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.