Filling ‘the hole in the centre’: The No.10 Policy Unit – 50 years on
History of government Blog
by Dr Michelle Clement
1M ago
The Downing Street Policy Unit[i] has been part of the inner workings of British government for half a century. It was created by Prime Minister Harold Wilson in March 1974.[ii] All successive prime ministers have retained the Policy Unit, adapting it to fit the needs of their government. But why does a prime minister need a Policy Unit? Unlike secretaries of state, a prime minister does not have a formal department. The machinery of government to support them is small in terms of staff numbers, compared to many government departments. Indeed, during Wilson’s first premiership (1964-70) he re ..read more
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Visiting the secret state: Margaret Thatcher and Intelligence
History of government Blog
by Dr Dan Lomas
1y ago
An early task of any new Prime Minister is to familiarise themselves with the UK's intelligence agencies – the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the Security Service (MI5). Yet, for all the interest they may have in this clandestine world, many of those who have taken office have lacked experience of intelligence first hand. While some have juggled a series of complex briefs across government, others were relative novices. Few, like Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, have had the intelligence apprenticeship they need. Having entered off ..read more
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What the Butler saw: Britain and the Abadan Crisis, 1950-51
History of government Blog
by Dr Richard Smith
1y ago
In March 1962 a secret report landed on the desks of senior officials in the Foreign Office. Written by Foreign Office Historian Rohan Butler it was a forensic and critical account of the loss in 1951 of Britain’s single biggest overseas asset: the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s refinery at Abadan. The episode was not only a huge commercial loss and a humiliating blow to British prestige but also exposed weaknesses both in Middle Eastern policy and in crisis management. Butler identified a range of factors responsible for the debacle including a weakened Labour government and complacent thinking ..read more
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Curzon's comeuppance
History of government Blog
by Professor Jonathan Conlin
1y ago
Professor Jonathan Conlin of The Lausanne Project explains how that "most superior person" (as he was described by contemporaries at Oxford) met his match at Lausanne 100 years ago. Of all the treaties negotiated in the wake of World War 1, the Treaty of Lausanne has usually been seen as the most successful. Or perhaps more accurately, as the least worst. Thrashed out a century ago this year, it was, after all, the second attempt by Britain and her former Allies to reach a lasting peace in the Balkans and Middle East. The first attempt to settle the fate of the defeated Ottoman Empire had ..read more
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The Art of Delivery: The Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit 2001-2005
History of government Blog
by Dr Michelle Clement
1y ago
Tony Blair and Sir Michael Barber speaking at the Strand Group, Policy Institute at Kings event at the Great Hall, Strand Campus, KCL, London on the 11/06/2015. Photo: David Tett My name is Dr Michelle Clement and I am Researcher in Residence at No.10 Downing Street. This role forms part of a partnership between No.10 Downing Street and The Strand Group, which is based in The Policy Institute at King’s College London. The Researcher in Residence programme aims to investigate and explain the history of No.10 and the role of Prime Minister. This blog post examines the Prime Minister’s Delivery ..read more
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What’s the Context? The decision to build a British atomic bomb, 8 January 1947
History of government Blog
by Gill Bennett
2y ago
"We’ve got to have this thing over here, whatever it costs. We’ve got to have the bloody Union Jack on top of it." “This thing” as British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin put it, was the Atomic Bomb. Bevin was quoted thus by Sir Michael Perrin, formerly deputy to Lord Portal who was Controller of Production, Atomic Energy,  in a BBC Timewatch programme on 29 September 1982.[1] This blog recalls the international and domestic factors that Clement Attlee's government had to weigh in the balance when coming to this historic decision. Britain's Bomb - Operation Hurricane, the testing the UK's ..read more
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What’s the Context? Occupying Powers sign Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin, 3 September 1971
History of government Blog
by Gill Bennett
3y ago
"The most that we can say is that we have made the best of a bad bargain, not that we have got a fair deal (Prime Minister Edward Heath, 1 September 1971)" Fifty years ago, Ambassadors representing the 4 Occupying Powers in Germany—France, the UK, US and USSR—signed an agreement on Berlin. This included documents concerning access, communications, and the respective positions of the FRG (West Germany) and GDR (East Germany) in relation to Berlin. Though neither West nor East achieved all they wanted from the negotiations, the fact the agreement was signed at all was surprising to many involved ..read more
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What's the Context? Signature of the Atlantic Charter, 14 August 1941
History of government Blog
by Gill Bennett
3y ago
The principles set out in the Atlantic Charter eighty years ago remain key to the global vision shared by the UK and US. But its terms also contained the roots of  international tensions that persist today: for example in relation to Britain’s imperial legacy, Russian suspicions of Western intentions and transatlantic differences over trade. President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill on board HMS Prince of Wales [Licence: Creative Commons Attribution Wikimedia] ‘The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty’s Government in ..read more
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When the Wall went up: Britain and the Berlin Crisis, 1961
History of government Blog
by Dr Richard Smith
3y ago
Sixty years ago simmering Cold-War tensions were dramatically brought to a head in Berlin. A new volume of documents from the FCDO Historians tells how Britain responded to the crisis brought about by the construction of the Berlin Wall. The newly-erected Berlin Wall in August 1961 Licence: Creative Commons Attribution Allied Museum, Berlin In the early hours of Sunday 13 August 1961, Brigadier L.F. Richards of the British military police in Berlin, was woken from his sleep by a patrol who reported unusual activity along the border. Driving to the Brandenburg Gate, he saw the border bet ..read more
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What’s the Context? Winston Churchill’s ‘Sinews of Peace’ speech, Fulton, 5 March 1946
History of government Blog
by nevilhagon
3y ago
‘Now, at this sad and breathless moment, we are plunged in the hunger and distress which are the aftermath of our stupendous struggle’: Though no longer Prime Minister, Churchill’s speech at Fulton on 5 March 1946 packed a formidable punch. But the context in which it was delivered was complex. Churchill and President Truman greet crowds at Fulton Missouri on 5 March 1946. License from America's Churchill Museum CH.07.041a 75 years ago, Winston Churchill made a speech at Fulton, Missouri, which some consider the start of the Cold War. Despite the title, its most widely-quoted sentence is: ‘F ..read more
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