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The nation of Britain is almost unique amongst the nations of Western Europe, for its recent history being empty of most forms of political extremism. From the French revolution, to the Spanish civil war, political turmoil has wracked the mainland, yet Britain remained mostly unaffected. However, for a brief period, in the crucible of the inter-war periods, it seemed like revolution, from either the left or the right, seemed inevitable. In this timeline, however, we see what may have taken place had the far right fascist movement, the British Union of Fascists, had taken power in 1934.
The Point of Divergence
Under most circumstances, the BUF could never have taken power in Britain; its membership peaked at just 50,000, not a single one of its candidates was elected, and it lacked the Middle class support of Hitler’s Germany.
However, in this timeline, George V ignores the words of his advisors in 1917, and chooses to allow his cousin, the deposed Tsar Nicholas II, asylum in Britain. While far left parties, especially the fledgling British Communist movement, abhor the move, amongst the upper class it is seen with some amiability. The familial links between the Nicholas and the British Crown, as well as fears amongst land owners of creeping Bolshevism, puts general public opinion well on the side of the Tsar.
From the beginning, the presence of Nicholas II makes any chance of normal relations with the Soviet Union impossible for Britain. The Soviet Union relentlessly petitions the government for the repatriation of Nicholas II, to face charges of crimes against the Russian people, and with each petition, the resolve of George V and the government hardens, offering nothing but refusal to the Soviet demands. For the period immediately adjacent to the point of divergence, politics plays out with little difference to our timeline, albeit with a bubbling undercurrent of anti-Communist sentiment growing amongst the populace.
In October of 1924, however, this all comes crashing down. Four days before the general election, the Zinoviev Letter is published in the Daily Mail. Unlike in our timeline, where the letter had little effect on results, the fraught relations between the USSR and Britain in this timeline, as well as the recent ‘Campbell Case’, lead to the letter igniting fears of Bolshevism amongst the middle classes. For MacDonald, the Labour Prime Minister of the time, the result is disastrous. He is repeatedly accused of having sympathy for the Communist cause in commons, and the Labour party is reduced to under 75 seats. Any chance of a second Labour government taking power was crushed.
The removal of Ramsay Macdonald, and the for the most part, the Labour Party as a whole, from British politics over the next ten years had several effects. Most obviously, was the conservative dominance of government during the October 1929 stock market crash, and the subsequent financial crisis. However, a secondary detail is the lack of a London Naval Treaty in 1930, which in our timeline was pioneered by Ramsay MacDonald, and was intended to reduce naval proliferation in the pacific.
Without Ramsay Macdonald, as the crisis of 1931 deepens, the King's attempts to pull together a National Coalition with men from all parties are fraught with failure. Labour were given only a token role in the coalition, instead replaced with a large conservative majority and a significant liberal minority, despite the party lacking any real force in British politics for several years to the previous. This imbalance of the coalition was therefore disliked by both sides; diehard conservatives noted the call-back to the earlier coalitions with Liberals, and also despised being forced to run as part of a coalition despite having the strength to take the government alone; working class voters in the far left were disillusioned by the lack of a labour presence of any meaning in the coalition, and the lack of meaningful opposition to it. Stanley Baldwin, of the Conservative Party was given the leadership of the nation as Prime Minister. The emergence of Empire Free Trade after the Ottawa Conference in 1932 was the final blow to the national government, as the remaining Liberals resigned from the government. It became clear that the National government no longer comprised of any parties other than the conservatives, and it would not last significantly longer.
As the conservative national government attempted to solve the problems of the crisis of 1931, a new movement is being forged by Sir Oswald Mosely, a man described as "probably the best orator in England". Conditions meant that his staunch anti-Communism was a prized characteristic for those in the upper and middle classes afraid of the red threat, and his British Union of Fascists offered a strong anti-Communist alternative to the national government.
Finally, the decisive moment came for Sir Oswald Mosely and his fascists the next year. The few remaining backbenchers withdrew their support for the ailing national government in spring of 1933. The conservative party harboured hopes of running alone, as they had done after the coalition with David Lloyd George had done the previous decade. However, the voting public had other ideas. The recent instillation of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany had left European fascism on a high, encouraging similar groups across the continent, and bringing attention to the political ideology. Furthermore, the perfect storm of voting conditions had come into play before the election; the lack of other viable opposition parties for those disillusioned with the conservatives after their failures in the National Government; deep-rooted national fear of Communism and left wing politics spanning several decades; and finally the personal charisma of Sir Oswald Mosely himself.
308 seats were needed for a majority in the House of Commons for the election of 1933. With approximately 8,500,000 votes, around 41%, and just 256 seats, the British Union of Fascists was still short 52 seats. Within hours of the results, a coalition was formed by the BUF and Far-Right elements in the conservatives, prompting a split in the party. The Fascist Ministry, with 315 seats, came into government on April 13th, with Sir Oswald Mosely as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Timeline of Events Post Takeover
April 13th 1933 - Sir Oswald Mosely elected as Prime Minister, with a Fascist-Conservative Coalition in the House of Commons.
April 29th 1933 - Electoral Reform Rushed through Parliament on the back of the election success. The House of Commons is drastically reduced in size to allow for a faster ‘democracy’, and preparations are put in place for the replacement of the House of Lords with the House of Executives; a body of elected representatives from major industries, the colonies, and the clergy.
May 1st 1933 - Royal Assent given for electoral reforms.
May 17th 1933 - The Electoral Reform is enacted. The radically reduced House of Commons now holds only 300 seats, and boundaries are re-drawn accordingly, in such a manner to maximise the number of Fascist Seats Gained. The House of Executives replaces the House of Lords, and is drawn from mostly Fascist representatives, with a token Conservative presence. Crucially, the house is given the authority to overrule the decisions of the House of Commons, while the reverse does not apply.
May 21st 1933 - The First Law to be passed by the House of Executives, the Emergency Powers Act 1933, is put through. Given Royal Assent the same day, the Emergency Powers Act of 1933 allows for the suspension of civil liberties during declared national emergencies.
June 3rd 1933 - Sir Oswald Mosely, Prime Minister of two months, flies to Berlin to meet with fellow Fascist Leader Adolf Hitler, of whom he was a great admirer. In the meeting that followed, the groundwork is laid for Anglo-German Fascist Cooperation, and issues such as the tearing up of the Treaty of Versailles and the so-called ‘Jewish Question’ are discussed. Although no official commitments were made, it signaled the start of the relationship between the two Fascist states, and ignited in Sir Mosely a desire to ‘bring his house into order’, following in the footsteps of Hitler’s ‘Gleichschaltung’, which was already fully underway.
June 6th 1933 - The Prime Minister returns home from Berlin, and immediately meets with the members of the Cabinet, in preparation for bringing the house into order. The Blackshirts, up until this point still a non-governmental organisation, are rolled into the jurisdiction of Home Secretary, as the National Citizens Police.
June 15th 1933 - The Workers’ Rights Act is passed, putting prohibitive rules on the formation, action, and funding of trade unions, designed to cripple their power. Striking legally is made practically impossible, to augment the Trade Disputes and Trade Union Act of the previous decade. Groups such as the Trade Unions Congress are disbanded.
June 18th 1933 - In response to the government action against trade unions, sporadic protests break out across depressed areas in the North of the country, specifically the Tyneside and Clyde shipbuilding areas, trade union strongholds.
June 20th 1933 - Troops are dispatched to the Tyneside and Clyde areas to restore order, and neutralise 'Communist elements'. In a speech to the public, the Prime Minister blames the protests on Soviet Agents attempting to sabotage British Industry.
June 21st 1933 - A state of emergency is declared by Prime Minister Sir Oswald Mosely, despite the majority of unrest being quelled in the previous day, suspending the right to free speech, allowing suspects of crimes to be held indefinitely without trial, and allowing properties and vehicles to be searched without a warrant.
June 27th 1933 - In wake of the violence protesting trade unions, ‘radical’ parties are made illegal, including the Labour Party, the Communist Party of Great Britain, the National Liberal Party, and Plaid Cymru.
August 9th 1933 - The Police Powers Act is passed in order to give more authority to the Special Branch, who are put under the direct control of the Home Secretary, for purpose of combating enemies of the state.