One reason I find most TV thrillers such a huge waste of life is that the bad guys so often turn out to be evil capitalists, corrupt Tory MPs or sinister right-wing terrorist organisations. This owes more to the wishful thinking of instinctively bien-pensant scriptwriters than to reality. Since the war — or even before the war, if you accept that the Nazis were National Socialists — all the greatest threats to our existence and civilisation, from the IRA to militant Islam, from rampant trade unionism to communist imperialism, have come from the extreme Left, not the Right.
Until watching The Plot Against Harold Wilson (BBC2, Thursday), I was inclined to view the alleged plan of a right-wing coup to overthrow the Labour government sometime in the late Sixties or early Seventies as yet another of those cherished leftie propaganda myths. But the great thing about Paul Dwyer’s drama documentary was that it never wallowed in its own righteousness like some tub-thumping editorial by John Pilger. Rather, it played the business more for wry comedy — two amiable BBC journalists Barry Penrose and Roger Courtiour chasing but never quite nailing the scoop of a lifetime — than as a national scandal.
And rightly so, I think. I could, of course, just be taking this view because I am a rabid fascist bastard who’d dearly love similar arrangements to be made for the toppling of our current regime. But it seems to me that the most significant aspects of the conspiracy were not so much the plot itself as the reasons for its existence and the reason it never happened.
The reason for its existence, as we so very easily forget, is that Britain seemed in genuine peril of being destroyed by the militant Left.