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Chris Mullin (politician)

Christopher John Mullin (born 12 December 1947) is a British journalist, author and Labour politician.

Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin MP.jpg
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
13 June 2003 – 10 May 2005
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byMike O'Brien
Succeeded byThe Lord Triesman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development
In office
26 January 2001 – 11 June 2001
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byGeorge Foulkes
Succeeded byHilary Benn
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions
In office
29 July 1999 – 25 January 2001
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byAlan Meale
Succeeded byBob Ainsworth
Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee
In office
18 July 2001 – 15 July 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byRobin Corbett
Succeeded byJohn Denham
In office
17 July 1997 – 18 October 1999
Preceded byIvan Lawrence
Succeeded byRobin Corbett
Member of Parliament
for Sunderland South
In office
12 June 1987 – 12 April 2010
Preceded byGordon Bagier
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1947-12-12) 12 December 1947 (age 71)
Chelmsford, Essex, England
NationalityBritish
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Ngoc Mullin
Children2
ResidenceNorthumberland
Alma materUniversity of Hull
OccupationPolitician and Author
ProfessionJournalist
Websitehttp://chrismullinexmp.com

As a journalist In the 1980s, Chris Mullin led a campaign that resulted in the release of the Birmingham Six, victims of a miscarriage of justice. The author of four novels, including A Very British Coup (1982), which was later adapted for television, and its sequel The Friends of Harry Perkins. Mullin is also a celebrated diarist.

Mullin was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Sunderland South from 1987 until 2010. In Parliament, he served as Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee and as a Minister in the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and in the Department for International Development.

Early LifeEdit

Mullin is the son of a Scottish Protestant father and an Irish Catholic mother, both of whom worked for Marconi. Mullin was educated at St Joseph's College, a Roman Catholic boarding independent school for boys (now co-educational) in the town of Ipswich in Suffolk, followed by the University of Hull,[1] where he studied Law. He joined the Labour Party after his politics shifted leftward in response to the Vietnam War.[2]

Journalist and activistEdit

Before being elected as an MP, Mullin was a journalist, training with the Daily Mirror.[3] In this period Mullin travelled to Russia and China.[4] From there, Mullin's first main activity as a journalist came in the Vietnam War. He has been highly critical of the American strategy in Vietnam and has stated that he believes that the was, intended to stop the advance of Communism, instead only delayed the coming of market forces in the country.[5] Mullin also reported from Cambodia in 1973 and 1980.

Birmingham SixEdit

Mullin, working for the Granada current affairs programme World in Action, was pivotal in securing the release of the Birmingham Six, a long-standing miscarriage of justice. In 1985, the first of several World in Action programmes casting doubt on the men's convictions was broadcast. In 1986, Mullin's book, Error of Judgment: The Truth About the Birmingham Pub Bombings, set out a detailed case supporting the men's claims that they were innocent. It included his claim to have met some of those who were actually responsible for the bombings.

In March 1990, ITV broadcast the Granada Television documentary drama, Who Bombed Birmingham?, which re-enacted the bombings and subsequent key events in Mullin's campaign. Written by Rob Ritchie and directed by Mike Beckham, Mullin was played by John Hurt, Martin Shaw as World in Action producer Ian McBride, Ciaran Hinds as Richard McIlkenny, one of the Six, and Patrick Malahide as Michael Mansfield (QC).[6][7] It was repackaged for export as The Investigation – Inside a Terrorist Bombing, and first shown on American television on 22 April 1990.[8][9] Granada's BAFTA-nominated follow-up documentary after the release of the six men, World in Action Special: The Birmingham Six – Their Own Story, was telecast on 18 March 1991.[10]

In 2019, Mullin was criticised by the relatives of some of the victims of the attack for not naming IRA bombing suspects who he met whilst investigating the case in the 1980s. Mullin was called "scum" and a "disgrace". Mullin has defended this decision on the grounds of journalistic ethics. He was quoted in the guardian as having said:"In order to track down the bombers, I had to give assurances not only to guilty but to innocent intermediaries that I would not, during their lifetime, disclose the names of those who cooperated. Had I not done so, no one would have cooperated.”[11]

TribuneEdit

He was also editor of the Labour newspaper Tribune (1982–84), where he provided effective support for Tony Benn having previously edited two collections of Benn's speeches and writings Arguments for Socialism (1979) and Arguments for Democracy (1981). During his editorship, he sought to turn Tribune into a workers' cooperative, to its shareholders' chagrin.

NovelistEdit

Mullin has published a total of four novels. His first novel was A Very British Coup, published in 1982, which portrays the destabilisation of a left-wing British government by the forces of the Establishment. He wrote it having discussed the idea of a left-wing Prime Minister being undermined by the establishment following the 1981 Labour Party Conference with Peter Hain, Stuart Holland and Tony Banks. Holland revealed in this discussion that he had written a number of chapters in a potential novel containing this story and that Hain had contacted publishers regarding the possibility of a similar novel. Subsequently Mullin was told by the former BBC correspondent Peter Hardiman Scott that he had been writing a book on this topic at the time [12]

The novel was adapted for television by Alan Plater, with substantial alterations to the plot, and screened in 1988. The screenwriter was Alan Plater and it was directed by Mick Jackson. Starring Ray McAnally, the series was first screened on Channel 4 and won Bafta and Emmy awards, and was syndicated to more than 30 countries. The book was also the basis for the 2012 four-part Channel 4 series, Secret State.[13] Starring Gabriel Byrne, this version was written by Robert Jones.[14] Mullin later wrote a sequel to 'A very British Coup' called 'The Friends of Harry Perkins' which was published in 2019. The book explores Brexit and American-Chinese relations amongst other topics.[15]

Mullin also published The Last Man Out of Saigon in 1986 about featuring a plot of a CIA agent sent into Vietnam in the last week of the war to set up a network of agents and also The Year of the Fire Monkey, a thriller about a CIA attempt to assassinate Chairman Mao using a Tibetan agent, in 1991.

Political careerEdit

Early Political CareerEdit

Mullin stood unsuccessfully In the 1970 general election against Liberal Leader Jeremy Thorpe in North Devon.[16] Mullin also fought Kingston-upon-Thames in February 1974.

By 1980, he was an executive member of the Labour Co-ordinating Committee.[17] Mullin was also on the executive of the influential Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. As such he was an active supporter of Tony Benn when, in 1981, disregarding an appeal from party leader Michael Foot to abstain from inflaming the party's divisions, Benn stood against the incumbent Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Denis Healey. In addition Mullin edited two collections of Benn's speeches and writings Arguments for Socialism (1979) and Arguments for Democracy (1981). He was widely regarded as a leading 'Bennite', a highly influential movement within the Labour Party in the early 1980s.

ParliamentEdit

Mullin was first elected MP for Sunderland South in 1987, and was returned at every subsequent election up to and including 2005. His constituency was the first to declare in every general election between 1992 and his standing down in 2010 (1992, 1997, 2001 and 2005).[18] Mullin joked about being the UK's sole MP for a few minutes and muses about forming a government.[19] He did not seek re-election in 2010. Mullin was on the left of the party and his selection for Sunderland South (occasioned by the retirement of Gordon Bagier MP) met with the disapproval of Neil Kinnock, at the time the Leader of the Labour Party. In the late 1980s, the right-wing, tabloid press targeted Mullin for his left-wing views frequently. Headlines included: '20 things you didn't know about crackpot Chris', 'Loony Lefty MP', and 'Is this the most odious man in Britain?' Mullin recounted this in a speech to Parliament in 1997:

'When I was first elected in 1987, The Sun published photographs across a full page of what it called "Kinnock's Top Ten Loony Tunes": I was No. 8. If my memory serves me right, at least one of those who was higher than I in that top 10 has been appointed to the Government—I shall mention no names. I now keep my Sun headlines framed on the wall of my study at home. There is "Mr. Odious". Yes, I once briefly displaced my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) as the most odious man in Britain—the highest honour that The Sun can confer. There is "Loony MP backs bomb gang", which was given a full front page, and "Twenty things you didn't know about crackpot Chris". I did not know most of them either. "Poor Sunderland", wrote Lord Chapple in the Daily Mail on hearing the news of my selection in 1985: "First its football team is relegated and now comes even worse news." Well, I am sorry to say that our football team has just been relegated again, but we do not need any sympathy from Lord Chapple. Sunderland has been through hard times in the past, and has survived; as before, we will pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and come out fighting. Sunderland looks to the future, not the past, and we shall soon be back in the Premier League.'

Having reported from Cambodia in 1973 and 1980, in 1990 he was outspoken on the British Government's record in Cambodia, being a leading voice in some of the first protracted debates on Britain's provision of military support to the Khmer Rouge and attributing increasing public interest in the issue to the documentary films of John Pilger.[20]

He was a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vietnam, a member of the All-Party Group on Tibet and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cambodia, Member of the Home Affairs Select Committee (1992–97), and Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee from 1997 to 1999 and again from 2001 to 2003.

In governmentEdit

Despite his criticism of the government, he replaced Alan Meale as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of the Environment, Transport, and the Regions in July 1999 before taking over from George Foulkes as Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development in 2001.[21]

He returned to government in June 2003, as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, but after the 2005 election again returned to the backbenches. Before the Labour victory of 1997, Mullin had attained a reputation for campaigning on behalf of victims of injustice and opposition to the curtailing of civil rights. His campaigning stance had to change while a minister because of the collective responsibility of government. His vote against the government's proposal for 90 days' detention without trial for persons suspected of terrorism, as one of 49 Labour rebels,[22] seemed to indicate a re-emergence of his civil libertarian instincts. Mullin criticised the Labour government's rotation of Ministers expressing his belief that the Blair Government changed Ministers too often and noted this in his final speech to the House of Commons.[23]

Whilst in government, Mullin voted against the Iraq War.[24] After leaving government, Mullin also voted against the United Kingdom maintaining a nuclear deterrent.[25]

Expenses claimsEdit

During the UK Parliamentary expenses scandal, Mullin, one of the lowest claimers,[26] provided some comic relief when it was revealed that the television at his second home is a very old black-and-white model with a £45 TV licence.[27]

Leaving parliamentEdit

On 10 May 2008, the Sunderland Echo site reported that Mullin had decided to stand down at the 2010 general election.[28] This left Mullin having contested seven General Elections and having been elected in five of them.

In his final speech in parliament, he closed with the following remarks:

"Mr. Speaker, I depart with mixed feelings. I have heard it said that most MPs stay one Parliament too long, and I thought it better to go while people are still asking "Why?" rather than "When?" There will be withdrawal symptoms. Leaving now is either the best thing I have ever done or the biggest mistake of my life. At this point, I have no idea which. I do know this, however: I count it a privilege to have been born in a democracy and to have served in this place. The great thing about democracy is that, although harsh things are sometimes said, we are not actually trying to kill each other. Differences are ultimately resolved at the ballot box. One side wins; one side loses; and the loser lives to fight another day. Mr. Speaker, those are the last words that I shall speak in this place."[29]

DiariesEdit

 
Chris Mullin with Martin Bell at Hexham book festival in 2009

Mullin published three volumes of widely praised diaries[30] that described the progress of "New Labour" from the death of the party leader John Smith in 1994 to the 2010 general election: A View from the Foothills (2009) (recounting Mullin's ministerial career from 1999–2005), Decline & Fall: Diaries 2005–2010 (2010) and A Walk-On Part: Diaries 1994–1999 (2011). Among other things, Mullin recorded his gradual disillusion with the Labour Party's left wing and his rather reluctant support, after Smith's death, for fellow North-Eastern MP Tony Blair (whom he dubbed "The Man") as the person most likely to lead the party back to power. He admired Blair as a leader and for his capacity to create a broad-based Labour Party. In spite of Iraq, Mullin remains an admirer of Blair, viewing him as a leader of exceptional ability.[31] Peter Riddell of the Times suggested that A View From the Foothills deserved to become "the central text for understanding the Blair years",[32] while Decline & Fall, in which Mullin (by then a backbencher again) expressed wry consternation at the way the government operated under Blair's successor Gordon Brown, were commended for their independence of outlook, revealing, as Jenni Russell put it in the Sunday Times, Mullin's "readiness to like people who don't echo his politics".[33]

The three volumes were adapted for the stage by Michael Chaplin as A Walk on Part. It premiered at the Live Theatre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in May 2011, before moving to the Soho Theatre in London.[34][35] Mullin regularly gives talks on his diaries, politics and the rise and fall of New Labour.

Personal lifeEdit

Mullin's wife, Ngoc,[21] is Vietnamese and they have two daughters, Sarah (born 1989) and Emma (born 1995).[36] Mullin lives in Northumberland and his hobbies include gardening.[37]

Academic honoursEdit

On 28 January 2011, his alma mater, Hull University, awarded him an honorary Doctorate in Law, in recognition of his achievements.[1] In December 2011, Newcastle University awarded Chris Mullin an honorary degree. Mullin now teaches a module at Newcastle University called 'The Rise and Fall of New Labour'. He was also awarded an honorary degree by the University of Essex in 2011.[38] Mullin has also received honorary degrees from the University of Sunderland (2010) and City University London (1992).

WorksEdit

NovelsEdit

  • A Very British Coup (1982)
  • The Last Man Out of Saigon (1986)
  • The Year of the Fire Monkey (1991)
  • The Friends of Harry Perkins (2019)

Non-fictionEdit

  • Error of Judgment: The Truth about the Birmingham Bombings (ISBN 1853713651)
  • A View from the Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin (2009) (ISBN 1846682231)
  • Decline & Fall: Diaries 2005–2010 (2010) (ISBN 9781846683992)
  • A Walk-On Part: Diaries 1994–1999 (2011) (ISBN 9781846685231)
  • Hinterland (2016) (ISBN 9781781256053)

As editorEdit

  • Tony Benn Arguments for Socialism (1979)
  • Tony Benn Arguments for Democracy (1981)

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "University confers honorary degrees on five inspirational people". University of Hull. 25 January 2011. Archived from the original on 10 April 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  2. ^ Roth, Andrew (16 March 2001). "Chris Mullin". theguardian.com. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  3. ^ https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/everything-gardens-rosy-ex-mp-11995859
  4. ^ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/china-watch/culture/chris-mullin-hinterland/
  5. ^ https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n14/chris-mullin/terror-was-absolute
  6. ^ BFI Screenonline – World in Action
  7. ^ Simon Coward, Richard Down & Christopher Perry The Kaleidoscope British Independent Television Drama Research Guide 1955–2010, Kaleidoscope Publishing, 2nd edition, 2010, p.3304, ISBN 978-1-900203-33-3)
  8. ^ Who Bombed Birmingham? – British Film Institute
  9. ^ The Investigation: Inside a Terrorist Bombing – IMDB
  10. ^ World in Action Special: The Birmingham Six – Their Own Story British Film Institute
  11. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/07/chris-mullin-defends-refusal-to-name-birmingham-pub-bombing-suspects
  12. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0005z5z/booktalk-chris-mullin
  13. ^ Mullin, Chris (5 November 2012). "Secret State: I played the vicar in the TV version of my novel". guardian.co.uk. Guardian News and Media.
  14. ^ Conlan, Tara (24 January 2012). "Gabriel Byrne returns to UK television in Channel 4's Coup". guardian.co.uk. Guardian News and Media.
  15. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0005z5z/booktalk-chris-mullin
  16. ^ The Times, 17 June 1970; p. 10 col C
  17. ^ "Group letter says it wants wider franchise", The Times 21 October 1980
  18. ^ "Sunderland Leads the Way", Daily Record, 6 May 2005
  19. ^ Chris Mullin (2009). A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin. ISBN 978-1-84668-223-0.
  20. ^ Debates of the House of Commons (HC Deb) 26 October 1990 vol 178 cc640-94 640 et. seq., cf Digital Hansard
  21. ^ a b Chris Mullin A view from the Foothills extract from The Mail on Sunday, 22 February 2009
  22. ^ "People > MPs > Labour > Chris Mullin > How they voted". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  23. ^ https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2010-03-25c.482.0&s=speaker%3A10451#g484.1
  24. ^ https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/4wm7ed/chris-mullin-ex-mp-voted-against-iraq-this-is-why-hed-vote-no-on-syria
  25. ^ https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/4wm7ed/chris-mullin-ex-mp-voted-against-iraq-this-is-why-hed-vote-no-on-syria
  26. ^ "Big-spending Bill – All the local MPs' expenses". Sunderland Echo. 19 June 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  27. ^ Martin Beckford (20 May 2009). "MPs' expenses: Chris Mullin watches a 30-year-old black and white television". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  28. ^ "Sunderland MP to quit". Sunderland Echo. 10 May 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  29. ^ https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2010-03-25c.482.0&s=speaker%3A10451#g482.2
  30. ^ See, for example, The Oldie Review of Books, October 2011
  31. ^ Mullin (2011) A Walk-On Part
  32. ^ Quoted on jacket of paperback edition of A View from the Foothills (2010)
  33. ^ Quoted on jacket of A Walk-On Part (2011)
  34. ^ Barr, Gordon (12 May 2011). "Preview: A Walk-On Part, Live Theatre". Evening Chronicle.
  35. ^ Fraine, Laura (13 May 2011). "A Walk On Part". The Stage.
  36. ^ Mullin (2011) A Walk-On Part, Cast
  37. ^ https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/everything-gardens-rosy-ex-mp-11995859
  38. ^ "Honorary Graduates – Profile: Chris Mullin". University of Essex. Archived from the original on 15 March 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2014.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Gordon Bagier
Member of Parliament for Sunderland South
19872010
Succeeded by
seat abolished
Media offices
Preceded by
Richard Clements
Editor of Tribune
1982–1984
Succeeded by
Nigel Williamson
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Pierre Schori
Board Chair, International Alert
2016-2018
Succeeded by
Carey Cavanaugh