Book Blog: A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin

I read this novel for the first time when it was originally published in the early 1980s. The author is one time Labour Party MP, Chris Mullin.

Having led the Labour Party to victory in the General Election promising state control of finance and the end of newspaper monopolies by millionaire magnates, Harry Perkins doesn’t last long as Prime Minister. He’s ruthlessly deposed and cast aside.

At the time the novel was thought to be based on Tony Benn and conspiracy theories about Harold Wilson. It’s a very well written political thriller and has been adapted for television twice.

I stumbled upon a reference to A Very British Coup in a newspaper and thought I’d read it again. The 2010 edition has a new forward by the author making references to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. Mullin explains how the novel came to be written and how he wasn’t the only fiction writer at the time with similar ideas.

The novel has certainly stood up well to the passing of time. It’s still very readable with a fast moving and credible plot and well worth reading.

Which unfortunately can’t be said about the sequel,

The Friends of Harry Perkins by Chris Mullin.

Having really enjoyed re-reading A Very British Coup, I rushed straight on to this sequel.

The author explains that to make his plot work he needs the reader to allow a concession about the timeline because the dates don’t stack up. In order to focus the novel on a character from A Very British Coup we’ve to believe that less time has passed getting us to ten years after Brexit. And I don’t really think that will do. With a gaping hole like that I’m amazed the book was ever published. But presumably the opportunity to cash in on the politics of the day was too good to miss.

The plot starts at the funeral of former British Prime Minister, Harry Perkins. The Labour Party is duly re-invigorated by Harry’s former aide, Fred Thompson who takes over Harry’s Sheffield constituency. I won’t give the plot away but I found it contrived and implausible.

There’s some good characterisation and you can spend a while trying to guess who Mullin has based his characters on. But that doesn’t make up for the plot failings.  Very disappointing!