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A Very British Diarist

John Rentoul

article 1305021 0ADED4A9000005DC 565 306x423 217x300 A Very British DiaristThe second volume of Chris Mullin’s diaries – Decline and Fall – were serialised in the Mail on Sunday yesterday. Some of the anecdotes might have made a front-page lead story if there were still a Labour government, but I was surprised to see them picked up in precisely none of this morning’s newspapers.

Here are my highlights of the highlights.

Alastair Campbell on Gordon Brown
24 September 2007. Labour Party Conference.
I asked about the diaries [Campell's account of the Blair years]. Had he run them past The Man prior to publication? ‘Yes, Tony saw it all. He wanted me to stick it on Gordon a bit more.’ When might we expect the unexpurgated version?
‘Some of the stuff with Gordon is mind-blowing. Not sure I can even put it in the unexpurgated version. I saw a poll that said only eight per cent of people now think we are divided whereas last year it was 60 per cent.
‘The fact is that Gordon was the cause of the divisions. It was all Gordon. There wasn’t a single member of the Cabinet who didn’t at one time say Gordon wasn’t up to being Prime Minister.’

On Ed Miliband
27 January 2009. Members’ Lobby.
As I was leaving this evening Ed Miliband, Climate Change Secretary, bent my ear about tomorrow’s vote on a third runway for Heathrow. ‘The author of A Very British Coup [the name of Mullin's 1982 novel] wouldn’t vote with the Tories, would he?’
I explained to young Ed, who despite his present eminence hasn’t been with us all that long, that there is not a Tory lobby and a Labour one, but an Aye and a Noe Lobby  -  and yes I would be voting for the Tory motion since it reflected my views.
He then attempted to persuade me that expansion was conditional on the toughest emission constraints in the world and they would be legally binding.
To which I protested the airlines would find a way round whatever constraints he saw fit to impose. Whereupon he walked off, shaking his head in disbelief at my naivety.

Blair, by a Hostile Witness
11 March 2009
As we were going through the Aye Lobby, Michael Meacher [MP for Oldham West and Royton] recounted an exchange he had with The Man, shortly before the 1997 Election, when Michael was frontbench spokesman on environment. A crisis had blown up, and he had called Blair to clarify what he should say.
According to Michael, The Man replied: ‘You’ll just have to lie.’ Michael was gobsmacked. ‘I’ve never forgotten it,’ he said. ‘And I don’t mind if you put that in your diary.’

Nick Brown’s Booby Trap
21 May 2009.
I ran into Chief Whip Nick Brown. ‘Between you and me,’ I said, ‘given that we are going to lose the Election, we ought to be planting a few booby traps.’
I had in mind a few modest measures such as the election of select committee chairmen. ‘I think we’ve done that with the PSBR [ Public Sector Borrowing Requirement],’ replied Nick, smiling wickedly.

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  • Guest

    The overall impression I got from ‘Foothills’ was one of grubbiness. Not a one of them seemed the type that could earn my respect. I really did wonder why anyone would want to be an M.P. and become part of the PLP whose machinations owed much to lesson learned on the school playground. I even started to develop some animus to poor old Mullin himself the poor old sod.His role in his constituency was that of an ersatz Citizens Advice Bureau and why on earth did he stay in a party that had so clearly left him behind?

    His disillusionment with the people he represented was obvious too, and who can blame him? My favourite bit was of him watching a woman changing a nappy while less than lovingly remonstrating with her other child; she just threw the shitty nappy onto the sand (I think). ”What chance do those kids have?” thought Chris; a thought he had expressed more than once. Mullin knows very well that there is nothing that politics can do to change the mindset of its shitty nappy flinging citizens – New Labour’s natural voter.

    I’ve depressed myself thinking about his diaries. I hope that in part two we share in Chris’s journey as he sees the light.


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