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A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin Paperback – 14 Jan 2010
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The sharpest and most revealing political diaries since Alan Clark's. (Simon Hoggart Guardian)
Chris Mullin's diaries deserve to become the central text for understanding the Blair years (Peter Riddell The Times)
At the moment my favourite Labour MP is Chris Mullin, partly because I enormously enjoyed A View From The Foothills (William Hague Independent)
'The most wickedly indiscreet and elegant political memoirs since Alan Clark' Mail on SundaySee all Product description
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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
Well it was ordered and it duly arrived with quite a thump on the doormat! This is quite a brick of a book but, as it is written in such an easy style and moreover, as it is a diary (and not a full one at that!) it was not such a daunting read as you can jump in and out of it at will or settle down to half an hour here and half an hour there. And, is it entertaining - it most certainly is and at points reflected exactly what the above mentioned TV comedy shows contained, "F" words - the lot, proving that the political "Elite" are just as lacking in diction as we, The Great Unwashed....!
For sure, until one scales the dizzy heights, Mr Mullin finds that government at a junior ministerial level, is not really for him. Chairing various committees giving him far more power and a sense of achievement than anything obtained at the level of the foothills.
What I did find surprising however, was the whole issue of New Labour and it's attitude towards immigration. Indeed, I found Mr Mullin's personal attitude even more of an issue because it reflected truly everything that is wrong and why immigration has, for so long, been utterly out of control with repatriations running way, way behind the influx.
That aside, the insider view of "The Man" (Blair) and his cabinet cohorts (Brown, JP, Jack Straw et al) was amusing, showing their true style and intent and indeed the empire building that we all know goes on, no matter whether politics, business or religion....mankind at whatever level, always comes down to an intent of self preservation. So, indeed, when Mr Mullin was "dumped" from his position at the Foreign Office in a reshuffle, he found himself completely at a loss, but realising that notwithstanding, he still, like we the public, had to continue to earn a living to support house, wife and 2 young daughters - irrespective of how he felt about his "redundancy"
I am now moving on to the next edition, Decline And Fall as I am intrigued to see how this now plays out, together with all the well known "players"
If you are still wondering whether to purchase this - well, I can't say that it's the most readable of all the political diaries that I've had the fortune (or sometimes misfortune) to read, but if you really want an insight into the secret world that is current and modern day politics with a warts and all narrative, then you will go quite a ways to top this!
Diaries, the contemporary record, can be more revealing than memoirs which may be refracted through hindsight. Mullin's read as a reliable account of history, in matters large and small, as it was made. At the beginning he is a junior minister in the Department of Environment, frustrated because he believes has liiile effect on anything worth while. He retreats to the back benches but is lured into office again under Jack Straw with responsibility for Africa. Surprisingly, given his frequently stated dislike of pomp and privilege, he seems to relish the challenge the position holds, though once more he complains of helplessness - now in the face of famine, corruption and intransigence.
But it is not the big picture that fascinates here; it is the behind-the-scenes view of daily life and dilatory MPs. Mullin is ambivalent about Blair (a leader who invariably was brilliant in a crisis but still not entirely to be trusted); he is vitriolic in confirming all the bad opinions of Gordon Brown; forgiving of John Prescott's volatility; ultimately, one feels, admiring of the chameleon Straw, politician supreme.
The book holds much to amuse as well as moments of sadness - the death of his father, the decline of his mother. One would like to think there are many more at Westminster in the Mullin mould - hard-working, conscientious, ambitious but not driven. He has a safe seat in Sunderland and, the reader will surely feel, deserves it.
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Far easier going than Alan Clark's efforts either, having slogged through those.Read more