“The Continuity of the State”
Lord Armstrong, Cabinet Secretary 1979-87 (pictured, centre, in No 10 for the launch of the website), talked about how his first reaction to the news of the 1984 Brighton bomb, before he knew if Margaret Thatcher was dead or alive, was to think through the procedure for appointing a new prime minister:
Lord Armstrong: I remember it because the news came through. It was late at night or early in the morning –
Lord Hennessy: Small hours of the morning I think.
LA: – half past one or something like that and I must have been awake and heard
about it or somebody rang up and told me about it, and I didn’t know whether the
Prime Minister was still alive. And I went through what I would have to do if she
was dead and what would have to be done to find a successor and the process by
which one would have to have an interim prime minister until the process of
election took place and who I would have to talk to and who I would have to
recommend and all that.
LH: You’d have to talk to the palace straight away, the Queen obviously…
LA: Obviously the Queen’s Private Secretary and all that, and be ready to hold it
together as it were. Thank goodness it wasn’t needed and after Robin Butler rang,
I can’t remember, half past three or something and rang up to say that she was
LH: So you straight away got onto the continuity of the state which, of course is a Cabinet Secretary’s job, another one, isn’t it?
LA: That was the – and what was so interesting was the speed with which one was
able to, think it through, as it were.
LH: Did you write it all down for posterity?
LA: I haven’t written that bit down yet, no.
Also in the photograph: the brilliant people who run the Mile End Group, with Jon Davis on the right and Sir Jeremy Heywood, Lord Turnbull and Lord Wilson.Tagged in: cabinet secretaries, contemporary history, mile end group
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