For those amongst us who are lovers of history, counterfactuals can be a bit of a hit or miss. They rely on a hypothetical analysis of history that’s focused on theory rather than fact. For politicos, counterfactuals present a fantastic opportunity to rethink and re-strategise. As a lover of both, this book hits the sweet spot.
Impeccably researched and thoroughly thought out, each chapter of this book takes the reader through on a separate journey where one small possible change alters the course of events.
It is hard to imagine a world where Winston Churchill did not lead Britain through the war, but according to the first chapter had his father not died in 1895, that is exactly what could have happened. Chapter 10 theorises that the dropping out of Ross Perot from the 1992 presidential election could have ushered in President Gore, President Jeb Bush and President Hillary Clinton. Chapter 12 explores the Eric Joyce theory, when the non-occurrence of the infamous 2012 punch-up may have led to a victory for Remain.
Many chapters explore the result of the 2016 referendum. This is, of course, unsurprising. After all, what counterfactual would be complete without an analysis of potentially the most significant political turning point of the 21st century thus far. Covid also gets multiple mentions, and even it’s own chapter.
The book is also full of humour, which, though it is on occasion niche, is a literary flare that invariably adds to the entertainment value. Teddy Robinson’s chapter on the events following the hypothetical passing of May’s third Brexit deal is particularly colourful. Yet there is no doubt that the crowning chapter is that which the book is named after. Iain Dale outdoes himself in the final chapter. Written with the humour and insight that can only be attributed to a political veteran like Mr Dale, the chapter rounds off the book with a very shocking ending.
The book is obviously not perfect. Some chapters are clearly inferior to others, often due to less believable hypotheticals. In chapter eight it is argued that John Lennon surviving his shooting in 1980 could have eventually led him to become the eighth Labour Prime Minister, following the 2015 General Election. Some chapters are overflowing with facts and those less knowledgeable of history may occasionally find themselves struggling to keep up. Chapters three and five, both focusing on Ireland, can at times be hard to follow if you do not know the complex history of the island in the 20th century.
Nevertheless, it is a fascinating book that shows how sometimes the outcome relies on luck, and other times of one small choice. Hindsight is 20/20, but perhaps those of us who try to create a different future might do well to see what happens when we create a different past.
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