Observations Body Politic

A very British coup

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39601.467581.34 (Published 05 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1273
  1. Nigel Hawkes, health editor, The Times
  1. nigel.hawkes{at}thetimes.co.uk

Blairite ideology continues to dominate health care in the UK—so where is Brown’s vision?

One wouldn’t normally seek guidance about British politics from a study of coups d’etat. The UK parliamentary system is sound, and the only rumour of a coup in recent memory was a laughable plot by the press baron Cecil King in 1968, when he attempted to recruit Lord Mountbatten in a bid to unseat Harold Wilson’s government.

So what have coups to tell us about the present political scene? It has long struck me that the meteoric rise and fall of Tony Blair has more in common with the leader of a coup than of a political party. Of course Blair did not actually deploy the tactics used by leaders of military coups—though he certainly did seize control of the radio and television stations.

His was a political coup, carried off with such panache that it is only now he is gone that we wonder how he did it. And he has gone, completely. While other former prime ministers could hardly drag themselves away from Westminster—Churchill lingered there until 1964—Blair …

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