Tag Archives: chris mullin

Clegg: Governing for the long term

Nick Clegg gave the following speech to the Institute for Government yesterday:

Successful governments require a number of ingredients: strong leadership, public support, dedicated ministers, and a good dose of luck, to name but a few.

But above all they need a clear sense of purpose.

When governments lose sight of their overriding purpose for being in power, the glue that holds them together dissolves. We saw this in the latter years of Labour’s time in office. A directionless government, without the underpinning of a clear purpose, inevitably ended in factionalism, intrigue and bankruptcy.

This is a mistake we will not repeat.  In my speech …

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , and | 4 Comments

What makes a ‘good’ MP?

Well, there has been plenty in the news recently about what makes a ‘bad’ MP so we at Yoosk thought that it might be a good idea to focus for a while on the qualities of a ‘good’ MP. End the year on a positive note.

And that is why we started our ‘Britain’s Best MP’ campaign two weeks ago. We want to find out who the good MPs are and what differentiates them from the rest. We asked our users at Yoosk to nominate their candidates and these are the people they put forward:

Gisela Stuart (Lab)
Lynne …

Posted in The Independent View | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 9 Comments

What can politicians achieve? A Review of the Foothills

Generally speaking political diaries are not best read cover to cover, and certainly not if they weigh in at 590 pages. They are for dipping into, browsing the index, and allowing your eyes to wonder to names, places and events that leap from the text. But (owing to a very long journey) I did consume Chris Mullin’s A View from the Foothills – touted as Labour’s answer to Alan Clark – in pretty much one sitting.

Like all political diaries, it both benefits and loses from its fixation with the moment; if you’re scribbling as and when you get the opportunity, there is scant opportunity for reflection or analysis. What you get instead is an unvarnished of-the-moment description (if the diarist is candid), and colourful and entertaining episodes (if the diarist is talented).

Thankfully, Chris is both candid and talented, enabling me to set to one side his overwheening self-deprecation and occasionally jarring piety (here’s his account of Christmas 2002, chez Mullin: “I did my best to look cheerful, but I find it a deeply depressing experience watching children who have everything piling up new possessions. Such a relief when it was over.” (page 340)).

There are illuminating insights a-plenty – just a handful which caught my eye were:

– an early assessment of David Cameron: “a young bright libertarian who can be relied upon to follow his own instincts rather than the party line” (p. 240). Back then, of course, Mr Cameron was happy to keep an open mind on the legalisation of drugs; nowadays he’s a captive of his right-wing party’s traditional Conservative knee-jerkism.

– a painful glimpse of Clare Short’s humiliating downfall in March 2003, when she was won over by Tony Blair and voted for the Iraq war: “I came across Clare Short in the Library Corridor, looking miserable and much the worse for wear, propped up by Dennis Turner.” (p. 388) It’s an image which poignantly captures her realisation that she had thrown away a credible, radical reputation built over a lifetime in return for a flimsy, meaningless pledge from the master of telling people what they wanted to hear.

– the exposure of Tony Blair’s utter management incompetence: quoting Ken Purchase, Robin Cook’s former parliamentary private secretary: “‘He’s hopeless. A fucking hopeless manager. He hasn’t a clue about managing people. If he was in the private sector, they wouldn’t spit on him’.” (p. 213)

– Lib Dems are pretty much absent, but Colchester MP Bob Russell will have done little to assuage the public’s fears that their parliamentarians are selfless servants with his request that the Home Affairs Committee go on the razzle: “Bob Russell said we ought to have a bit more fun. How about a foreign trip or two?” (p. 215)

– Though Labour-turned-Lib Dem MP Brian Sedgemore earns my admiration for his frank assessment of the virues of immigration: “‘Unless we are worried about the gene pool, what’s the problem? Most asylum seekers are dynamic, hard-working, educated people of the sort we badly need to refresh our ageing, lethargic population.’” (p. 292)

Yet the overwhelming impression from the book – and perhaps the reason this political memoir seems to have captured the zeitgeist – is the clear sense of futility Chris feels about his involvement in government.

Much of his ministerial life seems to be devoted to touring top-class hotels delivering mind-numbingly dull speeches to bored public sector employees at pointless conferences: “To a posh hotel in Mayfair to address 300 sceptical councillors and officials on the wonders of ‘Best Value’, the latest New Labour local government wheeze. The speech, one of Hilary Armstrong’s hand-me-downs, was abysmal … I was simply expected to stand and chant it like a Maoist slogan” (p. 69)

Posted in Books and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 3 Comments
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