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May 13, 2007



"rigorous social science": you excel yourself.

chris y

The two obvious counterfactuals are; 1. John Smith doesn't die and becomes PM in 1997; 2. Brown has the photos of Blair, and gets the job when Smith dies, becoming PM in 1997.

In terms of domestic policy, I suspect the only significant difference would relate to the NHS. Smith would have adopted a defensive strategy which would have left the service in just as much financial difficulty as it is now, because although he wouldn't have been suckered for massive IT money sinks, nor would he have been able to find a coherent approach to the allocation of scarce resources. Brown might have been equal to finding a more radical strategy such as he appears to be advocating now; however, you form a cabinet from the political cadre you have, not the one you might like, and I don't know who would have been capable of implementing it for him.

On education, taxation, trade and human rights, I doubt if we'd have seen any difference, given the global political climate.

Internationally, neither Smith nor Brown would have been instinctive grandstanders like Blair, and Britain would probably have pulled out of Iraq about the same time as Spain.

All in all, not very exciting, as counterfacuals go, but not being in Iraq would be nice.


Brown would have modernised the civil service and local government, thus bringing significant improvements to the quality and efficiency of public service delivery. Whether the Commons would have been more effective, giving us all more confidence in the political process, is something I hope others will comment on - of late, the Lords has had to shoulder a heavy burden.

Mark Wadsworth

"not being in Iraq would be nice"

I'm sure there are 16 million Iraqis who'd fully agree on that one!

Phil Edwards

Could it be, then, that these judgments - of both supporters and opponents - are motivated more by tribalism than by rigorous social science?

Could it be that Chris is a secret admirer of Sir John Junor?

I think we should be told.


Given the influence of Bush on Blair's later prime-ministership, you could always think about what might have happened if there had been a Blair/Gore alliance, or even Blair/Kerry.

A Gore presidency might have helped us to avoid some of the more authoritarian excesses of Blair's time in power.

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