"Prime Minister Boris" is the third in a series of collection of political counterfactuals edited by Iain Dale and/or Duncan Brack which consists of
1) "Prime Minister Portillo and Other Things that Never Happened: A Collection of Political Counterfactuals
2) "President Gore...: and Other Things That Never Happened
3) This book, "Prime Minister Boris and other things which never happened."
Strictly speaking the 22 essays in this book consist of 20 political counterfactuals and two whimsical "future histories" - the last two essays are "What if Ken Livingston wins the 2012 London Mayor Elections and "What if Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister in 2016."
The twenty counterfactuals in this book each postulate one change or adjustment to 20th century political history, and look at how a different sequence of events might have followed. The vast majority examine the results of an alternative event in British political history but there are two exceptions, which are a brilliant essay by Christian Walker entitled "What if the coup against Gorbachov in 1990 had succeeded?" and David Bean's "What if Hillary Clinton had secured the Democratic nomination in 2008?"
The majority of these essays look at things which very nearly happened. For example, when HMS Hampshire was torpedoed and sunk in 1916, with Lord Kitchener among the casualties, both Lord George and John Maynard Keynes had very nearly also been on board. If they too had drowned it could have had massive consequences for the economic history of the 20th century, as David Boyle's opening essay points out.
Few people today realise how very close Britain came in 1918 to adopting either the AV system which was resoundingly defeated in a referendum in May 2011, or the similar but more proportional STV system, or a mixture of both. Psethologist Robert Waller uses this as his starting point for an alternative political history of the 20th century in which PR was adopted in 1918: he projects a history which is surprisingly less different from the real one than most of the partisans and opponents of proportional representation might have hoped for or feared.
I've already mentioned the two counterfactuals which address respectively Russian and US political history. Christian Walker begins the afterword to his piece on the attempted coup against Gorbachov by saying that when one looks at the names and positions of those involved in the coup "you could be forgiven for checking your history books to confirm that it actually did fail." And anyone who takes the least interest in world politics will remember how close Hilary Clinton really did come to the Democratic nomination for President: whether or not David Bean is right about the outcome of the election which would have followed (I think he is, but I won't spoil it by giving that outcome here) it would certainly have meant major differences in US politics.
As with the previous volumes, the contributors cover an eclectic range of political views and backgrounds, from academics to former MPs and throughout the mainstream political spectrum. Most of the essays include serious analysis of things which were regarded at the time as real possibilities, in some cases with a dash of humour mixed in with the analysis: very few - perhaps only the last two - appear whimsical or unlikely. Almost all are thought provoking.
One running gag in the second and third books has been references to books and articles in the alternative universes they postulate which make reference to what to us are the events of real history as though they were counterfactuals. One hysterically funny essay in "President Gore" refers to a book called "Prime Minister Blair ... and other things that never happened" which is successfully ridiculed by an alternative Neil Kinnock. Who makes a remarkably convincing argument that the history we really lived through would have appeared far too unlikely to be taken seriously in a parallel universe where it hadn't actually taken place. There are a host of similar jokes in this book such as a reference to a collection called "Prime Minister Cameron ... and other things which never happened."
If you have a strong interest in counterfactual history, or in 20th and 21st century politics, or both, or if you enjoyed the earlier books in the series, you will probably greatly enjoy this one.