A review of the novel “The Friends Of Harry Perkins” by Chris Mullin

Mullin – then a political journalist – wrote the best-selling novel “A Very British Coup” which was published in 1982. It told the story of a Left-winger who became Prime Minister but was countered by the nefarious forces of the establishment. I found it very readable, but I thought the the characters were caricatures and the action limited. It worked better when it was subsequently turned into a television series.

Mullin went on to be a Member of Parliament from 1987 until 2010 which included three ministerial positions. In 2019, he published this sequel to “A Very British Coup” in a work whose title evoked the memory of the heroic failure of the radical premier. The new story centres on Frederick Thompson who had served as Perkins’ Press Secretary. His politics are much more pragmatic than those of his mentor, so does he stand a better chance of forming a reformist Labour Government?

Although the sequel is set a mere 10 years after the original, the context is the near future in a post-Brexit Britain and, in a preface, Mullin acknowledges that “a slight leap of imagination is required”. It is a bleak environment in which “there has been no great Armageddon, just a slow decline into insularity and irrelevance” and a continuing focus on immigration and a rise in nasty nationalism, while abroad America has just declared war on China. Again the novel is readable but hardly impressive.

I call it a novel, but really it is a novella, since it only runs to 180 pages, and it is followed by two short stories (which are rather good).


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