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Sunday Reading

The Observer’s theatre critic went to see a new Mark Ravenhill play. She didn’t like it much. This line, I think, shows that these people earn their money:

The East German, failing to adapt to the market economy, retreats to the forest with his brother’s son (unconvincingly represented by a bath sponge)…

Meanwhile over in books, politician Peter Hain was damning a former colleague’s diaries with faint praise:

Anybody who has been a minister will enjoy this engaging tour de force, and anyone aspiring to be one will gain real insights.

Well that’s a big audience then. The publishers will be delighted. He goes on to concede that it will also appeal to the “curious reader”.

The author, Chris Mullin does not appear to have taken his responsibilities as seriously as Mr. Hain, something Mr. Hain is keen to emphasise at every possible juncture:

Most MPs are desperate to be a minister, and the minority of us who have been (I was for 11 years) feel privileged. Not Mullin.

He caused consternation by refusing to have a ministerial car or to take red boxes home at night and at weekends. How he stayed on top of the job without doing so I do not know. I always took at least one box home, which meant that an official vehicle was essential.

He also refused a pager and mobile; again, how he managed in today’s 24-hour, news-driven political world I have no idea.

Nevertheless, he again remained frustrated at an “utter lack of influence … Mine was a job for an ambitious thirtysomething rather than a grown-up.” I remember him saying something similar at the time and finding it puzzling. I had always found it possible to “make a difference”, even when a junior Welsh minister.

But he still hankered after a “proper” government job and, in June 2003, was made Africa minister, a rewarding post I had enormously enjoyed doing several years before.

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