How To Have a Coup In a Democracy (2 mins)

I had great fun reading a 1982 novel called A Very British Coup by a former UK politician Chris Mullin. It charts the stunning rise (and fall) of Harry Perkins, a left-wing anti-establishment leader of the Labour Party. It may not be the most well-written book and some bits are dated, but its plot seems remarkably prescient in a world where the UK’s Labour Party has Jeremy Corbyn as its leader and the US is led by Donald Trump.

In the book, the newly elected Perkins wants the UK to withdraw from NATO and the EU, to nationalise key domestic industries and to weaken the grip of the rich on the country. What follows are relentless campaigns by the media against the Perkins, the US and UK spy agencies working to sabotage him and international financial organisations such as the IMF blackmailing the UK as the pound plunges. Through all of this, the threat of Russia is constantly invoked to bring Perkins in line.

Many have cited the book as relevant for the UK with the left-wing Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition. Certainly, the treatment of the anti-establishment left-wing party Syriza in Greece in 2015 gave us a taste of how international organisations would treat such a political shift. But I would argue it could apply to a right-wing candidate as well.

Look at Donald Trump, he campaigned on a very anti-establishment platform (“drain the swamp”), but as soon as he was elected; the media onslaught began, the security services started investigating him, and military men have slowly started to occupy more key cabinet positions. Admittedly, much of this could be viewed as self-inflicted, but when seen through the filter of A Very British Coup, it makes you wonder whether ultimate power resides in the “people” in democracies.


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