Stones placed by the grave of John Smith on Iona
It's twenty years ago today since the death of John Smith, and like many people I'm wondering just how different things would have been for the Labour Party and the country had he survived. There's no doubt he would have become Prime Minister, and would have pursued some of Blair's policies, especially the use of private investment to build hospitals and schools, although the likelihood is there would have been tighter controls over this. Like Blair, he would have modernised the party, and reduced the influence of the Unions, but not see them as an irritant, as his successor did. I think there would have been less spin, less froth, and more substance to his policies, and perhaps a more intellectually rigorous approach to doing things.
There would have been none of the Shakespearean rivalry between Prime Minister and Chancellor that ended up poisoning the party, and none of the glitzy sleaziness that became all-pervading towards the end of Labour's time in office.
He almost certainly wouldn't have been self-deluded about our role in policing the new world order, or been dazzled by the neo-cons in Washington. He'd have kept his distance from Dubya, and not ride into war on the back of that idiot's coat-tails.
Unfortunately, history is littered with what-ifs. I think it's fair to say though, that had he not died, the country would be in less of a mess than it actually is.