On the Bookshelf...

The Friends of Harry Perkins

Chris Mullins

'Brexit Britain was a gloomy place. True, the Armageddon that some had prophesied had not occurred, but neither had economic miracle promised by the Brexiteers. Instead there had been a long, slow decline into insularity and irrelevance. The value of the pound had fallen steadily against the Euro, the dollar and the Yuan. The much vaunted increase in trade with the Commonwealth had not materialised. The Americans, too, were proving particularly obstreperous. Even now after a nearly decade of negotiations no significant agreements had been reached. At the UN there was talk of relieving the UK of its seat on the Security Council.' Thirty-five years after the publication of A Very British Coup, former Labour MP Chris Mullin has written a compelling and timely sequel. In a near-future, post-Brexit Britain, the fault lines forged in the white heat of the referendum have become entrenched features of British political life. Britain's standing in the world has steadily diminished as its problems have grown. Into the maelstrom steps Fred Thompson, former aide to left-wing prime minister Harry Perkins and his successor as MP for Sheffield Parkside. As he ascends the greasy pole of British politics, Thompson must deal with corruption, the threat of the Far Right and personal tragedy. Along the way, he learns that power does not come without a personal price and that shadowy forces are at work behind the scenes...which, this time, appear to be on his side.

The Friends of Harry Perkins is the follow up novel to A Very British Coup. It's taken almost forty years for Chris Mullins to write it but was it worth the wait?

For those who don't know, A Very British Coup starts with Harry Perkins, an old school socialist, winning power at a general election. With a distinctly left wing agenda, the civil service, MI5 and the Americans try to stop the labour government carrying out the policies it was elected for. It's well worth a read although not totally essential for reading this sequel. It was a powerful book at the time, and even spawned a three part TV mini series, which has a different ending from the book.

So this books starts with the death of Harry Perkins. Fred Thompson, his former press secretary and advisor is persuaded to stand for Harry's old seat in Sheffield. Having spent the time on a remote Scottish isle, it's a change for Fred and his family.

The book is totally different from the first. It produces different emotions. In the first I was angry at the way the establishment tried and succeeded to subvert the voters. Past history has proved the book to be fairly accurate at what would happen if a labour government was elected with a radical agenda. This book however is a lot more on a human level. It deals not just with politics, but the lives of those in it.

I have to say it's heartbreaking at times. I didn't expect a book based on politics to bring me to tears, not just once but twice. It's set in a world where Brexit has happened and the results aren't good. The characters are all too real and the ending is totally realistic. The book is dedicated to the memory of Jo Cox, an MP killed by a right wing Brexiteer.

I highly recommend this book. It shows the personal sacrifices that people make. I want to reread it straight away but am worried that doing so will lessen the impact it has made on me. Thanks Chris Mullin for a great read and playing with my emotions.

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Review by
AJ Steel
November 14, 2023

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