Book review – Heathrow and Parliament
By Andy Goff
I’ve managed to consume a few books this year but there are two I would describe as outstanding.
The beautifully crafted and joy to read that Alain De Botton’s ‘A Week at the Airport’ proved to be was a real gem.
De Botton had been commissioned by Heathrow’s owner, The British Airports Authority, to observe and write about a week spent at Heathrow.
It’s hard to imagine why someone would choose to spend any longer than that necessary to complete a journey in any of the world’s airports but that is what De Botton agreed to do.
He was not confined to the usual arrive, park, check-in, hang around, be questioned, board plane areas. He was allowed ‘airside’, chatted to security workers, passengers, cleaners and to British Airways boss Willie Walsh.
His insights into the working of a the busiest international airport reveal a human side that may not be apparent when your own journey has been delayed because a volcano is spouting off or a trade union is campaigning for change – or no change.
Insights also drip from the pages of former MP Chris Mullin’s diary ‘Decline and fall’.
It covers the period between 2005 and the end of the “Rotten Parliament” in 2010.
Mullin, a former journalist, writes in an easy style with a touch of self deprecation and yet with the hubris of an MP. He offers a real exposure of the ‘power at any price’ machinations that drove both Blair and Brown.
The personal aspects of his diary reveal a kind man with his heart in the right place often thwarted by an un-socialist society he hoped to help change.
It’s probably best read, as I did, after reading his earlier book ‘A view from the foothills: The diaries of Chris Mullin’ but stands alone as an excellent record of how a political party can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Of all the diaries that have or will come from the hands of those at the helm of the New Labour experiment, I suspect Mullin’s will be the only one actually worth bothering with.