‘Could the army overthrow a Corbyn government?’ Telegraph op-ed piece gets slammed

‘Could the army overthrow a Corbyn government?’ Telegraph op-ed piece gets slammed
Militaristic fantasies were unleashed on The Telegraph's op-ed pages this week, when a piece asked: 'What would a 21st century British coup look like? And what would a Corbyn government have to do to survive it?'

Throwing partisanship out the window, The Telegraph published an opinion piece written by Paul Carter, a political commentator who is writing a book about Harold Wilson and Louis Mountbatten. He wondered if the near-coup led by Earl Mountbatten of Burma could happen in modern times. "Only one week after Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour leader, a serving general of the army warned of a direct and public challenge if a future Prime Minister Corbyn jeopardised the country's security: 'The army wouldn't stand for it... people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that,'" Carter wrote.

"The idea of a military coup against an elected Prime Minister Corbyn may seem fanciful. Yet, 50 years ago this week, this almost happened to Harold Wilson, a prime minister regarded by many as left-wing and anti-establishment, who had also been accused of consorting with communist spies."

Here is where the parallels between Wilson and Corbyn start to form – both Labour leaders faced accusations of Soviet spydom.

In his 1987 memoirs, former MI5 officer Peter Wright stated that the head of the CIA's Counterintelligence Division told him that Wilson was a Soviet spy. While the allegations were never proven, Wright said that MI5 had received intel from two Czechoslovakian defectors, alleging the Labour Party had "almost certainly" been penetrated by Soviet spies.

Corbyn himself has been accused of fraternising with a Czechoslovakian spy Jan Sarkocy, who claimed that the now-Labour leader was an asset of the Soviet intelligence services during the Margaret Thatcher era in the 80s – allegations that, like Wilson's, were never proven.

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Op-ed writer Carter continued, imagining what a coup would look like in modern Britain. Would Corbyn mobilise his 1.4 million Facebook followers against his enemies? Who would be the "charismatic figurehead" that would be needed to "work against a radical Labour prime minister?"

"Were tanks to arrive now outside the BBC and Channel 4 News, however, one imagines the beleaguered PM would emulate President Erdogan of Turkey, who, when faced with his own coup in 2016, communicated via WhatsApp, tweeted his nine million followers and rallied supporters on FaceTime using his iPhone," Carter wrote.

"Should Prime Minister Corbyn implement radical policies with dire economic consequences, while at the same time attempting to reconstitute the British state, who knows what may go through the minds of a new generation of more sober-minded generals? Even if it failed, as seems likely, the result would be to sow terrible division in our country."

To end, Carter ominously warned Corbyn to tread carefully… and keep his social media on at all times. "It might pay a future Prime Minister Corbyn to know how to keep the Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp infrastructure switched on, while checking building applications for large scale camping grounds in under-populated Scottish Islands," he wrote.

Left-wing supporters were quick to slam the fanciful opinion column, with Labour's favourite journalist Owen Jones jumping on Twitter to get social media chattering. Chris Williamson MP also came on board, labelling the establishment as "desperate."

The off-kilter op-ed was not lost on the Twittesphere, a large portion of which were left thoroughly confused by the extremity of the piece and lack of partisanship.

Twitter user Mark Kraft questioned the author's motivations behind the piece. "But why would a former paid advisor to the Tories on privatization and deregulation want to suggest that the military should defy democratic rule?" he asked.

"I think they mean the coups that were poorly thought out and never even got past the planning stage (Hell, one of them probably didn't even get planned)," another Twitter user wrote. "It's nothing but scaremongering to say 'Oh no, the big scary socialist will cause a civil war' as if we live in 1642."

Twitter user Paul merely mused at the Conservative media. "All about spouting democracy and the rule of law," he said. "Until democracy threatens to deliver something they don't like." Another person asked if The Telegraph could "get any more ridiculous."

Others just laughed and laughed… and swore profusely at the state of the mainstream media. So will a Corbyn government be overthrown a la Mountbatten's failed 1968 coup? We'll have to wait until the Labour government topples the eight years of Tory leadership to find out.

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