Most MPs who start writing diaries do so in order to prove to themselves how central they are to the political process. But by the time the diaries come to be published, they tend to prove the opposite. The effect is either comic or tragic, depending upon one’s point of view.
Who wrote this, for example? ‘I will have a crack at the leadership as soon as I can, partly because I am in touch with real people, partly because I can offer some leadership.’ The answer? Edwina Currie. It comes in her diary entry of 7 October 1988, when she was a parliamentary under-secretary. ‘I look at rivals like David Mellor’, she adds, ‘and I like me better.’
From the outset, the Labour MP Chris Mullin takes the more cautious, and, as it proves, more far-sighted, view that he is, when all is said and done, a dead loss. When he is eventually offered a very junior post by Blair in the summer of 1999, his acceptance is notably half-hearted. ‘To bed, feeling miserable at the thought of the avalanche of tedium to come’, he writes. Waking the next morning, he has decided to go back on his acceptance. ‘My instinct is to decline,’ he informs Blair’s political secretary. ‘I’m no longer a minister’, he tells his wife confidently over breakfast. Blair then rings him back and asks why he has changed his mind. Mullin tells him that he’s worried he’ll disappear without trace. Blair promises he won’t — ‘You are the one person on the backbenches who most obviously should be a minister’ — so Mullin changes his mind again, and accepts. How was he to know, in those early days, that Blair always kept his fingers crossed?
Three days later, he wakes up in a sweat at 3 am, regretting his decision.