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Former cabinet secretaries talk about their time in office

Former Cabinet Secretaries, serving from the time of Thatcher to Cameron, reveal unique insights into their roles in a new series of films.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The films, which are part of the Cabinet Confidential series, contain interviews with Robert Armstrong, Robin Butler, Richard Wilson, Andrew Turnbull and Gus O’Donnell. They all talk about what happened behind the scenes whilst working as the Prime Minister’s most senior civil servant.

“Cabinet secretaries are among the rarest of rare breeds” explains contemporary British historian Lord Hennessy, who carried out the interviews along with political historian Anthony Seldon. “They have discretion built into the calcium of their bones. So a chance to talk to them on the record across the whole range of their special calling is an occasion to be savoured”.

All of the films were produced by Queen Mary, University of London in partnership with Number 10.

Film launch event

The first two films were launched at an event at Downing Street, with Lord Armstrong and Lord Butler.

In the first film, Lord Armstrong recalls events during his time working with Lady Thatcher.

Lord Armstrong on Margaret Thatcher

In his interview, Lord Butler talks about the bombing of the Grand Hotel, Brighton in 1984 and the IRA mortar attack on Downing Street in 1991.

Lord Butler: Government under attack

The launch of the films coincides with the publication of the National Archives’ first tranche of Cabinet Secretary papers (1936-1951) .

Further films will be published on 10 Downing Street YouTube channel in the coming months.

Published 24 May 2013