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A View from the Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  571 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Chris Mullin has been a Labour MP for twenty years. In that time he has not been afraid to criticise his party. But despite his refusal to toe the party line - on issues like 90 days detention and Africa, for example - he has held several prominent posts. To the apoplexy of the whips, he was for a time the only person appointed to government who voted against the Iraq War. ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published March 2nd 2009 by Profile Books Ltd.
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4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  571 ratings  ·  54 reviews


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Emily Britt
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
So good. He saw all those pigeons on the horizon that have now come home to roost for Labour.
J W
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
An entertaining political memoir, in which the main interest is in the Labour Party's infighting and the author's views on Tony Blair. Mr Mullin is to be credited for his honesty - he often confesses to disliking the electorate and being willing to follow policies in the interests of staying in power rather than remaining true to his principles. He shines a spotlight on the stupidity and populism which plagues our political system and it is an easy, excellent read.
Vasil Kolev
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great account of the British politics around the Iraq war. Also the author is a very refreshing person, and exposes a lot of the internal problems he has seen.

If there was a genre "politics is crap" (like "war is hell"), this should be one of its main title...
Philip Carman
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best political diaries I've read. Never loses you in too much detail and keeps a good balance between politics and family life.
Jackson Stubbs
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great insight into Blair’s second term.
David Worsfold
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Engaging and insightful. A very honest account of the challenges MPs face in trying to establish and maintain an effective sphere of influence.
Monthly Book Group
Dec 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
The proposer said that he had chosen it as it was a book he had been unable to put down. He was aware this might be because he had a particular interest in politics, but he hoped that the book might have proved to be of wider interest.

He felt the book worked at several different levels:

- there was the story of Mullin as an individual, his hopes and fears, from the beginning to the end of his Ministerial career. He had an attractive personality – honest, modest, self-deprecating, sharp but also n
...more
Anna
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Last night I had insomnia, so ended up reading all 550 pages of this book before I dropped off at 5am. I’ve previously read Decline & Fall: Diaries 2005 2010, which were equally addictive reading. Mullins has an extremely easy-to-read, analytical yet gossipy style and covers a striking mixture of huge geopolitical events and hilarious mundanities. The first half of the diary covers what seems in retrospect to be a golden age - no war on terror, no extreme weather disasters, no economic chaos ...more
Sally
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
These are the diaries of Chris Mullin, the former MP for Sunderland South, covering the period 1999-2005, during which time he was a junior minister and backbench MP. This is a really interesting period (Iraq, the Blair-Brown rivalry, etc) and is of personal interest because it overlaps with the period when I worked in Whitehall.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It’s fascinating if you like political gossip (and I do) because it’s full of political gossip. CM doesn’t hold back with his opinion
...more
Gumble's Yard
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Diary recorded by Mullin during his period as a lowly member of the government during the height and decline of New Labour (from 1999 to 2005 when Blair asked him to stand down after the election). A easily written account of life in the lowest rungs of government and Mullin’s quick realisation that he is far less empowered than he was as an influential Select Committee chairman and head of Parliamentary committee. The insights into life in the Environment Department are interesting those of the ...more
Adam Dodd
Jan 03, 2011 rated it liked it
I'm torn on this. On the one hand I quite enjoyed reading from the perspective of a low-level minister in the New Labour government. Many of the frustrations that one expects to exist when faced with massive bureaucracy and the tyranny of career civil servants are there and there is something appealing about quietly venting one's spleen and having preconceptions confirmed. This is an interesting memoir due to his brushes with those who once held some sort of real power. It is reasonably well wri ...more
Andrew Garvey
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Starting with his appointment in July 1999 to the vast, dysfunctional department loosely run by the vast, dysfunctional John Prescott and finishing with his May 2005 sacking from his junior post at the Foreign Office, Mullin's diaries are a fascinating, gossipy account of his time on the lower rungs of the Ministerial ladder, and as the Chair of an influential Select Committee.

Covering one of the most fractious, angry periods of New Labour history - Afghanistan and Iraq loom large, as does the B
...more
Gerald Sinstadt
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A Member of Parliament has many allegiances: to his constituents, his constituency party, his national party, his parliamentary party - and to himself. The vote on the Iraq War presented Chris Mullin with a fundamental dilemma. He was opposed to the war, so were many of his constituents. But the whips were leaning on him. Defeat was a possibility for his party. Where then should his loyalty lie? To his credit, he cast the solitary Labour vote against. To his relief, it did not result in defeat. ...more
Davidg
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chris Mullin is the likeable, radical Labour MP for Sunderland South. After years on the backbenches, chairing parliamentary committees, and being a thorn in the side of governments of all stripes, he finally gets a lowly ministerial position in the second Blair administration. This is his diary of those years, until he gets passed over after the 2005 election.

This is a very depressing read. The Blair government is bitterly divided - Gordon Brown comes out of it very badly. Despite all his best
...more
Matthew
Nov 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Chris Mullins diaries of his time as a junior minister and chair of a parliamentary committee in the Blair govt of the early 2000s is highly readable and an interesting view of 'life in the foothills' i.e. at the lower rungs of govt. Mullins doesn't take himself too seriously and the diaries sit somewhere between the out and out seriousness of Alastair Campbell and the gossip of Piers Morgan, and cover a similar period.
There are a couple of memorable moments - such as when the then head of MI6 p
...more
Jon Curnow
Jan 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 J ...more
Jim
Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography
Diaries can be fascinating - none more so than my own - and I am a sucker for contemporary ones like this. Chris Mullin is, on his own perception, a second tier politician of the Blair Years ("The Man") and this is his account of his tenure. It was revealing and brought new insights on people like John Prescott, Gordon Brown, Mandleson and the rest, along with a real view into how parliament works. Or doesn't, more to the point. His life is "Yes Minister" without the humour or "In the Loop" with ...more
Philip Doggart
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If volume 1 was good, this was even better. I suspect Mullin took a number of years to get going as a diarist, but it was worth the wait. As with most politicians, he is delightfully gossipy, devasting with a barb, generous with praise.

Reading his frustration of being a minor pawn to ministers who refused to let anything go (Prescott, Meacher) was enightening. Someone was reaching up to the height of his ambition, but they were let down by the reality of every job's drudgery. He was happy pursui
...more
John
Jul 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, biography
The Chris Mullins book arrived in the post so I started reading the opening pages and was quickly hooked. Not only is it mesmerisingly accurate about the ODPM (the dept where he was minister) but in general about New Labour. So many little incidents, like the invitee-only 'Listen to Older People' event in which ministers deliver long speeches then leave before answering questions.

On the way the Dept works, it struck me that nothing much has changed since Crossman wrote his diaries. The way that
...more
Dave Johnson
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
A great insight into the tedium of being a junior Minister by a lively and honest writer who seems to have retained his honesty despite being (relatively) close to power. Ironically a supporter of "The Man" Blair despite being aware of his failings, his Ministerial live not surviving the arrival of Brown as PM. I would recommend this to anyone interested in British Politics. I particularly relished his commitment to protect his family from the absurd pressures of Ministerial life. I also enjoyed ...more
Jeff Howells
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second (chronologically) of Chris Mullen's diaries - his account of the New Labour years from the foothills of power (i.e. his time at the most junior levels of government). I have to say I have completely warmed to him. He describes himself as 'a socialist with a small "s", a liberal with a small "l", a green with a small "g" and a Democrat with a capital "D"'. He also recognises that in order to change things for the better you need to be capable of forming a government (Corbynistas take n ...more
Richard Wilson
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing


Mullin alternates between cynical and movingly earnest. Sometimes he has so much self-doubt that the reader wonders why he is an MP at all. Reading between the lines though, it is clear he doesn't really believe that he is a failed politician, as he labels himself. His encounters with asylum seekers and children in Africa show that he did make a difference despite everything.

It is fascinating that he actually names names, nearly all the time. It is rare to be able actually to read what those i
...more
Steve Gillway
Sep 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
This book gives a good insight into the Labour government post 1997. He gives us some of the day to day stuff as well as the big divisive issues, such as the Iraq war. His perspective is interesting because he straddles the backbench and demonstrates the necessary self restraint needed to be a part of government. The lowly junior ministerial role is shown to be little more than a sham, as he has little or no power to affect even quite small areas of policy. Towards the end of the book we see tha ...more
Cabe
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Probably more detailed than it needed to be, but Mullins' style does not seem to be to go for the big flashy story at the expense of all else, and that makes the book relatively unique among political memoirs. There was not too much sense of momentum in the writing - 'this happened, then this happened' - with stories of his fighting the car service bill interspersed with his conversations with Tony Blair ('The Man') or low-key disgreements with other ministers. Still, a pleasant person to spend ...more
Christopher
Apr 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This diary is fascinating and offers many examples of issues that could have been dealt with back in the early 2000s but were ignored - including MPs' expenses and concerns about Gordon Brown's leadership style. Also illustrated quite clearly is the misery of being a junior Minister in a Government Department in which he had no interest - in this case the Department for the Environment. But the most thought-provoking aspect from the diary was the link, or lack of it, between Government policy an ...more
thom
Apr 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A timely moment to be reading about the New Labour years as they finally draw to a close. Chris Mullin's an excellent writer, and gives a wonderful glimpse into the life of a Junior Minister and backbench MP. He was a pretty exemplary example of both, which also makes this a great book to read if you think that all of our representatives are awful, out for themselves, and as bad as each other.

Unfortunately, he's stood down at the most recent elections, but there are others in the house as good
...more
Catriona
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
A very engaging political diary - Chris Mullin charts his rise (and fall) to the foothills of power in New Labour under Tony Blair. It's a bit of an eye-opener to the workings of Westminster, and particularly the civil service - his dissatisfaction with the speeches he was given to deliver was a recurring theme, as was the tendency of those at the top to make decisions without consultation.
Chris Mullin himself comes across pretty well - he is self-deprecating and prepared to admit his own shortc
...more
David Board
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for a frank and compassionate account of the Blair years.
A great 'alternative' account of the Blair years. Full of humour, gripping excitement and poignant moments of both horror and joy. This book managed to inspire in me equal amounts of hope and despair with our elected representatives. Despair at the media obsessions, pointless activity, African atrocities, America etc.

Hope that politicians like Chris Mullin still exist. In fact, if there is any message I took away from this book, it is that most politicians are actually much more principled, cari
...more
David Medcalf
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent insight into the world of Labour politics during the first period of Tony Blair's Premiership. Chris Mullin writes very well, with self-deprecating humour, and a deep sense of humanity. He gave me a feeling of "I wish he was my MP" as well as "I wish he'd had more influence in Government". I'm looking forward to reading the next instalment "Decline and Fall" which is on my Tablet waiting for a rainy day. Highly recommended!
Patrick
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is probably a very effective way of inoculating oneself against any desire to go into politics - the first 150 or so pages during which Mr Mullin is the 'Minister for Folding Deckchairs' (his term) in John Prescott's vast 'Department of Things and Stuff' (my term) especially.

Interesting too for the semi-insider's view it presents of the much talked about run-up to the Iraq war and for seeing what an MP *really* thinks of the constituents he has to pretend to sympathise with.
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Chris Mullin is the former MP for Sunderland South, a journalist and author. His books include the first volume of his acclaimed diaries, "A View From the Foothills." He also wrote the thriller, "A Very British Coup", with the television version winning BAFTA and Emmy awards. He was a minister in three departments, Environment, Transport and Regions, International Development and The Foreign Offic ...more
“This is a classic New Labour document, being printed on glossy paper and illustrated with colour pictures of the Elysium that is the new Britain. Happy people, many from ethnic minorities, gaze productively at computer screens. Pensioners get off a gleaming, streamlined tram which has just delivered them promptly and inexpensively to their grandchildren … The prose has the same unreal quality. Nothing actually happens. Nothing tangible is planned. But we are promised there will be ‘innovative developments’, ‘local strategic partnerships’ and ‘urban policy units’. Town councils will have new powers to ‘promote well-being’ … and, just in case we think this will never happen, we are promised that ‘visions for the future will be developed’. There will be a ‘key focus’ here and a ‘co-ordinated effort’ there. The government in its wisdom has ‘established a framework’. The whole thing resembles those fantastical architect’s drawings in which slim, well-dressed figures stroll across tree-festooned piazzas with no mention of empty burger boxes or gangs of glowering youths.” 1 likes
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