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A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin
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A Very British Coup (edition 2011)

by Chris Mullin (Author)

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1344128,311 (3.41)18
Member:stevepugh
Title:A Very British Coup
Authors:Chris Mullin (Author)
Info:Serpent's Tail (2011), Edition: Main, 226 pages
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A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin

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I read this as it rang a bell with Jeremy Corbyn. The story goes that a radical British PRime Minister is elected and the Establishment organises a coup. His politics are just like Corbyn's the Leader of the Labour Party elected by members in 2015 although the fictional PM is brighter and nicer. . It is. A light-hearted and sometimes cliched read. The upper classes are unprincipled idiots. The newly elected Party members honest and true, caught up in the machinations of a conspiracy against them. My difficulty is the author lost all credibility when he talked about Oman. Now I know I live in Oman so It is not unreasonable that I know more about the country and him. But The problem was he was so off target that it made me question the bits that I found more convincing. He talks about 'bopping the wops'. There has never been a war there.. There was a bloodless coup Iin 1973. He calls it 'sticking up for democracy' or counter argument 'about oil'. Oman had no oil until 1984 and even then not much, and the government is not democratic. It is a monarchy. But a very benevolent, wise monarch who created a wonderful infrastructure in what is agreed to be the most beautiful country in the Middle East rather than 'fly-ridden'. Now the mistakes are so glaring and the other parts so stereo-typical that he lost his credibility in what was before then quite a convincing look at the consequences of a government the USA did not approve of. ( )
  mumoftheanimals | Oct 25, 2015 |
I bought this book after a politicians reference to it after the recent events in the Labour Party election (2015) Similarities to some of the issues in this book relate alarmingly with Corbyn's philosophy.

Withdrawal, from NATO, removal of American bases, banning nuclear weapons, abolishment of the monarchy and other issues, all have an electrifying resonance. I read this book while on a short break in France and finished it the day England were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup. It was all very gloomy that day. The book however rattles along at quite a brisk pace. Chris Mullins is an ex Labour MP and he draws heavily on his insider knowledge of the workings in the corridors of power.

Although set in a Cold War stage, slightly in the future from when it was written (1982) the book is dated. Much has moved on since and references to the Middle East really do not seem so credible - even for then. But much else was informative in reference to US bases and military infrastructure in the UK - and the prospect of them (the Americans) refusing to leave and how they would resist expulsion, has disturbing undertones.

A good light hearted read though, overall. ( )
  Kampuskop | Oct 9, 2015 |
I found this a very enjoyable and engaging novel. I was also intrigued to see how prophetic it was in many ways. It was written in 1982, some three years into Mrs Thatcher’s first term in office, and is set in the year or so following a general election in 1989 at which the Labour party secured an unexpected landslide victory.

As the novel opens we are given the reactions of various Establishment stalwarts, including press barons, bankers, industrialists and several Civil Service mandarins, all of whom are appalled at the prospect of a genuinely socialist government assuming power. While they seethe with rage and fear we learn something of Perkins’s background.

As a young man Harry Perkins had followed his father into employment in a Sheffield steel mill. Once there he became involved in the trade union movement and quickly rose through the local ranks. Spotted as a potential high flier he was awarded a union scholarship to Ruskin College in Oxford, and continued his rapid progress through the part machinery until he was selected as an MP for his home town. Following a spell as an energetic and diligent back bencher he enters what is clearly the Wilson/Callaghan Government of 1974 to 1979 (though neither of those two leaders is specifically named), eventually rising to Cabinet level with responsibility for maintaining the national grid. In this capacity, despite obstructions posed by officials in his own department, he awards a contract for a nuclear power station to British Industrial Fuels, and they duly build an installation by.

When the Conservatives return to power under Mrs Thatcher following ntheir own landslide victory in 1979 Perkins surprises everyone (perhaps including himself) by eventually becoming leader of the Labour Party. An election is called in 1989.

Perkins certainly has a radical suite of policies and is eager to commence the withdrawal of the UK from NATO and the dismantling of the nuclear arsenal. He also threatens to dissolve the prevailing newspaper monopolies. As we have already read, the Establishment is appalled, and starts to fight back using its own range of weapons. Sir George Fison owns many of the most popular press titles and uses his papers to mount a concerted effort to undermine the new administration. Meanwhile the military Chiefs of Staff mobilise their own machinery, undertaking almost treasonous activities with Western Allies to circumvent the Government’s planned reductions. The various Whitehall Permanent Secretaries work together to confound the administrative process wherever possible. These mandarins are steely, ruthless characters – very far from the popular perception of Sir Humphrey, but with all of his determination to have their own way.

The author, Chris Mullin, would subsequently become a Labour MP and would even serve in Government himself, though at the time that he wrote this novel he was an investigative journalist fighting high profile alleged miscarriages of justice. However, his understanding of the Whitehall machinery is very clear, and he paints a very plausible picture of the relationship between Ministers and senior officials. The novel is always entirely credible, and often very humorous.

The novel is also rather alarming as it displays the relative ease with which the combined forces of the banks, the press and senior officialdom can confound the aims of government, regardless of the size of the electoral mandate. One thinks of the persistent rumours, fuelled by memoirs from the likes of Peter Wright, of concerted campaigns by the intelligence community to undermine the Wilson government in the 1970s. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Aug 31, 2012 |
This book shows that, sometimes, only humour will do the job. Were Chris Mullin to have written a serious book about the way in which the establishment rules this country, keeping political parties of whatever hue in check, he would have been dismissed as a bitter politician. Instead, he turns out a comedy that covers some very serious questions about British, and I suspect, most democratic systems.

The story of, 'A Very British Coup', is of a left wing Labour government in the 1980's. This was a time when the Labour Party, in reality, was moving to the left and was considered by many to be unelectable. In some senses, this is , therefore, a 'What if....?' story. What would happen were a Labour government to be elected with a mandate to cancel our nuclear weapons programme, eject American forces from their British bases and generally to upset the ruling elite?

Harry Perkins, our left wing Prime Minister, is a man with whom one may agree, or dis-agree politically, but he is portrayed as an honest man; acting out of conviction. He is intelligent and caring so, we feel a sympathy which crosses any political divide. The antics of the fourth estate and the strange pairings, such as a Republican American member of the CIA and a British trade unionist seem very plausible, as does the treason, proudly carried out by a member of the aristocracy, who convinces himself that, whilst it would be treason to do the things that he does against a government which he supported, it is his moral duty to pass secret information to a foreign power in this instance. The book is a disguised moral treatise asking us all to examine our moral code and decide where the boundaries are set.

I do not think that I am giving too much away by saying that Harry comes to a sticky end and that the real power brokers are left licking the cream from their moustaches. Even though my political sympathies lie more with Reg Smith, the leader of the United Power Workers' Union, the means to an end leave a rather sour taste in the mouth, particularly when one believes, as I do, that these techniques - and probably worse ones, have been used against real politicians for daring to challenge the establishment.

This is an easy read which, I believe, should be on the curriculum of every school child in Great Britain: not to incite a flood of far left activists, but to give a little understanding as to how thin is the veneer of democracy under which we live in such a blasé manner ( )
1 vote the.ken.petersen | Jun 9, 2011 |
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Ex-steel worker Harry Perkins has led the Labour Party to a stunning victory, pledging to remove American bases, take public control of finance, and dismantle the press monopolies. The establishment is horrified, and will stop at nothing.

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