The Last Post: Chapter One


Johnson B+W

“The Last Post” is a counter-factual, or “alternate history” scenario. It is published in  weekly instalments here on Things Can Only Get Better. It is a work of fiction, of speculation, and of a certain amount of wish fulfilment. All quotes and references are “in-universe”.

The Preview post can be read here.

Chapter One: Brown Bounce (28/4/2010-5/5/2010)

“I don’t see politics as one or two people just making or delivering announcements – it’s also about winning public support and the public enthusiasm. You’ve got to win public support.”

– Gordon Brown

Rochdale Observer 28-04-2010



Gordon Brown engaged in a spirited and good-natured discussion with local residents in Rochdale today as he took part in a walkabout on the eve of the crucial final leaders’ debate. Voters were able to get up and close with the Prime Minister, who robustly defended Labour’s record in government.

One such local resident was lifelong Labour voter Mrs Duffy – whose encounter with Mr Brown was entirely accidental. Mrs Duffy challenged the Prime Minister over education, tax, pensions and immigration. She expressed a strong concern over the future of the winter fuel allowance, along with other pensioner tax credits. Mr Brown affirmed his continued support for the subsidy and offered advice to Mrs Duffy on her eligibility for pension tax credits. The two parted on good terms, joking about Mrs Duffy’s symbolic decision to wear red. Mrs Duffy said that she was intending to vote Labour via postal vote.[1]

Mr Brown later returned to Manchester’s Radisson hotel to resume debate preparation. The final leaders’ debate will take place tomorrow in Birmingham and will focus on the issues of the economy and taxation.

Credit: Sun

Brown wins round a sceptical Mrs Duffy. The Rochdale gran had only popped out to buy bread but ended up challenging a PM.



27-04-2010: Con 33, Lab 29, Lib 28

28-04-2010: Con 34, Lab 27, Lib 31


Sky News 29-04-2010



 The Prime Minister today moved the election focus on to the economy – one of his traditional strong points and the subject of tonight’s third and final televised leader’s debate.

Speaking at a factory in Halesowen, in the West Midlands, the Prime Minister said “Today I want to talk about the future of the economy.” He said he would try to keep interest rates low and also “move forward with growth and jobs” this year.

Mr Brown was criticised by a member of staff as he toured the Thompson welding machinery factory. He remarked to Jayne Shinwell, a contract development worker, that the firm was doing well in China.

The 40-year-old mother-of-two responded: “Our company’s doing well everywhere, but I think it’s in spite of you.”

Conservative leader David Cameron, visiting a children’s hospital in Birmingham, was also looking ahead to tonight’s TV debate, saying “I want to try to get across how we can build a stronger, better economy.”

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg subjected to an angry challenge to his employment plans by a college student.[2]


“We are the only party saying that the banks should be paying a 10% levy on their profits”

– Nick Clegg, 29-04-2010




Britain’s leading economics thinktank yesterday accused all three main parties – and particularly Labour – for failing to come clean over the scale of tax rises, welfare cuts and spending retrenchment necessary after the election.

In an attack on the “vague” plans sketched out by Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, the Institute for Fiscal Studies also claimed the Tories were planning the sharpest spending cuts since the second world war, while the Labour and Lib Dem spending slowdowns amounted to the biggest retrenchment since the IMF crisis in the mid-1970s.[3]


reuters uk




Polls declared Labour leader Gordon Brown the winner of tge final TV debate before next week’s British election, giving him a boost going into the closing stages of the campaign.[4]

A Yougov poll for the top-selling Sun newspaper asking respondents who they judged had won the debate put Brown on 36 percent, Conservative leader David Cameron on 33 percent, and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg on 30 percent.

final debate




Battling on his traditionally strong turf, Prime Minister Gordon Brown was widely seen by pundits to have won a surprise upset victory in yesterday’s final leaders debate.

A confident and upbeat Brown, likely riding high after several days of mostly positive meet-and-greet campaign events, gave a strong opening speech and held his own for most of the debate. Brown called out David Cameron on his ambiguity on future cuts to public spending, successfully channelling public apprehension and exposing a weakness in Cameron’s policy detail. The Tory leader, struggling to both meet raised expectations and defend against an insurgent Liberal Democrat campaign, found that most of his prepared attack lines failed to hit their target. Nick Clegg continued to promote a more optimistic alternative, however it was the Prime Minister who easily looked by far the most statesmanlike.[5]

The most recent ICM poll, commissioned by the Sunday Telegraph, puts the parties on Con 36, Lab 30, Lib 27.


DailyTelegraph 30-04-2010


A group of 55 entrepreneurs have signed a letter saying that a coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems would be bad for business.

The letter, published in the Times, argues that a Brown-Clegg partnership would be totally disastrous for British business, for British competitiveness and for British jobs.[6]


Yougov 01-05-2010: Con 35, Lab 30, Lib 27

02-05-2010: Con 34, Lab 31, Lib 29

03-05-2010: Con 35, Lab 30, Lib 28[7]




Citizens have votes. Newspapers do not. However, if the Guardian had a vote in the 2010 general election it would be cast enthusiastically for whichever party would best enable electoral reform. It would be cast, head over heart, for a Labour or Liberal Democrat candidate so that this election may be the last where people are forced to vote tactically…

Proportional representation – while not a panacea – would at last give this country what it has lacked for so long: a parliament that is a true mirror of this pluralist nation, not an increasingly unrepresentative two-party distortion of it. The Guardian has supported proportional representation for more than a century. In all that time there has never been a better opportunity than now to put this subject firmly among the nation’s priorities…”[8]


“The final days of the campaign were in many ways Gordon’s finest. Once again he showed his extraordinary resilience and reserves of stamina, as his inner strength took over. With the debates behind him, and also perhaps also because he felt the result was now simply beyond his control, he sounded liberated. His message never really changed, but he started to make the big speeches that allowed his passion to come through.”[9]

Peter Mandelson, 2013. The Third Man.


guardian 04-05-2010


citizens uk

Gordon Brown dramatically threw off the shackles of a resurgent campaign to deliver one of the most passionate speeches he has ever given, leaving even disillusioned cabinet members stunned by his sudden display of fervour. To several standing ovations, he told the Citizens UK conference: “As you fight for fairness, you will always find in me a friend, a partner and a brother”.


“Our shared belief is that wealth must serve more than the wealthy. That prosperity must serve more than the simply prosperous. That good fortune must help more than those who are just fortunate. And your movement is like every other great movement in history, it is built on moral convictions.

“First hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands of people they say. Inequality should not be woven into the fabric of our lives. People of compassion and good will should never journey without hope. And no injustice should endure for ever”.[10]

Gordon Brown, 03-05-2010, Citizens UK event.


“I urge Lib Dem voters to bite their lip and back us.”

Ed Balls, 04-05-2010, New Statesman interview.


“In the Conservative –Lib Dem battlegrounds a ‘Vote Clegg, get Brown’ message could hardly be more damaging, given the desire for change and the deep-seated hostility to the Prime Minister amongst many voters.”[11]

David Laws, 2010. 20 Days in May: The Birth of the Coalition

DailyTelegraph 05-05-2010



Daily Mail05-05-2010


“Scottish and Welsh MPs will be able to hold England to ransom in a hung Parliament, experts are warning.

“As fears grew of a constitutional crisis in the event of an unclear election result, David Cameron said it would not be ‘democratic’ for the Lib Dems to prop up a failed Labour government…”[12]


 – An Election Broadcast from the Hung Parliament Party


Metro 05-05-2010



… attacked what he said was Mr Clegg’s claim to the ‘kingmaker’ role in the event of a hung parliament, adding: ‘It is arrogant of Cameron to have this sense of entitlement of what he is going to do after Thursday and it is arrogant of Mr Clegg to decide who he is going to pick and choose [as prime minister].[13]

To be continued…

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3 Responses to The Last Post: Chapter One

  1. Nash says:


    Chapter 1
    1.1 – “For want of a Sky lapel microphone…” In This Timetime (TTL), just as in ours (OTL), the Brown-Duffy encounter is surrounded by a pack of journalists. Without the secret “bigoted woman” remarks the incident is only reported by local media and doesn’t dominate the entire election narrative for the next half-week and further derail the Labour campaign.

    1.2 – Absent “Bigot-gate”, election news remains focused on wider issues and the debates.

    1.3 – This is historical (OTL), but never really captured widespread attention before the election.

    1.4 – Minus the Duffy crisis, given adequate time to fully prepare, speaking on familiar turf, and beginning to channel the fire of his subsequent Citizen’s UK speech; Brown has a much better performance in this debate.

    1.5 – Nonetheless this is a very positive spin on a narrow victory by the Guardian.

    1.6 – Historical, but irrelevant in hindsight in OTL.

    1.7 – Labour are up by 1-2 percentage points on OTL; a result of an already narrowing Tory lead, plus a better debate performance by Brown and without the damage of Bigot-gate.

    1.8 – Here the Guardian, already late to make an endorsement, decide to hedge their bets and recommend only anti-Tory tactical voting. With Labour looking slightly more secure, an outright endorsement of the Liberal Democrats is less forthcoming. The OTL Headline was “The Liberal Moment Has Come.”

    1.9 – This is word-for-word OTL, Mandelson’s own words.

    1.10 – Again, OTL. Possibly the best speech of Brown’s political career.

    1.11 – OTL

    1.12 – OTL. Classic Mail hysteria.

    1.13 – OTL. A comment that might come back to bite Mr Johnson…

  2. Jamey Beery says:

    Wow! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a completely different topic but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!

  3. Pingback: The Last Post: Chapter Two | Things Can Only Get Better

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