Today I finished reading The Prime Ministers Who Never Were... a collection of counterfactual history essays imagining what the Governments of people who never became Prime Minister might have been like.
Full disclosure: I love alternative history. Some might ask what's the point, but I find it is often quite an illuminating intellectual exercise which helps you see the effects of what actually happened in a different way. Also they can be extremely fun.
The book is actually very interesting, with examples from the early 20th century right up to date. Whilst it's obviously very much influenced by the current political scene today (lots of coalitions and the Alternative Vote gets a mention in just about every other story), there's plenty of interesting perspectives on the what-might-have-beens. Some, such as Phil Woolas' entry on J. R. Clynes, read more like love letters than real counterfactuals whilst others, such as regarding John Smith, leave you wishing the real thing (Tony Blair in this case) was the counterfactual!
It got me thinking about the various counterfactuals we'll be able to come up with all too soon regarding the 2010 election and it's aftermath. The Lib-Lab Coalition, the Tory minority Government, Prime Minister Clegg. It makes me giddy!
I think the greatest "what if" of the 2010 election is what would've happened if Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats had remained in opposition afterwards and spurned any advances from the other parties. Would the country have hailed Clegg as an honourable man or have disparaged him for failing to cease the moment and do something positive rather than sit back and carp from the sidelines? We'll never know...
Anyway... read the book, it's fabulous.
If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist