Reviewer: Ian Cain
Chris Mullin MP, for Sunderland South constituency, gave the audiences at The Customs House a fascinating and unique snapshot of political life during the Blair era in ‘A View From The Foothills.’ The evening draws its title from the first instalment of his personal diaries, which he began writing on 12th May 1994 – the day that former Labour leader John Smith died.
Mullin has represented Sunderland South since 1987, when he was elected with a swing to Labour that was double the national average, but he has decided to stand down at the next General Election.
The man seems to be honest and self-deprecating, with a keen sense of the ridiculous. He described his career as a member of Parliament as “a white-knuckle ride” in which he “had to endure a certain amount of tabloid abuse.”
His career in ‘the House’ has seen him as a Member of the Home Affairs Select Committee (1992-1997) and Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee (1997-1999). In 1999, he became Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) and described his role there as “the lowest form of life in John Prescott’s department.”
In 2001, Mullin transferred to the Department for International Development as Clare Short’s Deputy. He described Short as a “brilliant Secretary of State” but observed that she was so efficient that “she didn’t need a Deputy.” He took the decision to diarise his thoughts and observations because he felt that he was “well-placed to chart the rise - and perhaps fall – of New Labour.”
Mr Mullin offered his opinions on a number of high-profile politicians. He describes former Prime Minister Tony Blair as “one of the most outstanding political leaders of my lifetime,” but was scathing of his relationship with former US President George W. Bush, whom he refers to as “an intellectually and morally deficient serial killer.”
Additionally, Mullin commented on the “renaissance” that has transformed his constituency, his campaign for the release of the ‘Birmingham Six’ and ‘Guildford Four,’ and the War in Iraq.
The second part of the evening involved him answering questions from members of the audience.Despite the fact that Mr Mullin was somewhat verbose in his responses to the questions put to him, the evening was informative, entertaining and amusing, too.