Chris Mullin’s Diaries


I had a speed-read (as one does) the other day (still took a few hours!) of all three of Chris Mullin’s series of diaries. Up there with Tony Benn’s for having worthwhile nuggets to quote at leisure. Three stick with me (all from Decline and Fall: Diaries 2005-2010, edited by Ruth Winstone):

1. Monday 21st November 2005: ‘Joined at lunch by a Yorkshire MP, a mild-mannered fellow…’I think we will lose the next election. The Tories will come to some sort of understanding with the Lib Dems and we’ll find that we’ve opened the door to the market in health and education. And when we protest they will reply “But it is your policy, you started it.” We’ll be vulnerable for years. Our benches will be full of ex-ministers who won’t have the stomach for the fight.’ (p.87)

‘All political parties die of last of swallowing their own lies’, as John Arbuthnot wrote in 1735. Mullin’s diaries mention more than once Peter Mandelson’s abortive plans to sell off 30 per cent of the Royal Mail, and refer to Alistair Darling’s claim that the next Labour government would have to make bigger public spending cuts than Thatcher. All this seems to have gone down the political Memory Hole, although I would not be surprised if the Coalition Government parties revive them in time for the 2015 General Election. Mind you, Mullin also reminds readers that the removal of tax credits on dividends, which the Conservatives and much of the Thatcherite Press like to blame on Gordon Brown, was actually started by Norman Lamont (p.163). A reminder that no political party has a monopoly on using Memory Holes, and that Norman Lamont is very much to ‘the Right’ what the SWP is to ‘the Left’ -if you want a policy or issue discredited, get them associated with it! Speaking of Memory Holes…

2. Wednesday 28 October 2009: ‘Lunch with Charlie Glass, the former Newsweek man who was kidnapped in Beirut 22 years ago. Charlie, who has spent much of his career reporting the Middle East, reckons Lockerbie was the work of the Iranians, not the Libyans- in revenge for the passenger plane shot down by the Americans. “We’ll only find out when the regime falls” he says.’ (p.385)

Not 100 per cent sure if Mr. Glass is the talking about the Iranian or Libyan regime. However, it is a real triumph of the Memory Hole that people forget that, prior to Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait in August 1990, Libya was not in the frame for the Lockerbie bombing of December 1988, and many suspected Iran was behind it (using Palestinians) in revenge for the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by the USS Vincennes in July 1988. Then after Kuwait became Iraq’s ’19th Province’, Iran was kept onside during the subsequent conflict, and other culprits for Lockerbie had to be found. Ironically enough, whenever there is now talk of war with Iran, the claim that the Islamic Republic was ultimately behind the Lockerbie bombing cannot be used as a reason to attack.


Makes perfect sense to me…

3. Saturday 13 March 2010, Glasgow: ‘Tariq [Ali] recalled a heated exchange with Michael Foot, at Oxford in 1965, when everyone was up in arms about Wilson’s refusal to condemn the Americans, for what they were up to Vietnam. “Someone shouted, ‘bring him down.’ I have never forgotten Michael’s reply. “What you don’t realise is that Harold Wilson is the most left-wing prime minister we will ever have.” He was right.’ (p.432)


I have heard that story before in Tariq Ali’s introduction to interviews with Ken Livingstone back in the mid-80s called Who’s Afraid of Margaret Thatcher? It is also reminds me of a comment Livingstone made to John Pilger in an interview (I wish I could find the source) from roughly the same time ie when the GLC still existed where ‘Red Ken’ said that if he was West German he would be regarded as a typical centre-left Social Democrat local government leader. Only in Britain can he be regarded as a ‘Red’. Anyway, it seems few on the British Left seem to have considered the implications in 1965, 1985ish, 2010 or now of Michael Foot’s claim that Harold Wilson was as good as it gets.


Back From Beyond…

…well, Vancouver anyway. Lots of good weather, lots of decent things to do. If you are from there, or around there, or visiting, I would  suggest you give  both The Vancouver International Fringe Festival (happens in September) and The Terminal City Rollergirls (games all year around) your support as much as possible!

I get back to London and it is sweltering. My brain is slowly starting to clank into gear. One thing I have decided since getting back is to give Ken Livingstone my second vote in next year’s London Mayoral contest (after giving my first preference to Green candidate Jenny Jones) simply because he supports a 5% cut in bus and tube fares. The way prices and the cost of living are going up at the moment, anything that makes a dent in inflationary tendencies should be welcomed.

1981: does anyone else remember a flat fare of 2p on all West Midlands bus journeys 30 years back?

Transport for London are saying reducing fare prices will mean less investment in London’s transport network. However, what does ‘investment’ mean in practice? A load of  corporations getting taxpayers money hand over fist and a lot of the tube system being closed down at weekends to allow ‘essential engineering work’ for ‘improvements’. In my experience, such ‘improvements’ have to be further ‘improved’ before not too long at further expense. (Incidentally, it always makes me smile whenever I see Thames Water signs in a seriously dug-up London street making a big deal about all the ‘Victorian water mains’ they are having to change. The way most big business-owned ‘public’ utilities work this days, they’ll have to change the pipes a fair while before- to use their monarchical references- Charles III/ William V succeeds the current head of state.)

So Ken it is (unless, of course, it is a Green landslide on the first ballot…) He has many faults, but the thought of 4 more years of London having a Mayor who is straight out The Drones Club from PG Wodehouse’s novels is all too much for me!