What if Gordon Brown had narrowly scraped victory in the 2010 General Election and was still Prime Minister?
Would there even be a referendum on Scottish independence? Would Gordon Brown have given in so easily to Alex Salmond? And would the Scottish Labour Party have escaped what appear now to be its terminal death throes?
Crucially, would the Scottish economy be in better shape not being ruled by the “dead hand” of a Tory Chancellor? More jobs, more growth, not just more austerity.
There are, of course, no what-ifs in real history. Gordon Brown, our greatest failure as Prime Minister in 200 years, lost the election, and lost the prime ministerial prize he had devoted his life to seizing. But the questions themselves are interesting because they mark how far the path of history has already changed by the fall of the great Scottish Thrawn King of New Labour just three years ago.
We are all still living in the echo of the fall of this great man who combined many admirable moral qualities and just as many moral flaws.
The Edinburgh Fringe is sometimes regarded by the citizens of Edinburgh as nothing more than narcissistic English navel gazing. Artsy-fartsy drivel.
But who the Leader is, and who we choose to be the Leader, is a perennial and urgent question for all of us.
And that is why I decided to write a play for this year’s Fringe, The Confessions of Gordon Brown, to explore why Gordon Brown failed so badly in the office of Prime Minister and what are the “dark arts” of the men on the telly who claim the right to rule over us.
Political Kingship does matter.
I was born and grew up in Edinburgh but have spent a lot of my life reporting on wars, terrorism and conflict. I have seen many different kinds of leaders from Israeli spy chiefs, terrorist warlords and all sorts of politicians.
The countries and the languages changed but real leaders always seemed to have a natural authority, to be at ease with themselves, as they commanded other men to do their bidding.
On the road I learned one universal truth. Real leaders only really sell one thing – hope. That tomorrow, however long that day takes to come, will be better under his command.
Being at ease in power is not a quality we associate with Gordon Brown and The Confessions tries very hard to provide the answer as to why he failed to convince. The Confessions is a candid portrait of what it takes to knife your way to the top and how Gordon Brown’s dream of power went wrong. A tragic satire for our time. To the surprise of most of the audience, it is also quite funny.
Was it just fate or was it that he was so very Scottish that militated against Gordon Brown in office and turned the southern English electorate against him?
Scotland is at a historic moment as the arguments range back and forth over the rightness and wrongs of independence. But I am after a lifetime of reporting on other’s people countries convinced that the final vote of the Scottish people will not be determined by the conflicting economic arguments but on a much more simple and profound basis.
Do we believe in the new Leader? And do we believe in his promises that our future will be brighter and better under his command as he takes forward into that unknown future? Do we believe in his version of hope?
The coming referendum in a very real way is also absolutely a vote of confidence in the First Minister Alex Salmond.
And the fate of the nation, and the fate of Alex Salmond, will be determined by that outcome.
The Confessions of Gordon Brown by Kevin Toolis runs daily from July 31-August 26 at the Pleasance Courtyard, www.pleasance.co.uk/edinburgh/events/the-confessions-of-gordon-brown