Dictators (I)

In 1934, Methuen published the books series If I Were Dictator, offering well-known figures of the day the chance to wield absolute power. Two MPs took part.

The first was James Maxton, Independent Labour Party MP for Glasgow Bridgeton (1922-46). He gave the notion short shrift - "I am not an aspirant for the position" - and proposed straight away to send all other dictators to St Kilda and abolish the armed forces.

He also moved a single world currency and a single world language (English), as well as a world government based in southern Russia, with a sort of soviet at the local level. A proto-NHS would be set up, but if people persisted with unhealthy lifestyles "it is their own funeral". Divorce would diminish because women would be economically independent of men. Most prisons would be redundant ("there would be a need for fewer lawyers"), the death penalty would be abolished - and, his work done, he would abdicate.

This article first appeared in the 13 September 2010 issue of the New Statesman, France turns right