Here’s my pitch for a re-make of Chris Mullin’s classic political satire, A Very British Coup. Who would I get for the main role though?
In the original novel, plain-speaking Yorkshireman Harry Perkins becomes Prime Minister because his honesty and integrity shine through, despite the smokescreen of filth and cynicism that the media uses to obscure the truth. Our hero’s resolution and faith in humanity convince the masses that his interpretation of socialism could work.
Obviously, Britain’s sinister social elites (boo!) don’t take kindly to this form of populism and set about undermining this noble cause.
The rest of the story relates how a great man can be brought down by the evil machinations of ‘them’. You know: The Posher Nostra, the Eton Rifles. The Patriarchy. Yeah, you know who I’m talking about, don’t you? The Dog Whistle Blowers.
The ‘Very British Coup’ of the title refers to the way that the unelected hands on the levers of power, the ironically named ‘civil servants’, set about undermining this popular movement.
Civil servants? Ha! There’s two lies just in the job title, as rebels might say.
I don’t remember much about the original TV adaptation drama of 1988, apart from the fact that Ludovic Kennedy and his Late Review luvvies raved over it. One lady got far too excited at the opening scene, a man’s-eye view of ablutions in the toilets of a working men’s club.
The Coup is back in fashion. Prorogue is also a word on everyone’s search box, spell checker and Twitter output (strictly in that order). One minute they’re looking it up and the next minute they are tweeting someone down with it.
Surely we have all the conditions in place for a remake of ‘Coup’ today. We seem to have exactly the same basic set of conditions.
Consider the plot elements. A populist Prime Minister with ambitions for major constitutional change that will liberate the masses. A leader of immigrant stock, with an adopted name that sounds as if it was chosen by the Kremlin. There’s a Boris in Number 10! A political leader with massive support among disenchanted workers who’ve seen their industries destroyed and their wage bargaining positions undermined.
Now, once again, there will be dramatic conflict once the entrenched opponents of social mobility work to undermine democracy. These fiends in human form give themselves ironic titles that mean the opposite of how they behave: Antifa, Diversity, Common Purpose – they all mean anything but. The Ironics (AKA the Doublespeaks) are plotting the coup.
In a sub-plot we’d see footage of Hong Kong, another formerly independent British-influenced island which has found itself phagocytised into a much larger body politic that seems both hostile and poisonous.
The play would show how the Establishment – such as the BBC, the bankers, the House of Lords and other members of the Condescenti – would set about undermining Brexit. In the background of one scene you might see Paul Mason performing a private dance for the CEO of Goldman Sachs. ‘Anything’s worth it if we can get rid of these Nat-sees,’ Mason might say, as he steps out naked except for his Stahlhelm.
Other scenes might feature battalions of bureaucrats, such as the Sybil Serpent Gina Miller, issuing legal documents to the tune of Puttin’ on the Writs.
Democracy would be derailed, like the HS2, because it would be just too bloody expensive and we’d never reach our destination, not with so many snowflakes on the line. (The wrong kind, naturally.)
Sadly, I don’t think this is the re-make the head of BBC Drama and Social Engineering would want to commission.
Their version would be much more Russellty – written in the style of Russell T Davies, who is less a dramatist than a modern messaging machine. This is a man who will ruin any popular form of culture to impose his myopic view on the world and its children.
Davies couldn’t write an episode of Camberwick Green without making it a dramatic conflict with Trump Town. Puzzled children would ask: ‘Mummy, Daddy. Why did Mrs Honeymoon launch that pointless attack on Chigley?’
So you can guess how distorted a BBC re-make of A Very British Coup would be. The only unsettled issue is which Herd Left stand-up comedian would get to play the heroine. Someone from the Witless Protection Programme (aka head of comedy Josh Cole’s contacts list).
A play about a coup that’s hijacked to restore the rule of the electoral minority. There’s irony.