A Very British Coup

A Very British Coup is a 1982 novel by British politician Chris Mullin. The novel has twice been adapted for television; as A Very British Coup in 1988 and as Secret State in 2012.[1][2]

A Very British Coup
A Very British Coup (first edition).jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorChris Mullin
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherHodder & Stoughton
Media typePrint


Harry Perkins is the left-wing Leader of the Labour Party and Member of Parliament for Sheffield Central. Beating all the odds, Harry becomes Prime Minister and sets out to dismantle media monopolies, withdraw from NATO, carry out unilateral nuclear disarmament, and create an open government. Many people in the media, financial services, and the intelligence services are deeply unhappy with Harry's win and his policies, and they unite to stop him by any means.

Main charactersEdit


The book was written in 1981, at a time when Tony Benn looked likely to become deputy leader of the Labour Party which at the time was strongly challenging the government of Margaret Thatcher in the opinion polls. It also has strong echoes of the persistent rumours that have circulated over the years about attempts by members of the British security services, and other wings of the British Establishment, to undermine and depose Harold Wilson's Labour government of the mid-1970s.[3] This first became widespread public knowledge around 1986 with the controversy over Spycatcher, after the publication of the novel but before the broadcast of the TV version. The story also has echoes of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis in which there was alleged CIA involvement to remove a government proposing to close US military bases on Australian soil.

Some editions of the book include a quote by Peregrine Worsthorne from his article "When Treason Can Be Right", which argues that treason to defend the UK's alliance with the USA would be justified. This indicates the choice of name for Sir Peregrine, the chief conspirator in the novel.


The novel was published by Serpent's Tail, and was re-released in 2010. Subsequent reprints have been credited by Mullin to the appointment of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in 2015.[4]


In 2015 Mullin revealed that he was working on a sequel,[5][6] which was published in March 2019 under the title The Friends of Harry Perkins.


The novel has twice been adapted for television.

A Very British Coup (1988)Edit

The first version, also titled A Very British Coup, was adapted in 1988 by screenwriter Alan Plater and starred Ray McAnally.

Secret State (2012)Edit

The 2012 four-part Channel 4 series, Secret State, was "inspired" by the same novel.[1] Starring Gabriel Byrne, this version was written by Robert Jones.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Mullin, Chris (5 November 2012). "Secret State: I played the vicar in the TV version of my novel". guardian.co.uk. Guardian News and Media. Archived from the original on 1 April 2018. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b Conlan, Tara (24 January 2012). "Gabriel Byrne returns to UK television in Channel 4's Coup". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Archived from the original on 1 April 2018. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  3. ^ Chris Mullin: When the threat of a coup seemed more than fiction Archived 27 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine The Guardian, 7 March 2006
  4. ^ Chris Mullin (20 November 2015). "Reprinted twice since Corbyn was elected. Thanks Jeremy. #asmsg #kindle buff.ly/1MYCecS". Twitter. Archived from the original on 6 November 2021. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  5. ^ "A Very British Coup part two is coming, and you'll never guess who inspired it". The Independent. 30 July 2015. Archived from the original on 1 April 2018. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  6. ^ Chris Mullin (10 August 2015). "My fictional PM was destabilised by MI5. Corbyn's enemies would be in his own ranks". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.

External linksEdit