A Very British Coup (miniseries)

A Very British Coup is a 1988 television miniseries adapted from Chris Mullin's 1982 novel A Very British Coup in 1988 by screenwriter Alan Plater and director Mick Jackson. Starring Ray McAnally, the series was first screened on Channel 4 and won Bafta and Emmy awards, and was syndicated to more than 30 countries.

A Very British Coup
GenrePolitical drama
Based onA Very British Coup
by Chris Mullin
Written byAlan Plater
Directed byMick Jackson
StarringRay McAnally
Alan MacNaughtan
Keith Allen
Geoffrey Beevers
Marjorie Yates
Jim Carter
Theme music composerJohn E. Keane
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes3
Producer(s)Ann Skinner
Sally Hibbin
CinematographyErnest Vincze
Editor(s)Don Fairservice
Running time3 x 1 hour (Including ad breaks)
Original networkChannel 4
Picture format4:3
Audio formatMono
Original release19 June (1988-06-19) 
3 July 1988 (1988-07-03)

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]


Harry Perkins, an unassuming, working class, very left-wing Leader of the Labour Party and Member of Parliament for Sheffield Central, becomes Prime Minister in March 1991. The priorities of the Perkins Government include dissolving all newspaper monopolies, withdrawal from NATO, removing all American military bases on UK soil, unilateral nuclear disarmament, and true open government. Newspaper magnate Sir George Fison, with allies within British political and civil service circles, moves immediately to discredit him, with the United States the key, but covert, conspirator. The most effective of the Prime Minister's domestic enemies is the aristocratic Sir Percy Browne, Head of MI5, whose ancestors "unto the Middle Ages" have exercised subtle power behind the scenes. However Harry finds support in Joan Cook, a loyal Member of Parliament (MP) and Home Secretary; and Thompson, Perkins' Press Secretary; Inspector Page, his Head of Security and Sir Montague Kowalski, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser. It provides an intimate view of the machinations of a particularly British political conspiracy.

The series is set in 1991 and 1992, which was then the near future from when it was made (1988), with a King as the British monarch (the royal cypher on one of the Prime Minister's red boxes is shown as "C III R," suggesting that the monarch is Charles III, the current Prince of Wales), multiple cable and satellite television channels, and other similar details. The 1991 and 1992 dates can be clearly seen on several newspapers and car tax discs shown on screen.




The endings of the novel and the television version are significantly different. In the novel, the Prime Minister is forced from office following a catastrophic nuclear accident at an experimental nuclear plant that he had pushed for while Secretary of State for Energy in a previous government. This is the most explicit parallel between Harry Perkins and Tony Benn. In the TV version, the Prime Minister is presented with forged evidence of financial irregularity following a short-lived affair years previously; with the suggestion that he should resign rather than see the story made public. He agrees to make a resignation speech on live television, but instead announces the attempted blackmail and calls for a new election. Senior Army officers and security service officials watch in silence. The final sequence, on the morning of the election, is deliberately ambiguous, but implies that a military coup has begun.

Home media

The TV series of A Very British Coup was released in the UK on DVD (region 2) in September 2011.[3]


The TV version of A Very British Coup won four Bafta Awards in 1989 – for Best Actor (Ray McAnally), Best Drama Series, Best Film Editor (Don Fairservice) and Best Film Sound – and a 1988 International Emmy Award for Best Drama.[4]

See also

  • Clockwork Orange (plot), an alleged 1974–75 British secret service black propaganda campaign against Labour prime minister Harold Wilson
  • House of Cards (UK TV series)
  • House of Cards (U.S. TV series)
  • Seven Days in May, a 1964 American political thriller film about a military coup in response to a disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union
  • Okkupert, a 2015 Norwegian political thriller TV series about a Russian occupation of Norway in response to a Green government shutting down fossil fuel production


  1. 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.
  2. Conlan, Tara (24 January 2012). "Gabriel Byrne returns to UK television in Channel 4's Coup". guardian.co.uk. Guardian News and Media.
  3. "Review: A Very British Coup DVD". Total Politics. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  4. Awards for "A Very British Coup" (1988) Internet Movie Database
Preceded by
Tutti Frutti
British Academy Television Awards
Best Drama Series or Serial

Succeeded by
Mother Love
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.