Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book Review: Chris Mullin's Diaries Vol 2

OK, I am a sucker for political diaries. I can't remember ever reading a set of political diaries which I didn't enjoy. And Chris Mullin's second volume of diaries, DECLINE & FALL, is no exception. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this volume is better than the first. They are quite different in tone and much more self deprecatory.

The first volume was full of Mullin moaning about his lack of ministerial power. At the time, I said I found this rather irritating - he could moan all he liked, but he seemed to do nothing about it. In this volume, which starts in May 2005, the thread which runs through the book is the author coming to terms with the end of his political career. He avoids feeling sorry for himself but constantly vacillates between deciding to stay on for another parliament and announcing he will stand down. In the end he opts for the latter, but clearly lives to regret it. One of the final diary entries recounts his final speech in the House of Commons, where he nearly breaks down with the emotion of it all.

The fact that a man of 62 feels he has to stand down from Parliament because he has nothing further to contribute is either an indictment of our parliament, or of the man himself. In this case, it is clearly the former. Despite being disappointed by his lack of political advancement and his lack of power as a junior minister, what are we to make of the fact that Mullin couldn't see any role for himself in parliament? He had twice been chairman of a select committee but couldn't see that a return to a select committee chairmanship would have given him the job satisfaction he so clearly craved. And there must be part of him which wondered how he might have fared if he had stood for the Speakership. He would certainly have garnered more Conservatives votes than the eventual winner managed to.

But it was his own colleagues who would undoubtedly have let him down. Labour MPs clearly viewed Chris Mullin as a maverick who didn't understand what it meant to be a team player. However unfair that might have appeared, they probably had a point. Mullin is a man of principle who hated entering into the necessary political compromises needed to guarantee political advancement. And in the end that's why he's now embarking on a new phase of his life speaking at literary festivals and writing more books. I suspect he'll get more satisfaction out of it than if he had stayed in parliament, even if he hasn't quite realised it yet.

For those of us who enjoy his writings, it is to be hoped that his next project might be a sequel, or even a prequel, to A VERY BRITISH COUP, as well as a further volume of diaries. Mullin is a very talented writer and I hope he provides us with many more books over the coming years.

Buy DECLINE & FALL by Chris Mullin HERE.


Malcolm Redfellow said...

I've the back-end of Colin Smith's magnificent, jokey, authoritative England's Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-42 to polish off. [OK, OK: so it got pushed under the bed.]

Then, which I laid aside when I relocated the above, the rest of Nicolas Le Floch sorting out that appalling murder on the night the Dauphin married Marie Antoinette.

Working down the guilt pile, there's Wallanders 7 and 8.

So, I promise I'll give Chris the time of day around the end of the week.

If it's half the quality of A View from the Foothills, it'll be worth the wait.

You do realise that Ian Mortimer's 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory keeps getting deferred, don't you?

[Just boasting about the joys of retirement.]

gedmag2010 said...

Iain; I read your comments on Chris Mullin,and from a potential member of the Establishment like yourself,I suppose its fair comment.But having read "A View From The Foothills" myself; my view is that here is a man who could have made a real difference in the House of Commons.He had been one of the best editors of Tribune that ever lived; and of course his greatest achievement was the freeing of the Birmingham 6(Not forgetting of course all the groundwork done by Gareth Pierce, their solicitor).He knew more than most in the Parliamentary Labour Party that New Labour was nothing but a ragbag of opportunists,charlatans,carpetbaggers and Tory fellow travellers;but he just fell in line with the mob, hopingfor minesterial office and when it came he was treated with contempt by Bliar. To be fair he was a very good Select Committee chairman. How much better it could have been had he used his undoubted talent and ability to fight the poisonous,corrosive effect of New Labour.Instead he succumbed to the old disease of the labour left:Careerism and opportunism.

Laban said...

How can anyone, let alone a Tory, talk about Chris Mullin while ignoring his decades-long concealment of the names of the Birmingham bombers? 21 dead, 200 injured, many maimed for life.

As I blogged :

Six months before the Birmingham outrage the Dublin and Monaghan bombings killed 34 people. As in Birmingham, the bombers have not been found.

Imagine a young Telegraph reporter concealing the names of the bombers for reasons of 'journalistic confidentiality', then becoming a Tory MP and a Minister ?

I can't either.