rebirth of the SDP/Liberal alliance, which had been doing well up until the Falklands War of 1982.

Then there’s the question of what happens to the Conservative Party. Thatcher was, at this time, an unassailable leader, but the Party was split between what were termed the “Wets” and the “Dries.” Thatcher was famously dismissive of the “Wets”; whether the loss of Thatcher would have shifted the balance back towards the Wets, or whether her becoming – in effect – a martyr at the height of her popularity would strengthen the hand of the Dries.

And that’s just for a start.

That’s the sort of thing you can expect from this series.

Comment on this article HERE.


David Flin is a little puzzled as to the length and range of his publications, from the above-mentioned Six East End Boys, and its sequel Tales from Section D, the whimsical Christmas With Sergeant Frosty, and the educational Nitpicker's Guide to Ancient Military. He's obviously got too much time on his hands.


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