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President Gore...: and Other Things That Never Happened [Hardcover]

Duncan Brack
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Politico's Publishing Ltd (25 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842751727
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842751725
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,036,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My day job is at the communications agency Blue Rubicon and I am also a Visiting Lecturer at City University in the Journalism Department.

I was previously Head of Digital at MHP Communications and before that Head of Innovations at the Liberal Democrats where I ran the party's 2001 and 2005 internet general election campaigns. I was also Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, the most widely-read Liberal Democrat blog in the UK, until 2013.

I am a member of the Open Rights Group's Advisory Council, on the editorial board of the Journal of Liberal History and I edit Liberal Democrat Newswire, the monthly email newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

During the Leveson Inquiry, Andrew Marr called me "influential [and] highly respected political commentator".

The 2011 Total Politics blog awards put me at number 20 in the list of UK political bloggers, ahead of people such as Fraser Nelson and John Rentoul, and the Daily Telegraph listed me as one of the 50 most influential Liberal Democrats. I was a judge for Campaigns & Elections magazine's 2012 Reed Awards.

I am a Fellow of the RSA and have a history PhD from the University of York, looking at nineteenth century elections. I was a member of the Electoral Commission's Political Parties Panel 2000-2009.

I've appeared on many media outlets, including BBC Breakfast, BBC2, BBC News 24, Newsnight, Sky News, The Westminster Hour, The World at One, Radio 5 Live and LBC, and spoken at many events and conferences on politics, electoral law and internet matters. I've had pieces published in The Guardian, The Independent, New Statesman, Parliamentary Brief and elsewhere, including academic journals.

After working in the university and then IT sectors, I started working for the Liberal Democrats in 2000. I've twice run the national Liberal Democrat general election internet campaign (2001 and 2005) and was the Campaign Manager in Hornsey & Wood Green 1998-2005, during which time we went from zero councillors to 16 and also gained the Parliamentary seat with the election of Lynne Featherstone in 2005 with a 15% swing from Labour.

Product Description

Synopsis

It is not only Al Gore who is left to ponder what might have been...The day on which President Al Gore was assured his landslide 2004 re-election is widely held to be 30 August 2001. For it was on that day that his Republican critics organised a press conference to claim that he was playing politics with national security. The fateful events of 11 September 2001 rebounded on them so overwhelmingly that just two weeks later Gore was guaranteed victory in the next election. Of course, his global healthcare initiative was a masterstroke, and the boom created by his broadband-for-all investment got even his critics joking that he really did invent the internet...The march of history can often be diverted by the smallest of events. What would have happened, for example, if the Great Reform Act of 1832 had lost, rather than survived, its crucial second reading by one vote the previous year? What if Archduke Franz Ferdinand's driver had been informed of his new itinery and had not driven down the street where Gavrilo Princip was waiting, pistol in hand, on 28 June 1914? What if the Scots had voted for devolution in 1979 (as, in reality, they did)?

In this book a collection of distinguished commentators, academics and journalists examine a series of political what-ifs, when very little needed to have happened differently for the outcome to have been transformed, sometimes out of all recognition. Among them are Peter Riddell, who analyses the consequences of Britain's entry into the Common Market in 1957; Robert Waller, who asks whether the Labour Party would ever have got off the ground if their 1903 pact with the Liberals had not been agreed; and John Gittings, who considers the potential outcome of the meeting between Mao Zedong and President Roosevelt which Mao requested in 1945. The individual contributors are: David Broyle, Duncan Brack, R. J. Briand, Simon Buckby, Matt Cole, Byron Criddle, Matt Garnett, John Gittings, Richard S. Grayson, Rab Houston, David Hughes, Tony Little, York Membery, Jon Mendelsohn, John Nichols, Mark Pack, Jaime Reynolds, Peter Riddell, Helen Szamuely and Robert Waller. Praise for Politico's first book of political counterfactual, 'Prime Minister Portillo': 'A delicious book of 'What Ifs...'

A host of journalists, academics and politicos offer a tantalising glimpse into how things might have been, for better or worse, if fortune had smile differently.' - "New Statesman." 'A stellar examination that will appeal to both political junkies and the plain curious.' - "Good Book Guide."


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing sequel to "Prime Minister Portillo" 15 Oct 2006
By Marshall Lord TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"President Gore and other things that never happened" is a collection of 19 essays each of which postulates one change to 19th or 20th century political history between 1831 and 2000, and looks at how a different sequence of events might have followed.

Counterfactual history is a rapidly growing market. Both "alternative history" fiction such as most of the novels of Harry Turtledove, and slightly more serious works of historical analysis of what might have happened, such as Cowley's "What If" or Niall Ferguson's "Virtual History" have been very popular.

Most works of counterfactual history have concentrated on what might have happened if wars had gone differently. "President Gore" and the previous volume, "Prime Minister Portillo and other things that never happened" are unusual in that they concentrate on political decisions or elections which might have gone differently.

Twelve of the essays in this book look at British political history, from what would have happened if the Great Reform Bill of 1831 had fallen instead of passing by one vote. The other seven look at world history, from the first world war - what if Gavrilo Princip had missed Archduke Franz Ferdinand - to the title essay on what might have happened if Al Gore had become U.S. President.

Anyone who buys this book for the title essay alone may be a little disappointed, especially if they are expecting it to concentrate on how Al Gore might have reached the White House.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By dewi
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having enjoyed the first of these books, 'Prime Minister Portillo And Other Things that Never Happened', I looked forward to this one as well. As with the first one, you do need an interest in politics and British politics especially, but it can be very enjoyable if you do to play along with the 'what if?' way of writing history. As with the Portillo book, it is at its best when the authors make a whole-hearted attempt to imagine a different world and at its weakest when they take the concept a little too far - would Yasser Arafat really have become a latter day Nelson Mandela if Yitzhak Rabin had survived assassination? - or even the title essay. However, it is worth it for the intriguing chapters and ones - such as devolution for Scotland in 1979 rather than 1997 - which were very real possibilities. Finally, the innocuously-titled 'What if John Major had become Chief Whip in 1989?' is the highlight, where a retired Lord Major picks up a book entitled 'Prime Minister Blair and Other Things that Never Happened' and reads about the problems of the Kinnock government of 1991-96 and you realise that it is perhaps more believable than what did actually happen in those years!

If you enjoyed the earlier book, then this is worth a read. If you are new to the genre, then read Prime Minister Portillo first and only move on to this if you have the enthusiasm for this way of describing politics.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing sequel to "Prime Minister Portillo", 24 Mar 2007
By Marshall Lord - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"President Gore and other things that never happened" is a collection of 19 essays each of which postulates one change to 19th or 20th century political history between 1831 and 2000, and looks at how a different sequence of events might have followed.

Counterfactual history is a rapidly growing market. Both "alternative history" fiction such as most of the novels of Harry Turtledove, and slightly more serious works of historical analysis of what might have happened, such as Cowley's "What If" or Niall Ferguson's "Virtual History" have been very popular.

Most works of counterfactual history have concentrated on what might have happened if wars had gone differently. "President Gore" and the previous volume, "Prime Minister Portillo and other things that never happened" are unusual in that they concentrate on political decisions or elections which might have gone differently.

Twelve of the essays in this book look at British political history, starting with what would have happened if the Great Reform Bill of 1831 had fallen instead of passing by one vote. The other seven look at world history, from the first world war - what if Gavrilo Princip had missed Archduke Franz Ferdinand - to the title essay on what might have happened if Al Gore had become U.S. President.

Anyone who buys this book for the title essay alone may be disappointed, especially if they are expecting it to concentrate on how Al Gore might have reached the White House. About one page of the essay is a retrospective of how the Democrats supposedly followed a more subtle and less obviously partisan strategy in respect of the Florida ballot in November 2000. Most of the essay is devoted to the subsequent battles in congress.

In particular, the main thrust of the narrative is how the Republicans might have totally blown the 2004 election by accusing President Gore of exaggerating the middle east terrorist threat a few days before the 9/11 "twin towers" attacks. In my view this is one of the weakest essays in the book, and one of several in which the contributor indulges in fantasies about what he or she would have liked to have happen rather than a true "what if" which objectively works through what would have been the most likely outcome of a given situation.

So buying this book for the title, especially if you are one of those who don't like George W Bush very much and want to read about how he might have been prevented from becoming President, may not be the best use of your money.

Having said that, if you would derive great pleasure from reading an essay which makes Al Gore sound like Roosevelt, Socrates and Nelson Mandela rolled into one, and has congressional Republican leader Tom Delay make a complete fool of himself, then you should indeed buy this book for the title story.

The contributors cover an eclectic range of views and backgrounds, but not as wide as "Prime Minister Portillo." Where the first book in the series had a very good mix of people from the right, left, and centre of the political spectrum, the UK contributors to "President Gore" are predominantly Liberal Democrats or historians specialising in that part of the spectrum. Perhaps in consequence, "President Gore" has a slight bias towards the centre - this may sound like a contradiction in terms but it is the case.

(NB - in Britain the word "liberal" usually means the exact opposite of what it often means in the USA. E.g. "Economic liberalism" means market-based, conservative economics, not socialist or planned economics. And a "Liberal Democrat" is a member of a political party which is usually regarded as being in the political centre, NOT someone on the left wing of the more left wing party.)

However, where "President Gore" is good, it is very good indeed, both for the quality of the analysis and the entertainment value.

In readability, this book scores over its predecessor in two respects: there is more and better humour, and that humour is less prone to "in jokes" and more accessible to most people with an above average interest in politics. I found one or two of the essays to be literally "laugh out loud" funny, and would have considered the book worth buying for the amusement given me by one particular essay alone. Despite its somewhat boring title, the essay "What if John Major had become Chief Whip in 1987" was both hysterically funny, and constructed a counterfactual history which the essay convincingly argued was often more plausible than the course of events we Brits actually lived through. There are some amusing hints about how the course of American history might have changed at the same time.

Since two thirds of the essays reflect counterfactual British histories, and most of the remaining third reflect possible variations on events in Europe, this book is most likely to appeal to readers with an interest in both British and European history. There are three essays covering other parts of the world, specifically the US, Israel, and China; e.g. the title essay, one about Sino-US relations ("What if Mao had met Roosevelt?") and one about Israel ("What if Yitzhak Rabin had not been assassinated in 1995?").

If you have an interest in counterfactual history, or in 19th and 20th century British and European political history, or both, you will probably greatly enjoy this book. If you don't have either of those specialist interests, leave it alone.
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