Bernard Donoughue

Downing Street Diary
  • Downing Street Diary

  • Early in 1974, Bernard Donoughue, a young academic at the London School of Economics, was invited by Harold Wilson first to help fight the General Election and then to found and run the Policy Unit at Number Ten Downing Street, a body independent of the Civil Service machine working solely for the Prime Minister. He thus joined Wilson's notorious 'kitchen cabinet' with Joe Haines, Wilson's combative press secretary, and Marcia Williams, Wilson's personal and private secretary.

    Donoughue remained in Downing Street throughout Wilson's final premiership and was at the centre of events during this crucial period of history. His diary, kept every day, provides an extraordinarily intimate portrait of Harold Wilson, struggling to hold the Labour Party together, drinking heavily, increasingly paranoid about 'plots' and the press, and apparently in thrall to Marcia Williams. Williams had an extraordinary hold over the Prime Minister and violently resented 'intrusion' from any other advisors, Donoughue included. Though the story of Wilson's 'kitchen cabinet' has been told before, there has never been an account as intimate and explosive as this remarkable diary.

Lord Donoughue of Ashton was born in 1934 and educated at Northampton Grammar School, Oxford and Harvard. He worked on the editorial staff of The Economist, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and The Times, and taught at the London School of Economics from 1963 to 1974, when he moved to 10 Downing Street as Senior Policy Adviser to Harold Wilson and then to James Callaghan. After working in the City, he served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food between 1997 and 1999. His previous books include British Politics and the American Revolution (1964), Herbert Morrison: Portrait of a Politician (1973, with George Jones), Prime Minister (1987) and The Heat of the Kitchen (2003). He lives in London and Berkshire.