Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

A Coup in Britain?

Posted by Jason O on Sep 14, 2009 in Irish Politics |

harold-wilson2It’s one of the great “What if?” stories of modern British politics. From the late 1960s to the mid 1970s, the possibility of a armed coup in Britain was a genuine if unlikely possibility. It  was a crucial period for political change, because it was in the 1970s that the great liberal hopes of the 1960s were finally thrashed, and the New Right of Reagan and Thatcher emerged with popular cross-class appeal. But before that, in Britain, old Labour held sway, and that did not suit the establishment.

There is considerable rumour and hearsay to suggest that various right wing elements in the British military and security services were planning an armed overthrow of the British Prime Minister. Everything from private armies to the cabinet being detained on the QE2 to Mountbatten being sworn in as acting prime minister. It’s fascinating stuff.

One story told to me by a friend is that senior elements of the British Army approached the RAF to ensure that they were “onside”. The story goes that the RAF at that stage was full of university graduates and were appalled at the idea. One of the army officers involved supposedly remarked after the meeting: “RAF. F**king Guardian readers!”

Mark Lawson’s greatly undervalued novel “Enough is enough” set in the late 1960s gives an interesting insight into the thinking at the time. 

Below are a few links on the issue.

Jonathan Freedland: Enough of this cover-up: the Wilson plot was our Watergate

MI5 have even put out a statement on their website about it.

Chris Mullin MP: When the threat of a coup seemed more than fiction


James Lawless
Sep 15, 2009 at 10:22 pm

There is an excellent movie loosely based around this, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094576/

There is one particularly memorable scene where our hero, the main protagonist and socialist prime minister recounts his father’s untimely death in a vat of molten iron.. a real class struggle..

His Machievllian mastery honed in the union movement equips him well for the national stage too.

Jason O
Sep 16, 2009 at 6:52 am

Actually reviewed it here in July: http://jasonomahony.ie/?p=2709

Sep 16, 2009 at 10:21 am

Apparently, the idea was that the Earl of Mountbatten would serve as Prime Minister if the coup had ever happened.



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