Early Years, Education and Journalism
Christopher John Mullin was born in Chelmsford, Essex, on the 12 December 1947 to father Leslie Raeburn Mullin and mother Teresa (nee Foley). He had three siblings: Patricia (b.1955); David (b.1953); and Elizabeth (b.1949). He attended St Joseph's RC School in Ipswich, then an independent boarding school for boys. He studied Law at the University of Hull where he became interested in journalism, contributing to and editing the student publication Torchlight.
After graduation, Mullin began working as a self-employed journalist. During the 1970s and 1980s his interests lay in Asia. He travelled to Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Laos, India and Thailand. He participated in tours to Vietnam and Laos in 1980 and 1981 as a tour leader, which tours were arranged under a Daily Mirror scheme. He wrote for various British and international papers and was a correspondent for Gemini News Service during the 1970s and for the BBC World Service in the period 1974-1978. Having been a regular contributor to the socialist weekly paper, the Tribune, Mullin was appointed editor 1982 and served in this capacity until 1984. Throughout his political career Mullin continued to contribute articles and letters to various newspapers and campaigned for a media free from the influence of media conglomerates.
Writing and Authorship
In the late 1970s Mullin was asked by Tony Benn to edit Benn's books, 'Arguments for Socialism' and 'Arguments for Democracy'. However, Mullin was also an author in his own right. His works include 'Error of Judgement', 'A Very British Coup', 'Year of the Fire Monkey', 'The Last Man Out of Saigon', and an unpublished work (titled variously as 'The Manifesto of an Extremist' and 'A Plain Man's Guide to the Decline of Britain').
He has also written and published a series of political diaries under the titles A View From the Foothills (2009), Decline & Fall: Diaries 2005-2010 (2010) and A Walk-On Part: Diaries 1994-1999 (2011). In 2016 a volume of memoirs was published under the title 'Hinterland'. He was also responsible for a short pamphlet titled 'How to select and reselect your MP'. Much of his writing has received critical acclaim, he has had a number of works adapted for TV, and he was invited to be a judge of the 2011 Man Booker Prize.
His novel 'A Very British Coup' was later made into television series with a screenplay by Alan Plater, and he was able to persuade the editor of the 'World in Action' series to commission him to research programmes exploring the case of the Birmingham Six. His diaries were adapted for the stage by Michael Chaplin under the title 'A Walk on Part'.
Miscarriages of Justice Campaigning
With a background in law and an interest in criminal and social justice, Mullin became involved in investigations into a number of miscarriages of justice. He undertook journalistic research, wrote articles and lobbied on behalf of persons he believed to be victims of miscarriages of justice. Perhaps most well-known of these cases was that of the Birmingham Six in the 1970s. He also worked on behalf of the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven and Judith Ward whose cases stretched back to the 1970s.
The Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Judith Ward cases had been some of the first to be enacted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (1974). This had been quickly passed in the aftermath of the Birmingham Bombings and allowed police to hold terror suspects for an unprecedented seven days without charge. Solicitor Mrs Gareth Peirce, well known as a solicitor working for the wrongly-imprisoned (including the Tipton Three), acted as solicitor to members of the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven, and to Judith Ward. Chris Mullin worked closely on these cases, campaigning in the press and parliament. The nature of the cases he worked on have led to some accusations of pro-Republican sympathies and special interest in Irish Republicanism. However, he always stated that his real interest was justice. Later he would work on the Carl Bridgewater case of the 1990s, and he received many letters from Caribbean prisoners on the subject of human rights issues and the death penalty.
The miscarriage of justice issues surrounding many of the cases he was involved with, but particularly the Birmingham Six case, led to the establishment of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice. As a result of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice and amendments to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill 1994, the Criminal Cases Review Commission was established (1995-1996).
Committee Membership and Ministerial Career
Mullin believed strongly in the necessity of Home Affairs Select Committee work. He was a member of various select committees from 1992, and served two periods as chairman (1997-1999 and 2001-2003). He was a member of the Committee on Standards and Privileges from 2006, and was responsible for examining the conduct of various MPs. He was also a member of the House of Commons Reform Committee from 2009 in the period in which it was established.
Under the Blair-led Labour Government, Mullin was appointed to various junior ministerial positions. Between 1999 and 2001 he served in the Department for Environment, Transport & Regions having responsibility for aviation, recycling and countryside issues. From February to May 2001 he served in the Department for International Development. Finally, he served in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as Africa Minister between 2003 and 2005. Some of his campaigning and parliamentary work continued to overlap after leaving the various departments.
Parliamentary and Constituency Work
Inspired in part by his reaction against the Vietnam War, Mullin joined the Labour Party in 1967. He first stood as a Labour candidate for North Devon in 1970 where he was unsuccessful. He then stood for Kingston-upon-Thames in 1974, Southwark-Peckham in 1981, and finally Sunderland South in 1985. He was to represent Sunderland South in Parliament from 1987 to 2010 when he chose not to stand for re-election. Within parliament, Mullin was an active campaigner on various subjects including criminal and social justice, north east shipbuilding, farm animal welfare, and media bias. He also took an interest in the plight of Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo.
Upon his retirement from political life in 2010, Mullin was engaged to teach a module on 'The Rise and Fall of New Labour' at Newcastle. In acknowledgement of his political achievements and his campaigning work in the sphere of criminal and social justice, Mullin was the recipient of various awards and honours. He received honorary degrees from the University of Hull, Newcastle University and the University of Essex 2011 following his retirement as an MP. He was appointed Chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, and served as a judge of the 2011 Man Booker Prize.
In his private life, Mullin married his wife Nguyen Thi Ngoc in April 1987, and had two daughters with her. They currently live in Northumberland.