chapter
7 Pages

Introduction

ByCharles Powell

This collection of pen-portraits of those who have served as the Prime Minister's Private Secretary for foreign affairs in the decades from 1950 to 1983 when the author took up the post also examines and explains the role itself: its scope, its influence and its position in the Whitehall power structure. Interviews given by former Number 10 foreign affairs Private Secretaries provide some material but not a great deal. Moreover the secrets of success in a Number 10 Private Secretary's role are anonymity and discretion so as to avoid any public perception of supplanting Cabinet ministers as the Prime Minister's principal source of advice. A Private Secretary's daily proximity to his or her minister inevitably confers greater influence than a bald job-description implies. An area of controversy is the degree to which the Number 10 foreign affairs Private Secretary establishes his own foreign affairs network, independent of the Foreign Office itself.