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A working class hero is something to be.
As another reviewer has stated this drama is a little dated but to me it is a fascinating look at the machinations of British government dressed up as a drama for public consumption.
I came upon this DVD by accident recently and recognised the original author as being the current Labour MP for the Sunderland South constituency in the North East of England, Chris Mullin. Although I have never met this man, by reputation he was once a man of the hard left championing unpopular causes such as the appeal of alleged IRA prisoners for a bombing on mainland Britain whom he believed were convicted wrongly. He was also a minister for a while in one of Blair's governments who returned to the backbenches to maintain his independent stance on a number of issues. A soft spoken man, he appears as a thoughtful mild mannered but hard hitting man when he asks questions at Prime Ministers Question Time.
And therein lies the rub. As a drama with the Alan Plater script this show has a number of faults, the repetitious use of the only talk show interviewer and the exact same backroom people producing the show each time, some of the characters being a little wooden but a journeyman production nevertheless.
As an insider's look at the British government machine this is a treasure trove indeed. Watched in conjunction with the MI-5 seasons (known as Spooks in Britain), a good picture from a couple of perspectives, of the governmental machine emerges.
The central character resembles uncannily, a former MP in a Coventry constituency, Dave Nellist, and the setting of a hard left Labour victory was considered a possiblity in the 1980's after the election of Margaret Thatcher. It seems too that if permission was not given to film in the rooms of Number 10 Downing Street, then the researchers were given very good acccess and reproduced the inside almost exactly as you see when the characters ascend the stairs where the black and white portraits of previous Prime Ministers hang. The incumbent's photograph is only hung up upon their leaving office.
Much of this mini-series is accurate and true to life, such as as the new Prime Minister's life being almost taken over by the very polite, civil servants, shown to have their own agenda's and not being the impartial technicians pace Keynes. I was very pleased to see scenes set at Chequers, the country retreat or somewhere very similar to it. The machinations of the government and the almost required plotiing and scheming takes place mostly outside of the Houses of Parliament which really does not enter the equation.
All in all this show reflects a more socialistic view of how government works in practice in Britain. There is a strong current of Anti-Americanism throughout which in my view is not shared by the majority of people in Britain but which accurately reflects the inherent hostility of socialists towards America.
While some parts are deliberately extreme there is a clear understanding of the degree of sophistication which is the hallmark of the operations of the British establishment. Clearly influenced by the reins of power the new hardline Prime Minister ends up in the ministerial car and ends up in the Cabinet Room alone much as Margaret Thatcher ended her days there.
This is the British equivalent of the West Wing packed into three hours. I was so impressed I bought a copy. It should be reuired viewing for students of British politics everywhere and from my point of view it just goes to show that Friedrich Hayek was right when he advised Anthony Fisher who formed the Institute of Economic Affairs, not to go into politics.
An excellent insider view.
Great political conspiracy film
Don't be put off by the British setting. It is not difficult at all to translate into American the behind-the-scenes machinations of politicians, media tycoons, foreign intellegence services, and unions as they attempt to destabilze the democratically elected government of Harry Perkins. Add a star if you beleive in the existence of a vast right-wing conspiracy. I enjoy this movie so much that I recently replaced my missing VHS tape with a DVD.
Forget The Socialism. This Is A Clever Political Drama
This is an excellent British television play of political ruthlessness, with clever plotting and a terrific performance by Ray McAnally as a besieged socialist prime minister.
Harry Perkins, "from Sheffield, steel worker and third generation Socialist," is elected Prime Minister. He said what he'd do if he were elected and now he and his cabinet are going to it. He plans to have American bases moved out of Britain, destroy Britain's nuclear armory, phase out nuclear energy, break the power of the entrenched old boys, break up the newspaper monopolies and reinvest in British jobs. "I once tried middle of the road," Perkins says. "I was knocked down by traffic in both directions." He also plans to run an open government because that's what the people want. "I'm going to tell you the truth. The whole truth," Perkins says to the British people during a telecast. "He can't do that," one of the press lords says. "He's the prime minister."
As the hidden government, which includes senior civil servants, the aristocratic establishment, press lords and the CIA, realizes that Perkins really means what he says, they begin gathering forces to stop him, and nearly succeed. At the climax to the program, Perkins is caught in a set-up by the CIA, Sir Percy Browne (a senior British intelligence head played by Alan MacNaughtan in a performance as nuanced as McAnally's) and a press lord to make him appear corrupt and bought. The solution Sir Percy offers him is resignation on grounds of ill health, with a new prime minister who would be more amenable. That would be a coup, Perkins says. But a very British coup, Sir Percy points out, with no firing squads, no torture.
How Perkins handles this is clever and satisfying. It underlines what he said to a disloyal minister he forced out of office. "You always were a dirty fighter," the minister said bitterly. "Yes," Perkins replied, with a smile.
If you like political one-upmanship, a taut storyline and first-rate acting, you should enjoy this program very much. Ray McAnally is outstanding as the charismatic, devious and honorable Harry Perkins.