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117 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
I have to admit that my heart sank a little when this book arrived from Amazon, it's got a rather dull front cover and at 600 pages is something of a brick. Nevertheless, I had read a couple of good reviews in the papers so I thought I would give it a go...and three hours later I was still reading it. It's a truly engrossing account of ministerial life on the lowest rung...
Published on 19 Mar. 2009 by Orangutan

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
Chris Mullin gives us an entertaining stroll through what he calls "the foothills" of government i.e. as a junior minister in Tony Blair's government. A lot on how wasteful and muddled government can be (probably no matter which party is in power). Chris is a serious Labour man but does not hesitate to criticise the party line.

Some interesting insights into...
Published on 5 Feb. 2011 by E. Kraft


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117 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 19 Mar. 2009
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I have to admit that my heart sank a little when this book arrived from Amazon, it's got a rather dull front cover and at 600 pages is something of a brick. Nevertheless, I had read a couple of good reviews in the papers so I thought I would give it a go...and three hours later I was still reading it. It's a truly engrossing account of ministerial life on the lowest rung of the ladder, Mullins upon being promoted to junior minister for transport and environment sets himself just three goals for the duration of his tenure: an end to night flights, greater regulation of leylandi hedges and cancelling his ministerial car. Two years later on leaving his post he reflects that he has failed on the first two counts, and merely reduced the ministerial bill (from £700 to £400 per week) for the third. In the intervening months he catalogues with almost daily despair his lack of any policy influence and how he is slowly ground down by the civil service machine.

There is a real gearchange in the diary after he returns to the back benches after tendering his resignation. It is clear that he finds a new enthusiasm once he escapes from the stifling Whitehall centralised control structures designed to ensure that everyone remains "on message", where every interview and TV appearance has to be approved and prepped to mirror exactly the party line. Now just a humble MP he finds himself with much greater influence through his select committee work.

The second part of the diary therefore progresses much more like a conventional political memoir. We get to hear at first hand government reaction to 911, the political infighting between Gordon and Tony, the divisions over first Afghanistan and then Iraq, the inside reactions to the scandals, the media hysteria, the sackings, the election triumphs. I found it an absolutely fascinating read. The greatest compliment you can pay a autobiography is that it makes you feel like you yourself are living that life. And this book achieved that feat. Want to be a government minister? Want to be an MP? Then read this book and live it through someone else's eyes.

A must read!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good man in a bad job, 25 April 2011
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This review is from: A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin (Paperback)
I read this volume after first reading his later "Decline and Fall" 2005-10 diaries. Mullin is a leftie, and I am not, but he comes across as a decent human being, conscientiously looking after his constituents in underprivileged Sunderland and trying to help unpopular people like destitute African illegal immigrants. He joins Tony Blair's government in a lowly position and is almost laughably ineffective, other than making some changes in the car-pooling rules. He admires Blair for his plausible Houdini-like ability to get out of jams - although he consistently opposes the war in Iraq. Eventually he has a post in African affairs which suits him, but junior ministers do not stay in one place long or even retain office and he lost his. The diaries are wrily amusing and well written and I would rank them with Chips Channon's or Alan Clark's.
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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not "One of Us", more "Diary of a Nobody", 17 May 2009
By 
Petrolhead (Hong Kong) - See all my reviews
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A finely written diary, long in pages but short in reading time, which reveals more than Chris Mullin probably meant to about Tony Blair's New Labour government. Mullin is do-gooder of the old school and a bit of a grumpy old bloke, but very honest with it. His diary is an amazing through-his-eyes view of the end of the beginning, and the beginning of the end, of New Labour.

What's so amazing about it is that it's not an "insider account". Even though Mullin was a senior MP and a junior minister, he was not walking the corridors of power. Indeed, he seems to have been barely more informed than the average newspaper reader. His attempts to read the political tea-leaves and foresee what might happen - when Tony Blair might stand down, for example - are complete guesswork and frequently way off the mark. He seems to have been rather naive and he had absolutely no power. In fact, it reminded me of school, with Mullin and his friends excluded from (and fascinated by) a gang of cool kids they long to join. But good on him for telling it so honestly. This is not an airbrushed version of history.

Mullin might perhaps admit to being an idealist, although he has moments of misanthropy that are nice to see in a left-wing MP. He moans amusingly to his diary about the meaningless speeches he is asked to give and the media-handling, messages and photo-ops demanded by New Labour's spin doctors. A valiant fight, but in vain: he can do nothing about it.

I'm sure he would call himself a man of principle. Yet when it came to the ultimate test - over the final vote on going to war in Iraq, he wavered and very nearly went with Blair. Although Mullin eventually stuck to his guns, he was almost lured to support the case for war and one of his closest allies did cave in. Why? Because of pressure from the whips, who raised the terrible prospect of the government losing the vote. So, faced with a bit of partisanship, principle goes out the window. (Maybe it's me who's naive...)

So this book is a quirkily honest insight into what it's like to be an MP, written by a rather ordinary guy on the sidelines. Not a great politician, but a very good book.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Good Man in Westminster, 16 Mar. 2010
This review is from: A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin (Paperback)
The most readable, honest and funny political diaries I have read. An insight into the Blair years in which the latter is gently mocked but comes out of it better than might be expected (and I started with an anti-Blair prejudice). Mullin is good at self deprecation and takes no sides, other than to be very suspicious all along of Brown. But this book is not just about British politics. Other walk on parts are played by people as diverse as the Dalai Lama, the splendid Edna Adan of Somaliland, various people who found themselves falling foul of our immigration and assylum laws and practice, and not least, his family. He comes over as a very humane, decent, observant and believable source.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book but, the kindle edition is full of errors., 19 April 2011
I like reading books on my kindle, however, as with almost every book I have bought for it on Amazon, it is littered with errors. I have found Amazon's customer service helpful and quick to refund books that have not been rendered well. But really, someone should read these editions before offering them up for sale. Can't Amazon employ or encourage people to correct barmy paragraphs and errors. Then provide updates for those who have already bought the book?
Chris Mullin's book is great, but I have literally just read the same sentence twice, because it is there twice.
No wonder people are trying to download books for free, when the quality control is so poor and new or newish books are expensive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A totally different view from inside politics, 27 Jan. 2011
By 
Chris Widgery (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin (Paperback)
Amongst the self aggrandising, self serving diaries and memoirs of politicians, Chris Mullin's diaries stand out. He was the government minister who never wanted to be one. He found it hugely frustrating and soul destroying, feeling he had no influence, less power and achieved more or less nothing during his time as a junior minister.

But his experiences are all the more enlightening for that. We usually read about prime ministers and cabinet members, not the junior minister who gets all the rubbish nobody else wants, isn't allowed to talk to the press, and is engaged with running battles with his department about whether or not he carries a pager or a mobile. He returns to the backbenches and his chairmanship of the Home Affairs select committee, but is soon returned to government as minister for Africa in the foreign office.

These stories are nterwoven with his duties as a constituency MP in Sunderland, and, particuarly, his struggles to engage a cynical and distrustful public, and to battle the immigration system.

It's illuminating, informative, often funny and all written with a wonderful lack of pomposity. Recommended if you want an alternative view of the Blair years
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and often entertaining, 8 Aug. 2013
By 
markr - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin (Paperback)
Having read many of the diaries and autobigraphies of the leading figures of the last governement, I wasn't sure what to expect of this rather different view. Still the reviews are good and so I thought I'd give it a try...

Well, this was a thoroughly entertaining read - an honest, open and often self deprecating account of life as an MP and junior minister and i raced through it in just a few days.

Mullin never quite reached the higher levels of office, partly because he was so determined to avoid the all consuming work load which can so easily go with higher office - refusing a ministerial car, disdaining to have a pager, and avoiding taking red boxes home at weekends, were some of his personal rebellions against the political lifestyle. These pages then recount the life of someone who was not quite on the inside, but not quite on the outside either.

There are several amusing anecdotes throughout these pages, and although Chris Mullin was not a terribly successful politician, he has provided a fascinating and often entertaining account of life in the lower reaches of government
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Insiders View Of The Real Workings of Government, 4 Jan. 2011
By 
Curns "curns" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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An an insiders view of life as a Labour MP and, at times, as a junior Minsiter (transport and environment/Africa) this is a compelling read. The diary format is easy to dip in to - and that had been my intention - but I found I was hooked and could spend many hours reading; it's not a slimline book! The inner working of government are fascinating: Mullin has a particular dislike for the poorly written speeches he was expected to deliver; the excesses of Ministerial cars and the fact that, as a Junior Minister, it seems impossible to actually get anything done. It's interesting to see that a relatively few number of MPs - mainly those nearest the Prime Minister - can actually do very much at all; the rest expected to tow the party line. Mullin was not that close to The Man but he certainly has a different view than most of us. Of most interest historically, of course, are the discussions that lead to the UK's support of the Iraqi war but, if you're interested in how much of government works, this is possibly better positioned than some of the bigger names.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great gossipy book, 3 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin (Paperback)
I've come to this book late, in many ways though I think this book is essential reading if you even have a passing interest in the New Labour period. I've read quite a few of the various autobiographies from the period but Chris Mullin's diaries of the day to day banality of his time time as an MP are more enlightening than the more weighty and 'worthy' books from this period.

This book is unusual though, in that, I came away from the book thinking a lot less of the author than before I started. Normally with such books it's the reverse. His endless whining - while throughly amusing reminds me of Marvin the Paranoid Android - 'Brain the size of a planet and look what they've got me doing!'. However, when actually given something to do he first very carefully ensures it won't mean he has to work late or interfere with his weekends. Even through the filter of his writing the exasperation and frustration of his colleagues is very apparent.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The petty realities of political life, 17 Mar. 2009
By 
R. Wilson (Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is an interesting read, though more to dip into than for a lengthy visit. And that's the thing: it amazes me that ministers find time to think deeply about policies when their lives are so crammed with brief events of intense pressure. Mullin comes over as a dedicated Labour worker trying to express profoundly held values in a hectic, grinding arena. There are interesting insights into "The Man" (Blair), and major policy issues (e.g. Iraq), but his life is always packed with depressing, trivial, sometimes spiteful incidents. All credit to Mullin for keeping at it for as long as he did, but it makes me wonder if such a chaotic system can ever deal effectively with the huge challenges of global warming, banking failures, Islam vs The West, etc. etc.
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A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin
A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin by Chris Mullin (Paperback - 14 Jan. 2010)
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