Kino Eye: Where the power is

Submitted by AWL on 20 July, 2021 - 7:00 Author: John Cunningham
Harry Perkins

The difference between “power” and “elected office” (letter in Solidarity 600) is well illustrated by the 1982 TV drama A Very British Coup, based on a novel by former Labour MP Chris Mullin. Harry Perkins (Ray McNally), Labour MP for Sheffield Central and a former steelworker, leads Labour to a landslide victory. The new Prime Minister promises sweeping changes which includes nuclear disarmament and neutrality. The whole British establishment is in shock. Plots against Perkins are set in motion, including fake reports of looming financial disaster, press speculation about his state of health and polls supposedly showing his plummeting support. The security services, military top brass, big business and the press grow increasingly alarmed about this upstart. With pressure on him increasing all the time, Perkins is persuaded to resign (a “soft” coup). Then, appearing on TV, he refuses to use his prepared speech and instead announces a snap election, while senior military officers and MI5 watch their TV screens in horror. Come election day, Perkins can hear the noise of helicopters overhead. An ambiguous ending. Is this the first sign of the “hard” coup to come?

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