A Very British Coup. Classic 1982 novel by MP Chris Mullin about a left wing leader of the Labour party Harry Perkins becoming Prime Minister before being toppled by a hostile establishment.
Feels curiously dated in some ways, curiously contemporary in others. The biggest problem for the incoming PM is a Sterling crisis, where the Bank of England is forced to spend colossal sums of money defending the pound. It's fascinating how quickly and how quietly "defending the pound" has gone from being unquestionably vital to completely unnecessary in conventional wisdom. Another of Perkins left wing extremist policies is leaving the Common Market.
In other ways, it seems strikingly contemporary. The embittered rival whining about a change to the electoral college that denied him the leadership he felt entitled to seems plausible. All of the papers are hysterically opposed to every Perkins policy, apart for the Guardian which always says that a case could be made but "now is not the time".
In a couple of places it feels a bit too conspiratorial, with market turmoil caused by phone calls among the establishment rather than happening spontaneously. In other places it's more accurately conspiratorial with the US applying techniques used against the developing world against the UK.
Has some good observations about politics. "One reason why the British ruling class have endured so long is that every so often it opens ranks and absorbs a handful of its worst enemies".
As a novel it's a bit clunky and workmanlike, with characters told not shown and fortunately no attempts at fine writing.
Overall, a good book for political junkies.
What I'm Watching
Saw Cloud Atlas at home. Liked the film version better than the book: it improves the plot in a few ways. It doesn't try the half-and-half splits of the book but cuts regularly between the multiple plots. The terrible future-English manages to sound even worse spoken than it looks on the page though.
I liked the way the same actors play parts in the different stories, sometimes across gender and race. I think in this case the yellowface is compensated for by having minority actors whiting up equivalently.
Overall I liked it, at least it's trying something a bit different. As always though a lot of the reviews seem to have had trouble suspending disbelief and it does feel a bit silly at times.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw the Coen Brothers Hail Caesar, comedy about a 1950s movie executive coping with various problems including the disappearance of his star.
Liked this a lot. The parodies of the various movies are lovingly faithful and exaggerated just enough. There's some good dialogue and some great comedy set-pieces, like the action star ("dust actor") being directed in a drawing-room drama (best played by a "rug actor), and the scene where various religious figures are asked to comment on the biblical epic.
Well worth watching.
Video. Making of pre-CGI Thomas the Tank Engine. German: The Rhubarb Barbara bar. Temp music and why Marvel movies have unmemorable scores. Lightsaber safety. Hawk throws snake at picnickers. Why idiocracy would be a utopia. Domino triple spiral.
Politics. The fall of Labour’s golden generation. Michael Ignatieff on the lessons for liberals in Nick Clegg’s memoir: "it is not the anger of globalisation's losers that ought to worry us most, but the blindness of its winners." Japanese anti-neoliberal imagery. Crocodiles project: Comics about sexism and harassment. Europe's left after Brexit: "Saying that the European Union suffers from a democratic deficit is like saying an astronaut on the moon suffers from an oxygen deficit". The split inside Israel's Jewish society. What America's ruling elite fears about the 2016 election. John McDonnell on the Labour coup. The Despair Election: "a contest between two forms of despair: despair in the form of cynicism and resignation...and despair in the form of anger and desperation."
Random. Which Shakespeare play should you see flowchart. Star Trek IV's punk on the bus. How to Clean a Baseball Cap. Could the mysterious WW1 "Russians" have been Gaelic-speaking Scots? Scholastic accolades.
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