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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 29 May 2017
This is the second book of Chris Mullin's diaries that I've read. Chronologically it is the first, inasmuch as it covers the period from John Smith's death, to Tony Blair's coronation as his successor, and Blair's subsequent election win. It ends with Mullin's appointment as a minister.

This book was the third to be published, however. The first covered the period from his departure as a minister, to Labour's subsequent election defeat, while the second book covers Mullin's ministerial years. I have read the first, and third books in the series.

The books themselves are fine. If you want to get a sense of the "New Labour" project, you can't go wrong with these books. It will give you a sense of what was going on at the time. My grumble is that anyone who read Alan Clark's diaries, you get the sense that Clark was closer to the centre of things, while you get the sense that Mullin was more a watcher of events, and even not that closely, as he wasn't viewed at someone who could be viewed as "one of us" by the people who ran th party.
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on 4 March 2017
brilliant diarist who entertains and explains.
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on 30 September 2011
Just a bit put out that these diaries appear after the two volumes covering 1999-2010, ie. you have to backtrack whereas I really would have preferred to read them chronologically. However, they are such a good read and, although Mr Mullin always makes it clear he never reached the political heights, his observations and tit bits give you a real insight into the world of politics and how it works (or doesn't work). The one reservation I have in the back of my mind is that these diaries were produced in 2010 and I feel have on occasions been edited with hindsight. To be fair though Mr Mullin makes frequent favourable references to the early Stephen Byers and we all know what a rotter he turned out to be. His feet remained firmly on the ground (no ministerial car and a regular user of the 159 bus between Brixton and Westminster) he also draws a very gloomy picture of the social damage done by 18 years of Thatcherism; his constituency work in Sunderland was frequently not easy.
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on 27 November 2011
And so the first shall be last. The final section of former MP Chris Mullin's diaries to be published are those covering the earliest period, from 1994-9. The broad story is therefore one of New Labour's rise to power and its coming to terms with that power.

Mullin is in an interesting position to observe that development - within the Labour parliamentary party but of neither the oppositionist left nor the New Labour right. Why that is is one of the main reasons the book is so readable: Mullin thinks for himself and isn't afraid to challenge others - or himself - when he thinks the arguments have been insufficiently worked through or new evidence casts doubt on what went before. At one point, his Chief Whip describes him as an 'agoniser', a description Mullin correctly concedes is accurate. That willingness to distance himself and not to adopt fixed positions does give him an excellent opportunity to paint an accurate picture of the times and of the people involved, and it's one he takes very well.

Reading the diaries now makes one realise how much has changed since the 90s, and especially in the assumptions taken for granted. Before the 1997 election, virtually no-one he speaks to predicts a Labour landslide and he himself doesn't even expect a Labour majority a few weeks before polling day.

Having read all three of his diaries, I have to agree with Mullin's publishers in their decision to release his ministerial years first. These early years are just as well-written but often cover events and people long forgotten. One of the running themes throughout the book is Mullin's battle with the Masons over their connections with the judiciary and police. By the end of the volume, even Mullin is losing interest as it dawns on him that the Masons are a force whose power is waning. There's a poignant little moment where he notes a party of Masons (identifiable by their regalia cases) on Durham station heading to London, and how aging and grey they are: a case of the power in the shadows becoming shadows themselves.

There's another reason why this doesn't get the five stars his other two diary volumes did: there's a problem with the structure. Diaries by their nature do not follow their own story arc as a novel does; if there is a narrative arc, it's that of the events the diary covers. In this case, there is a clear beginning - the death of Labour's leader, John Smith, and the subsequent election of Tony Blair but unfortunately, because of the decision to have the first published volume cover Mullin's time in government, there's no natural end. We don't even get to read of Mullin's reaction to his appointment in a brief overlap with the 1999-2005 volume. That brutal cut-off leaves the reader unfulfilled.

Still, that shouldn't overshadow an excellent documentary of the glory years of New Labour, packed with astute observations, wry humour, occasional despair and astute judgements of a fine chronicler and a decent man.
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on 10 September 2011
Would this volume be as good as the others? I have not been disappointed.

Chris Mulin displays a high level of emotional intelligence in these fascinating diaries. He is so rarely negative - even the most unpleasant and arrogant of Parliamentary characters are portrayed with at least a degree of understanding. As a result we learn more about political life and the motivations of our representatives than is possible from those diaries that are so clearly exercises in self-justification and aggrandisement. One again Chris Mullin comes across as a warm, popular and highly committed politician. All the volumes are a perfect antidote to stories of those corrupted by power or tempted to betray their principles. What we see here is a politician emotionally and intellectually in tune with the changing world around him who understands the human condition. Ideal qualifications for a diarist. I hope there will be more to come.
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on 5 January 2012
Chris Mullin, an English writer, journalist and politician, represented the Labour Party for the electorate of Sunderland South in the UK Parliament from 1987 to his retirement in 2010. 'A Walk-On Part', the third of three political diaries is the most recently published but chronologically the earliest in this series of three volumes. The period covered is from May 1994 when the death of Labour's leader John Smith led to the election of Tony Blair as Smith's successor, to July 1999 when Mullin was appointed as a junior minister (Parliamentary Under-Secretary) in the Labour Government. I have not yet read the subsequent volumes in this series but I am looking forward to doing so as this book provides a fascinating insight into the dynamics of British politics. Mullins is on the Left of British politics, who at the time of his election to Parliament, was best known as a campaigner for the Birmingham Six wrongly convicted for IRA bombings in Birmingham, and it is particularly interesting reading how Mullin and the Labour Party gradually adjusted to Blair's 'New Labour' model of government. I have a background in criminology research and the description of Mullin's work as Chairman of the Parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee provides a valuable insight into the approach of Parliament and Government to policing, prisons and related policy issues. The introduction has a 'Cast', describing the main players covered in the book and this will be helpful for those who are unfamiliar with the recent history of modern British politics. Overall 'A Walk-On Part' is an outstanding work and I recommend it for students and scholars and for anyone with even the slightest interest in politics.
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on 17 September 2011
One of the best political diaries published in recent years. You may not necessarily share Chris Mullin's views on various social policies but it is hard to dispute his integrity and total honesty. If we had more politicians of his rank in present day society, perhaps people were less sceptical of politics and politicians in general. Highly entertaining, informative and certainly a pleasant read.
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on 4 September 2011
An excellent account of the rise of New Labour and its first two years in power from the witty pen of an observer on the inside (sort of)

If you've enjoyed the other volumes you will enjoy this one - unless possibly if you are a Mason!
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on 7 October 2011
I am throughly enjoying this book. Chris Mullin is like a good deed in a naughty world, he shines. He seems to be one of the few real socialists in New Labour. What a grasping shower some of them were. He is not unkind in his diaries just states things as he sees them. This is the third of his diaries I have read, having first heard a reading on Radio 4. I can't recommend A Walk-On Part too highly.
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on 19 September 2011
This is the third volume of Chris Mullin's Diaries dealing with the lead up to the Labour victory of 1997, as always very well written and informative with personal family anedotes, and observations of his constituency surgeries, and dealing with collegues such as John Smith, Tony Blair, John Prescott, Gordon Brown and Robin Cook and relationships with other party MP's such as former Prime Minister Sir John Major.
The book arrived in time and good condition.
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