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A Very British Coup

A Very British Coup, re-released on DVD next week, is a gripping story of what might have happened had a left-wing government been elected in Britain sometime in the 1980s. Based on the novel by Chris Mullin, until the last election MP for Sunderland South, it was adapted for TV by Alan Plater and starred Ray McNally as the working class politician from Sheffield who became Britain’s first seriously socialist PM.

The politics are those of the 1980s: cold war and class war, in a society in which working class politics has not been smashed by a decade of Thatcher. However, the element of political conspiracy seems, if anything, even more convincing than it did in the 1980s. Hollywood has produced several political conspiracy movies since then. American TV viewers are soon to see a re-make of British TV’s acclaimed right-wing follow up to A Very British Coup: A House of Cards based on a novel by Tory peer, Michael Dobbs.

In the 1980s, Harold Wilson’s allegations of a plot against him by MI5 officers were widely perceived as paranoia even though they were the subject of enquiries under both Callaghan and Thatcher. Now they are granted a page on the MI5 website.

Chris Mullin based the character of Harry Perkins on Joan Maynard, MP for Sheffield Brightside of whom Chris was a close friend and ally until her death. In her lifetime, she was widely derided by Labour right-wingers as “Stalin’s nanny”. According to Tam Dalyell:

she challenged the nickname on the surmise that Stalin’s real grandmother was probably a pillar of the Russian Orthodox Church in Georgia, “which might be difficult for me”.

More recently, she has been accorded the respect she deserved: in Francis Beckett’s very amusing collection Prime Ministers who never were, Dianne Hayter (who in the early 1980s was the General Secretary of the Fabians and right-wing Labour fixer) imagines her as PM Denis Healey’s deputy-Chief Whip.

Harry Perkins is a formidable socialist PM — if you remember Joan Maynard, I hope you see her in a new light.  Don’t miss it – pre-order it today. I shall be digging out my Harry Perkins for Leader badge.

3 Comments

  1. Chris H says:

    I remember being blown away when this was first aired and have the DVD squirreled away somewhere. I shall have to dig it out now!

  2. Peter Benson says:

    I watched it on TV a year or to ago.That is the way the Labour Party should be heading now rather than courting the corporate wealthy.

    We only have to look at the Charges laid at the gate of the Murdoch Empire to realise that Big Corporation now largely dictates Government Policy.

    New Labour is finished.Can we have back our Labour Party that protects the Underclass Please.

  3. Dave O says:

    Somebody buy this for me for Christmas, please. Oh, and the box set of ‘Our Friends in the North’, as well.

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