Hinterland by Chris Mullin review – understated, shrewd memoir

The former Labour MP and acclaimed diarist returns to his school days and formative experiences as a young writer

The praise for journalist turned MP Chris Mullin’s three volumes of diaries chronicling the New Labour years means this memoir is slightly hamstrung; a lot of the interesting political machinations the former backbencher was party to have already been covered. So Mullin takes us right back to a suburban childhood in Essex, being bullied at boarding school and his nascent writing career, the Vietnam war becoming one of the formative events of his life both politically and journalistically. All of which works, just. Mullin’s oddly understated style means his much-repeated assertion that Labour would have been destabilised by the establishment had Tony Benn swept into power in the early 1980s feels less seismic than it should. But there is also something immensely disarming in his ending a chapter simply: “Pontins was the place where I first kissed a girl. Her name was Nancy and she worked in reception.” Hinterland reveals Mullin to be as shrewd and sceptical a political operator as they come, but fiercely principled and blessed with rare insight, too. Parliament, and the Labour party, must miss him.

Hinterland is published by Profile (£20). Click here to buy it for £16.40


Ben East

The GuardianTramp

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