UKIP voters, unlike supporters of any other parties, tend to say they can imagine supporting the British Armed forces taking over the powers of government
A British Army general recently told the Sunday Times that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government would face a "mutiny" from the armed forces if he tried to scrap Trident, pull out of Nato or announce "any plans to emasculate and shrink the size of the armed forces". The provocation was reminiscent of a 1982 book by former Labour MP Chris Mullen, A Very British Coup, in which a left-wing Labour leader (styled around Tony Benn) was handed a landslide victory and gradually brought down by the army and right-wing establishment.
The prospect is not so far-fetched for some British voters, new YouGov research can reveal.
One in four members of the British public (25%) can imagine a situation, however unlikely, where they would support the British Armed Forces taking over the powers of government. Men (28%) are more able to conceive of this than women (23%), but the most surprising figures come from UKIP voters. Fully 44% of those who voted UKIP in 2015 could imagine supporting a coup, more than those who could not (40%).
48% of UKIP voters even say members of the British armed forces should not follow orders from their civilian superiors when they feel those orders are misguided (27% say they should).
This can't easily be explained away by age, gender or any other demographic driver – at most 28% of any group can imagine supporting a coup.
Those who say they could potentially support a military takeover of the government were also given a set of circumstances and asked to say if they would be sufficient to command their support for a coup. The government legislating to dismantle the armed forces is the only option that tends to be supported (56% support, 37% oppose). Just over a third of this group (so 9% of the general population) would support a coup if Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister.
British distrust of politicians is well documented, but in the context of how much confidence British people place in the integrity of military officers it is dramatic. Fully 68% say that military officers generally want what is best for the country, while only 17% say this about politicians – 72% say politicians generally want what is best for themselves.
There is also relatively strong support for members of the armed forces giving up their historic reticence on matters of politics. 42% say they should be active in politics if they want to be, while 45% say they should not.
Reducing defence spending, leaving NATO and scrapping Trident were found in recent YouGov polling for Prospect to be three of the least popular policies that Jeremy Corbyn had indicated he could be sympathetic towards in the run up to his election as Labour leader. Raising the minimum wage, introducing rent caps, nationalising the railways and energy companies and increasing corporation tax are all supported by majorities, however.