A View from the Foothills:
Diaries of Chris Mullen,
I thought twice about purchasing this book, but two things clinched the deal with Waterstones – you hardly need any more of my money!
The first was the inevitable tease of £5 off the retail price and the second was that Chris Mullen simply has a rather kind, sensible and intelligent face. His photograph is on the cover of the book but please don’t press me to define ‘kind, sensible or intelligent’ as they relate to facial features – you just get a feeling about some faces, don’t you?!
One of the reasons why this is such a delight is that Chris Mullin was a writer who became and MP rather than an MP who attempts to write. The diaries are a wonderful insight into what government life from the inside is really about. Mullin does not hold back- he’s quick to express and opinion or judgement and often even quicker to admit that he was wrong and changes his mind.
Some parts of the book are inevitably less exciting than others- but that reflects the sheer grind of the life of a Junior Minister – huge amounts of correspondence, very little opportunity to shape or influence the life of government and a punishing schedule of meetings and ministerial speeches.
There is an integrity and an honesty about Mullin – he caused consternation by refusing to have a ministerial car or to take red boxes home at night and at weekends. He also refused a pager and mobile; and one wonders how he managed to survive in today’s 24, news driven political world. At one level Mullin belongs to an earlier era.
Well, a number of things emerge for this avid reader of political trivia – the first and overwhelming sense is that politics is a tricky and dirty business! The jostling for power and the sheer overwhelming tasks that face politicians in today’s rather more complex and busy world surely mean that we might have more sympathy and understanding for their work than we actually do. One of the things that is so attractive about Mullin is his honesty about his own weaknesses: he’s incapable of hating anyone for more than half an hour. Add to that a lack of personal ambition and he’s doomed to rise no higher than what he calls ‘Undersecretary for folding deck-chairs’.
It is the goodness and honesty of such a man that we need more of in all kinds of places within public and professional life. Amidst the self-deprecation is a funny and shrewd man that many should listen to.
I don’t expect readers of my blog to share my enthusiasm for the endless adventure in and around the political world – but if you did pick this book up in the library or elsewhere I can assure you that you would not be disappointed.