” A Very British Coup”, is both a book and a television series, now available on DVD, and is the granddaddy of great British political drama. The book, by Labour MP Chris Mullin, of Birmingham Six fame, is a very lively, quite short but enjoyable read. Written in 1981, what’s fascinating about it is how radically the political landscape has changed, in that the politics and issues raised in the novel are almost quaint now, not as much in their relevency (Who runs the country, and indeed society?) but in the fact that they are no longer debated in mainstream British politics.
The basic story, in both the book and the television series is the tale of how Harry Perkins, a left wing former miner, leads the Labour Party to victory on an avowedly hard left manifesto. He then finds that winning the election was actually the relatively less stressful bit, as the establishment, the press barons, the US, the EEC and NATO all move against him, in subtle and not so subtle ways
The Television series, made in 1988, stars Irish actor Ray McAnally as Perkins, and is an absolute treat, so much so that some thieving bastard stole it from my house.
This is all back in the day when political drama involved overweight men making hard decisions, not sleekly racing down corridors in pedi-conferences. Good article by Chris Mullin here in the Guardian (Where else?) about the context of the book.