When A Very British Coup was written in the early 1980s, the scenario seemed plausible. Tony Benn, who Mullin collaborated closely with at the time, had narrowly missed out on election as Labour’s deputy leader. Faced with the emergence of Margaret Thatcher’s project to remake the country in capital’s image, the Labour Party’s grassroots were increasingly leaning left.
Of course, Tony Benn was never to ascend to the Labour leadership, and with the emergence of Neil Kinnock, the party began a long move to the right. This would culminate in the New Labour governments of the late 1990s and early 2000s in which Mullin himself would serve, recording his experiences in a series of popular and largely sympathetic diaries about the Tony Blair years.
For a long time, A Very British Coup seemed likely to amount to little more than the “delicious fantasy” the Observer described it as on its release. But the rise of Jeremy Corbyn to Labour leader in 2015 has changed all that. The republished front cover now describes how the book “foretold” the events of recent years.
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