In recent years the UK Cabinet Secretary has emerged from the shadows: Sir Robert Armstrong ran into trouble for being economical with the truth. Sir Robin Butler investigated allegations of sleaze. Sir Richard Wilson faced the responsibility of responding to the 9/11 attacks. Sir Gus O’Donnell acted as midwife to the Conservative-LibDem coalition. Yet just what they do and what influence they have had has remained much of a mystery until this history was given unfettered access to government files.
Nowadays it seems incredible that before 1916 there was no formal Cabinet agenda and no record of Cabinet decisions. Ministers sometimes left the Cabinet room with opposing recollections of what had been decided.
The talk will examine the Cabinet Secretary’s role in major events: the transition from war to peace; the threat of atomic war and of Communist subversion; the debacle of Suez; the move from Commonwealth to Europe; the rise of the Special Adviser cadre; secret diplomacy; the organisation of intelligence; living with sofa government and the Blair-Brown tensions. Speaking truth unto power. Not to leave out the official record of a ghost in the corridors of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
The Governor's Lecture