Michael Cockerell reveals what life has really been like over the years in 10 Downing Street. Insiders talk candidly about the battles and tragicomic events.
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This is the secret world of Whitehall.
Decisions taken here behind closed doors affect all our daily lives.
In this three-part series, I'm telling the inside story
of what goes on within the three great institutions at the very heart of government - the Cabinet Office,
10 Downing Street and the private office network across Whitehall.
Tonight, the remarkable house that's been the office
and home of our prime ministers for nearly three centuries.
Those who have worked here reveal what life is really like behind the world's most famous front door.
'When I first went to Downing Street, I thought it
'was a completely unsuitable place to run a government from.'
'Number 10 has always been a bit of a snake pit.
'I mean, I don't imagine it's ever run incredibly smoothly, with everybody loving each other.'
It's a cross between a sort of stately home and a student union building.
My first six months in Number 10 were the most miserable of my working career,
and I would include in that working as a butcher in Sainsbury's.
You must understand about working in Number 10. It's a total pantomime.
Since 1735, a terraced house in Whitehall has been the residence
of a remarkable succession of British prime ministers.
# I like my town
# With a little drop of poison
# Nobody knows
# They're lining up to go insane... #
Last year, David Cameron became the 53rd prime minister to enter Number 10,
where the staff were lined up for the traditional greeting ceremony.
The first thing was the sort of incredible sense of honour and challenge.
You're elated and you're exhausted, because you've had an incredibly tough campaign,
and then you turn and go in through the door.
And it was quite a strange feeling, but also incredibly welcoming,
because this tradition of being
clapped and cheered in by the officials,
who have just clapped and cheered out the outgoing prime minister, makes you feel very welcome.
And I remember sort of walking through there and at that moment thinking, you know,
"Right, this really has happened."
The only time TV cameras have filmed the clapping-in ceremony was with John Major nearly 20 years ago.
Major was returning as prime minister to Number 10 having won an unexpected general election victory.
Thank you very much indeed. I've only got one thing to say - it's nice to be back.
But five years later, it was a very different scene after
Major had lost the general election to Tony Blair by a landslide.
When the curtain falls, it's time to get off the stage, and that is what I...
Whenever a prime minister's defeated, the staff in Number 10 share the grief.
Tony Blair recalls how,
when he came in in 1997, he was applauded into Downing Street
by people who had tears pouring down their cheeks because they were sad about the departure of John Major.
And Tony Blair said he felt a heel.
Yes, I think he did. I think he was very nice to one of the secretaries.
He went up to her and said, "What's the matter?"
She said, "Well, we're very glad to see you, but we're so sorry to see poor Mr Major having gone."
It's a very, I would say, traumatic time for Number 10,
because we say goodbye to a departing prime minister
that we have worked loyally for for quite a long time
and we clap them out, and then we need to work very quickly.
Usually you have less than an hour to get the building ready for a new prime minister's arrival.
Once inside Number 10, new prime ministers are taken down the corridor to the Cabinet Room.
There, they'll learn about their most frightening new duty.
Every prime minister has to hand-write top-secret letters
to the commanders of the Trident submarines that carry Britain's nuclear weapons.
One of the most awesome responsibilities
that a prime minister has is the instructions that have to be given
if the British government has been destroyed
and the nuclear submarines are at sea.
What are the orders to the commander of the nuclear submarines
where there is no decision-making left in the UK?
Tony Blair went really rather quiet when he was briefed, which was understandable.
He'd never been a minister before, you see,
let alone indoctrinated into the nuclear world.
And this time, it wasn't just the Cabinet Secretary, it was the new
National Security Adviser who did the briefing for David Cameron.
That's when you know you're Prime Minister.
I don't think anything prepares you for that, when you have to sit down
and write from beyond the grave to decide whether to launch the British nuclear force or not.
For nearly three centuries, prime ministers have governed from Number 10.
It's a deceptive building, because it is in fact two houses, not one,
with a much bigger redbrick mansion at the back joined onto the house on Downing Street.
Inside, it's like a TARDIS, with a long corridor connecting the two houses to make one Number 10.
From this unlikely house of history, the world's largest empire was run and two world wars were won.
But Number 10 itself had very shady origins.
It was jerry-built by a rascally figure called Sir George Downing.
He was a spy and double agent turned property speculator.
The street he gave his name to once boasted pubs and whorehouses.
Downing put up a cul-de-sac of shoddily built houses on boggy ground.
In 1735, King George II gave Number 10 to his prime minister.
Since then, the PM's workplace and home has undergone many facelifts.
It's been adapted and partially reconstructed
in an attempt to make it fit for the purpose that it wasn't built for.
Number 10 is a very modest building, and if you compare it
with the offices in which other heads of government work,
like the White House or the Elysee Palace in France and so on, it is of course tiny,
and that often impresses people, because it is so small.
When I first went to Downing Street, I thought
it was a completely unsuitable place to run a government from.
It doesn't feel like a modern office.
Because it was a house, it was intimate, and there weren't all
that many people working there, and everybody felt part of the family.
You really all felt as if you were in it together.
But it's not always a game of happy families among the secretaries, messengers, switchboard operators,
civil servants and political advisers who make up Number 10's extended family.
On his first day in power, Tony Blair and his wife
walked past the pictures of every previous prime minister to the state rooms on the first floor.
The rooms are used for press conferences and parties,
receiving foreign leaders and for official dinners.
The Blairs had only been inside Number 10 once before,
as they hadn't wanted to look as if they were taking things for granted.
Above the state rooms, you come to the attic, which is where
the prime minister lived,
in a flat which these days I doubt many councils
would offer to asylum seekers.
Really very small and poky.
And everything is fairly close at hand.
That's the good thing in having a very, very small kitchen.
And as you can see, we all have to be very, very economically spaced.
Now, I think...
The Number 10 flat in the attic is far from grand, and the Blairs, like some other
previous prime ministerial couples, were not attracted by the idea of living there.
We had to persuade Gordon Brown to give up the Number 11 flat and
allow Tony and Cherie to live there, which he did with difficulty.
I think that Gordon was very keen to preserve his space.
I think he thought,
like Germany in the 19th century, he was going to gradually take over everything
and there'd be nothing left while we sought lebensraum in Number 11.
Oh, I'm sorry for being late. Very nice to see you.
The new chancellor welcomed a group of businessmen to 11 Downing Street.
It's a very strange arrangement,
because Tony Blair actually stays in Number 11 Downing Street.
He's got a big flat upstairs.
And I stay at Number 10 Downing Street, so we swap.
There's an upstairs connecting door, is there?
-There's lots of connecting doors!
We had a bit more difficulty when Leo was born, because we needed more space, because of course with yet
another child, the Blairs needed another bedroom.
And so we had to move them further along the corridor
into Number 10, and we had to steal a room from Gordon.
And Gordon was quite, sort of, grumpy about this and insisted on
a letter saying he could have it back when Euan went to university.
I thought that was rather nice, the concordat between the Number 11 flat and the Number 10 flat.
Number 10's most historic room is where every cabinet has met since the 18th century.
By tradition, the prime minister's chair is the only one with arms,
and is left permanently half-out from the table.
Some prime ministers totally dominate their cabinet,
others seek consensus, and some seek to ignore it altogether.
As there's no specific office set aside
for the prime minister in Number 10, some prefer to work and receive visitors in the Cabinet Room itself.
Ah, but that was part of the trick.
If you sat in an overwhelming room with a table 25 feet long,
just think what the poor man who never used it
felt when he came in and sat opposite you!
I won't say it was like Mussolini,
who I'm told used to make you walk the whole length of his room,
but it was quite an experience, obviously, for people to come into the Cabinet Room and sit there,
even when the Cabinet wasn't there,
in order to discuss things with the prime minister.
Margaret Thatcher would use the first-floor study as her office.
All modern prime ministers inherit two key parts of the Downing Street
machine to help them run the Government in the way they choose.
In pride of place is the Number 10 private office, that's staffed by a handful of young-ish civil servants.
Their task is to reduce the pressures on the prime minister and make the job more manageable.
These so-called private secretaries
are high-fliers, mainly from the great Whitehall departments like the Foreign Office and the Treasury.
The other main support for the prime minister is the press office.
Its job is to try and manage the news from Number 10.
The press secretary gives the official line
to the political journalists at the twice-daily lobby briefings.
-It continues to be difficult...
-And the press office is on round-the-clock call to the media.
That's the point we're trying to make.
Do we dispute the figures published in the Times?
There's no written constitutional definition
of the job of prime minister, and each new incumbent of Number 10 makes it up as they go along.
One thing you've got to understand straight away about Number 10
is that people think of it as a sort of modern office,
absolute Rolls-Royce machinery at the centre of government.
I mean, on a good day, it is a bit like that,
but actually, it has this sort of informal style.
It's a cross between a sort of stately home and a student union building.
It's recreated in the image and style of each new incumbent
to the office of prime minister.
The first prime minister to live at Number 10 was the Old Etonian Whig Robert Walpole.
Though he was only supposed to be the first among equals in
his cabinet, he so dominated his colleagues that "prime minister"
became a term of abuse, meaning someone too big for his boots.
The Victorian titans, the Liberal Gladstone and the Tory Disraeli,
were bitter political rivals.
They continued the tradition of being by far the most formidable members of their government,
and each accused the other of illegitimately using Number 10
to build up his personal power base.
Goodbye, Mr Chamberlain, and thanks for all you've tried to do.
We welcome the new prime minister, Mr Churchill.
In 1940, Winston Churchill took over Number 10 with the Nazis on the rampage across Europe.
Churchill set up a coalition government with Labour, and he formed a streamlined
war cabinet of fire to take swift military and political decisions.
Downing Street was sandbagged against Nazi attacks.
AIR RAID SIREN
Churchill insisted on staying put in Number 10.
He had the basement rooms specially strengthened against bomb attacks,
and the staff were supplied with tin hats.
And Churchill appointed his youthful private secretary to double up as Number 10's air raid warden.
I was in the private secretary's room
and in the mirror, I saw the most extraordinary apparition
coming down the stairs.
It was the rotund figure of the Prime Minister in his enormous quilted
Chinese dressing gown with great red and golden dragons writhing around it.
Slung over his shoulder was the regulation knapsack carrying the regulation gas mask
and his tin hat on his head,
trundling down the stairs.
He came within sight of the mirror, and I saw him and he started.
A broad grin spread over his face and he came and said, "John,
"conditions of total war do produce some most remarkable spectacles."
In the Blitz, Number 10 was a top target for Hitler's bombers.
Although all the Number 10 windows were
blown out by bombs landing nearby, the house didn't suffer a direct hit
and these photos were kept secret by the wartime censors
for fear of damaging public morale.
When he could, Churchill went on working in Number 10,
and it was from the Cabinet Room he made his famous wartime broadcasts.
Today is Victory in Europe Day.
Tomorrow will also be Victory in Europe Day.
Long live the cause of freedom!
But Churchill wasn't rewarded for victory, and left Number 10 by the back door
after losing the 1945 election.
A decade later, Anthony Eden and Clarissa, his new wife, who was
Churchill's niece, had their wedding reception in the Number 10 garden.
Eden succeeded Churchill,
but he was forced to resign as a sick man after the debacle of Suez.
Eden's wife said that she felt as if the Suez Canal
had been flowing through her drawing room at Number 10.
Eden's successor was another Tory Old Etonian, Harold Macmillan.
He came to power with Number 10 in a state of turmoil.
You'll understand me when I say that it's with a mixture of sorrow
and pride that I speak to you as Prime Minister of Britain.
Sorrow, because my friend and leader has had to lay down his burden
because of grievous illness.
Apart from that, it's a proud thing
to be given the office of Prime Minister of Britain.
He arrived to find the ship of state
practically on the rocks.
There was a fevered atmosphere of almost panic in Number 10,
I believe he told the Queen he didn't think the government was going to last more than six weeks.
And it wasn't just Macmillan's government that was precarious.
Downing Street was in a very, very bad state, falling down in fact.
There was considerable subsidence to the point that in the kitchen,
the Office of Works had to come and put blocks under the legs at one end
of the kitchen table so that Mrs Bell's rolling pin didn't roll off when she was making pastry!
-Mrs Bell the cook?
-Mrs Bell the cook, yes.
Inside Number 10, the cracks
in the walls showed how the building was subsiding.
Macmillan authorised extensive rebuilding works and set about trying to bring order to the
Number 10 private office, which had itself been demoralised by Eden's increasingly splenetic behaviour.
It was a different atmosphere because Harold Macmillan was extremely good
at calming everybody down, because actually, it had been a very frenetic
time and I think he thought we'd all got rather overworked up
and he calmed us all down very well.
That was a famous occasion when he put up on the door that quotation,
"Quiet, calm deliberation disentangles every knot."
To which my great friend John Wyndham added
"And remember if it doesn't, you'll certainly be shot."
John Wyndham was an old friend of Macmillan's
and an ex-diplomat.
Macmillan had brought Wyndham in to work as his political adviser in Number 10.
It was a trend that would grow rapidly with later prime ministers.
Labour's Harold Wilson formalised the position when he came to power in 1964.
He set up a new political office to be run by his long-time private
and political secretary, Marcia Williams.
Her aim was to bolster Wilson politically and prevent him becoming
a prisoner of the civil servants who ran Number 10.
'In '64, there was a bad atmosphere.
'The senior civil servants had been there 13 years and we were new.'
It's a building where most of the senior people are men
and in the main, they tend to be rather conservative.
Unlike John Wyndham, Marcia Williams was an outsider, a grammar school girl
who wasn't afraid to ruffle the mandarins' feathers.
'Marcia Williams had a certain idea of the civil service, that a lot of them were closet Tories.'
There was just one Marcia against a lot of them.
It was her view that when she went in with him for the first time as
prime minister in 1964, the civil servants tried to shut her out,
tried to put her in a remote room.
She said they wouldn't at first let her have official Number 10 writing paper.
The civil service was so suspicious of political appointees
that if they had to read anything classified or confidential,
they had to stand up next to the desk
of the Principal Private Secretary and read it there
cos they couldn't be trusted to take it away. There was lots of resistance.
Marcia Williams saw herself as Wilson's socialist conscience.
She fought many pitched battles inside Number 10 against what she
saw as the obstructionist and reactionary mandarins.
But after six years, Wilson lost office.
When Ted Heath became prime minister in 1970, he was determined
to run Number 10 in an entirely different way from Harold Wilson.
I was given no brief of any kind
but I'd deducted from things that Ted had said
that one thing he wanted me to do was to make peace
where there had been war.
Number 10 had become a battlefield, a battlefield in the political office
run by Marcia Williams, and the civil service.
Sometimes Marcia won a bit and sometimes she'd be forced to retreat.
I was clear that that had to come to an end.
Ted Heath greatly admired the civil service that he'd once planned to join.
He came increasingly to rely not on his cabinet ministers,
but on the head of the civil service, Sir William Armstrong.
The top mandarin was a shrewd operator and managed to bond with the usually prickly Prime Minister.
William Armstrong became so influential that he was dubbed "the real Deputy Prime Minister".
William and Ted hit it off in a big way.
I could understand why ministers so loved William Armstrong
as an adviser because he had a remarkably silky voice.
He'd sit and chain-smoke, there would be wreaths of cigarette smoke
going up, and this wonderfully soothing voice, and his fertile intelligence
would always give the appearance, and I'm sure William believed it, that there was a way through.
That it was going to be all right.
But it was a rough time, and Heath soon ran into a range of economic and trade union problems.
Heath was forced into a humiliating series of U-turns.
Douglas Hurd, who was your political secretary,
noted in his diary at the time, "The government is
"wandering around the battlefield,
"looking for someone to surrender to and being massacred all the time."
Oh, well, that was silly.
I mean, the very language of it is silly.
How can a responsible person,
especially someone who was secretary to the prime minister,
produce stuff like that in his diary?
But the chain-smoking civil service chief William Armstrong
became seriously alarmed as inflation soared and the miners went on strike.
I think for William, the political and economic crisis of '73, '74
saw everything he'd grown up to believe in breaking up,
and as things got worse and worse, those who were at meetings with him
noticed the apocalyptic note getting ever louder in what William said,
that the country really was in the grip of forces
that might actually wreck it.
At Number 10, Robert Armstrong, who was Heath's Principal Private Secretary but no relation
to William, was growing increasingly concerned about the civil service chief's erratic behaviour.
William Armstrong came to talk to me and asked if we could
withdraw to another room where we weren't bugged.
And I don't know why he thought we might be bugged,
and took off his jacket and lay on the floor, and chain-smoked
and talked very wildly about the desperate state of the nation.
The next day, he apparently called
a meeting of all the permanent secretaries and said, "We must
"prepare for the end of the world
"and you must all retreat from Whitehall and go to the country."
And the Principal Private Secretary told him he phoned the Prime Minister, Ted Heath,
and said they'd had to lock up the head of the civil service,
and Ted Heath said in that very relaxed way of his,
"Oh, I thought he'd been behaving a bit oddly of late."
It was a very strange episode.
Heath called a snap election and lost.
He had to leave Number 10 after less than four years in office.
Well, I was bitterly disappointed. I wanted to continue, but it wasn't possible.
When Harold Wilson returned to Number 10, he was determined to build up his political power base.
He created a new policy unit to take on the official Whitehall machine.
It was an innovation that has lasted to the present day.
Harold Wilson said to me that having previously been prime minister for six years, one
of his main conclusions was that the prime minister,
who was in one sense the most powerful man in government,
was in another sense the weakest, because he didn't have a department backing him,
providing him with all the statistics and the information,
the ammunition for the Whitehall battles, and that's what he wanted.
Marcia Williams and Wilson's press secretary, Joe Haines, augmented
Donoughue as political advisers in the battle with Whitehall.
But they were to fall out among themselves over the role of Marcia Williams.
Harold Wilson would come down the back way to avoid going
past her office from his flat,
and come into my room and ask me to give him a drink.
He was safe in my room, you see, because she wasn't going to come crashing in there.
She never did.
Marcia clearly had a considerable hold over Harold Wilson,
who was afraid of her.
I was there once with him in the study in Number 10,
the phone rang and he obviously knew it was her.
He leapt to his feet and ran
across the room to the...bathroom
in the corner, and as he went in said, "Tell her I'm not here!"
She seemed to have some kind of power over him,
I don't really understand it.
I don't think they were sleeping together or anything like that.
I don't know what it was, but he didn't stand up to her.
My concern was it diminished his capacity to function fully as a prime minister.
Harold Wilson's personal doctor Joseph Stone
grew concerned about the effect Marcia Williams was having on the Prime Minister.
Joe Stone came into my room one day and said he was worried about the
stress that she was causing Harold
and something had to be done about it.
I said, "Joe, I've tried, he won't get rid of her, there's no way."
And Joe said, "I could dispose of her."
He said, "I'm her doctor, and I'd write the death certificate."
I remember Joe Stone said to me
it was in the national interest she be put down.
We both said no. Just imagine it.
Press secretary kills...
Or press secretary in conspiracy to kill
Prime Minister's secretary.
"Murder in Number 10", I can write the headlines now.
So we said no.
After just two years back at Number 10, Wilson suddenly made way for an older man.
Having held the other three great offices, Jim Callaghan had,
in Disraeli's phrase, climbed to the top of the greasy pole.
'When you have become prime minister, you went in for the first time,
'I must tell you there's no other feeling in the world like it.
'I stood by the chair in the centre of the Cabinet table.'
Without being too pi about it, it was almost a religious sensation
for a moment.
Callaghan said he saw himself as Moses,
chosen to lead his people from the wilderness to the promised land.
Chancellor Denis Healey said Britain was facing bankruptcy
and needed to apply to the IMF for a huge loan.
But the Cabinet was bitterly divided between left and right, about the terms of the loan.
Callaghan then provided a textbook example of how to manage a split cabinet,
by holding seven day and night Cabinet meetings over a fortnight.
I decided to have a serious of Cabinet meetings and allow every member to be cross-examined
by his colleagues so they could see them what was the strength or weakness of his proposals.
I went through all that exercise and, at the end, I had a united cabinet.
But the Prime Minister's triumph was short-lived.
He came up against the power of the trade unions.
They launched a devastating series of public sector strikes in what
was to become known as the Winter Of Discontent.
The Winter of Discontent was a most depressing time in Number 10.
The government became quite impotent, the Prime Minister felt impotent
and we sat in Number 10 unable to do anything.
The Prime Minister was sitting in his study on his own
with few visitors. It felt like being on an Atlantic liner
where all of the engines had stopped.
Number 10 in those days was often cathedrally calm
and it now had the calm of the morgue.
When the first woman prime minister came to power in '79,
she quickly decided that Number 10 needed a serious facelift.
When Margaret Thatcher first came to Number 10,
she was pretty disappointed with the state of it.
She thought it basically looked like a furnished house to let,
with pretty inadequate furniture,
and the area outside the Cabinet Room she compared to a down-at-heel Pall Mall club.
She did go to considerable lengths to smarten it up.
-I don't think anyone had quite looked at it as a whole
or been quite interested enough in Downing Street as a house.
I got more strength into the whole place.
She had symbolic portraits installed.
This one, I think, of Wellington, is excellent.
You can see the determination.
You can see the Iron Duke.
Nelson, again, this expression in the eyes they've got.
We were absolutely right to have these two great heroes
of British history.
People who fought AND WON crucial battles,
and they fit beautifully into that space.
Mrs Thatcher had arrived in Number 10 with a profound suspicion of the civil service but, ironically,
two individual civil servants were to become her most influential and trusted advisers.
One was the private secretary who advised her on foreign affairs, Charles Powell.
POWELL: Margaret Thatcher had an enormously informal way of working with her private office staff.
It came through in many ways. She would argue with us as though she was arguing with a cabinet minister
and she had a disturbing habit of wandering into the private office to find out what one was doing.
On one occasion, she came down and sat on my desk and then answered my telephone.
She said, "What do you want?"
And the unfortunate voice said, "I was hoping to speak to Charles Powell."
"Well, you can't. He's much too busy." Bang!
The other civil servant who became Margaret Thatcher's most powerful adviser
was her press secretary, Bernard Ingham.
He was an abrasive Yorkshireman who was to become known as Margaret Thatcher's Rottweiler.
Were you temperamentally suited for
-the role of Number 10 press secretary?
-I don't know.
I think there is at least an argument to say that somebody with
my fiery temper and forthright views and determination
perhaps should never have come anywhere near Number 10
except, of course, to serve Mrs Thatcher.
Why "except, of course, to serve Mrs Thatcher?"
Well, because of those qualities,
I think I could quite adequately represent her attitude too.
Margaret Thatcher's use of her Cabinet could scarcely have been more different from Jim Callaghan's.
In opposition she'd said that once in Number 10 she wouldn't waste time on internal arguments.
Margaret Thatcher's style was to announce the conclusions
of the meeting and then challenge all-comers to fight her.
Mrs Thatcher was not a collegiate prime minister. She would...
come close to summing up before the meeting took place.
-How did you find that?
-Well, you got used to it
-and you knew the techniques by which you had to survive.
-Which were what?
Well, you didn't give in and you insisted on getting your words out
no matter how often you were interrupted and you just kept going.
I think sometimes a prime minister SHOULD be intimidating.
There's not much point being a weak, floppy thing in the chair, is there?
But the two blonde bombshells were to fall out dramatically.
At one cabinet meeting, Heseltine suddenly stood up and walked out.
It would be wrong for me to say anything at this instant.
I have resigned from the Cabinet and I will make a full statement later today.
'Of course it was portrayed as storming out.'
I have never stormed out of anything in my life.
I am a pancake. I do not get roused.
Hezza was the first minister to walk out of the Cabinet in 100 years,
claiming Mrs Thatcher had rigged the agenda.
What I will not tolerate is people who cheat.
Did you think Mrs Thatcher was cheating?
She did, no question about that.
-Were you in the Cabinet when Michael Heseltine walked out?
-What did you think?
Well, I wasn't surprised. Michael Heseltine is
a man given to high drama and clearly he had run out of road space.
ANNOUNCEMENT: The Prime Minister and Mr Thatcher.
After 11 years at Number 10, Margaret Thatcher had grown increasingly regal.
She was accused of being out of touch and seeking to run a government within a government.
Leading members of her cabinet gradually turned against her.
She had become more dependent on people in whom she had confidence
and particularly in Bernard Ingham and Charles Powell,
to the extent which they had usurped the position of
some of the Secretaries of State,
and this was a weakness, I think, in the end.
It was an important part of Margaret Thatcher's demise.
Challenged in a leadership election, Mrs Thatcher failed to win outright on the first ballot.
JOURNALIST: Mrs Thatcher, when are you going to resign?
Most of her cabinet ministers advised Mrs Thatcher that she should step down.
After a long, dark night of the soul in Number 10,
the Iron Lady reluctantly decided the game was up.
11 years after the first woman prime minister
had been clapped in to Number 10...
..she was clapped out.
HEATH: I expected it to happen sooner or later.
I thought then there would be a chance of getting sensible policies.
But they didn't change very much.
It was said that you rang your office and said, "Rejoice, rejoice!"
I said it three times, I think.
"Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!"
Of course it was.
It was a terrible thing.
History keeps on writing it up and it was an awful thing.
Bad men voting for bad principles.
If you are in politics you expect there will be knives in the back.
What I will never forgive is,
it wasn't by Parliament that I was thrown out.
And this was after nearly 11 years
when I had taken Britain from the slough of despond to the heights.
I shall never forget that and I shall never forgive.
One of the Iron Lady's tangible legacies to Downing Street
were the new security gates.
With no access for the public, the risk of a prime minister developing a bunker mentality was increased
and the gates would fail to protect the building itself.
In 1991, Mrs Thatcher's successor John Major held a meeting of his newly formed war Cabinet.
It was the start of the first Gulf war against Saddam Hussein
and the cabinet was discussing the threat of Iraqi terrorist attacks in London.
BUTLER: The most extraordinary thing which I recall clearly was
that John Major had just used the word "bombs".
And there was this tremendous explosion.
Go back up the street. It is not safe.
Two mortar bombs had been fired at Number 10
by the Provisional IRA from a white van in Whitehall.
Keep away from these windows!
The windows all shook, the French windows at the end of the cabinet room burst open
and, perhaps because of the context we were talking about,
my first reaction was that this was a terrorist attack
where people had come over the wall of Number 10,
blown open the cabinet doors, the French windows,
and we were all going to be sprayed with gunfire.
I dived under the table, and so did some of the others.
I was sitting next to John Major and my first reaction
was to put my hand on his head and push him down under the table.
We got down under the table and there was a tremendous aftershock.
We could hear the windows being blown in and then
the sound of what seemed very much like a second mortar.
EXPLOSION Nobody knew what to do.
What do Englishmen do when they are being mortared in their Cabinet Room?
It wasn't entirely clear.
I looked around and there was the Cabinet Secretary
and the rest of the Cabinet crouching under the table.
The next thing that happened, perhaps the most dangerous phase, was the Cabinet Room door burst open
and the number of middle-aged, rather overweight policemen
came rushing in waving 1948 Webley revolvers.
This was getting really serious.
I don't think they had ever been fired, and I don't even know if they knew how to fire them.
It could have been a disaster.
We waited there a moment until the aftershock went away.
We got up, asked for people to go and check and see what damage was done
and I then said, "Well, I think we had better go and start somewhere else."
The War Cabinet reconvened in a secure area.
There had been no serious casualties from the mortar attack.
After winning the 1992 election, Major's last years in office
were plagued by cabinet splits over Europe.
He explained why he didn't sack trouble-making Euro-sceptic ministers,
when he talked candidly after a TV interview in Number 10
without realising he was still being recorded.
Where do you think most of this poison has come from?
The dispossessed and the never possessed.
You and I can both think of ex-ministers who are going around causing all sorts of trouble.
Would you like three more of the bastards out there?
When New Labour came to power, Tony Blair and his top two political advisers,
Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell, planned to run Number 10 in a new way.
Powell said they wanted a Napoleonic system with greatly increased control
over civil servants and ministers exercised from the centre.
POWELL: In terms of the jobs at Number 10, I had a fairly clear idea before we went in.
In particular, I felt from looking at what had happened under John Major
or under Mrs Thatcher,
there was a lack of a Chief of Staff,
there was no-one who brought everything together.
You had the political side competing with the Civil Service side,
the foreign policy side competing with the domestic side.
The press side competing with the policy side.
No-one under the Prime Minister was answerable for the whole lot.
So, in my view, you had to have someone who could reconcile those differences
before the Prime Minister had to be dragged in.
We created the job of a Chief of Staff who was part civil service and part political.
Tony Blair didn't believe the Cabinet was the right body to take big decisions.
He preferred working informally with his trusted advisers from the sofa in his office.
-It clearly came as quite a new idea to Tony Blair
that big decisions of government
should be collective decisions of the Cabinet,
and I don't think he ever really, during my time, acclimatised to that.
Determined to dominate the news agenda,
Blair gave unprecedented power to his spin doctor Alastair Campbell, the former tabloid journalist.
Do you often come to your press secretary's office?
I do if I'm passing, which I happen to be.
-How important is your press secretary to you?
-Not at all.
How important is Alastair Campbell to you?
A press secretary is important for the Prime Minister.
It would be odd if he wasn't.
Everyone says the importance you put on relations with the media
is greater than it has ever been in the past.
It is just modern government.
It is a 24-hour-a-day news media.
It is not as if these stories don't take a life of their own
and start running away into the far distance and the publics thinks,
"What are they doing that for?" when you are not doing it at all.
It is important to have the capacity to get on top of the news as far as possible.
What is important for me is that it doesn't disturb me from doing the things that are really important.
Which are, you know, the things for the country,
otherwise there is no point doing this job.
People can believe that or not but that is what I spend my time thinking of.
It's why you just spent seven minutes talking to Michael Cockerell.
Alongside Campbell and Jonathan Powell, who is the brother of Charles Powell,
Blair had brought in a slew of other special advisers to Number 10.
My impression on my rare visits to Number 10 in Tony Blair's time
was that it had become a bit of a slum.
There were so many people working or hanging around Number 10
it was almost like a railway station, so many people coming and going.
For me it had rather lost the elegance and the calm
which, for me, characterised Number 10.
Now it was a sort of scurrying exchange.
People rushing to and fro in jeans. It just seemed to be different.
Working at Number 10, Matthew Taylor, the former policy wonk,
was Blair's Director of Political Strategy.
I used to go running most days so I would often be found
wandering around Number 10 in my shorts and running shirt.
So Tony, as we know, is quite informal in the way in which he did things.
We talked to your brother Charles, and his sense of Number 10 under you.
He said Number 10 became like a slum, like a railway station
with people wandering around in jeans.
He's thinking of me, I think, in my bicycling gear.
He always disapproved of the way I dressed.
When the Prime Minister is away, Number 10 becomes eerily quiet.
But an infamous day a decade ago
vividly illustrated how Downing Street coped with a calamity.
On 9/11 itself Tony had gone down to Brighton to give a speech to the TUC
and I'd stayed behind in Number 10 Downing Street
expecting a nice, quiet day.
I was using Tony's office, we had gone into to the den
and we were meeting in there as the first plane hit the tower.
The duty clerk put his head around the door and said "another plane's gone into the World Trade Center",
and I said, "Don't be silly, it's repeating the film again." He said, "No, no, it's another one."
Immediately we tried to grab control of what was happening.
It was lunchtime, so the mandarins were all out at lunch.
I was coming back from lunch
and my driver said as I got in the car,
"Someone's driven a plane into the World Trade Center."
I said, I thought, "This is probably an amateur."
And...I turned on the radio.
As we drove back we heard a second plane had gone into the tower.
I said, "Oh, this sounds more serious."
And Jeremy Hayward, the Prime Minister's private secretary, who was still in Number 10,
rang me up and said, "We think the White House may be going to evacuate,
"should we be evacuating Number 10?"
I said, "Where would you go to?"
Jeremy said, "I'm not sure."
I said, "Well, I think it's quite a good rule not to evacuate until you know where you're going to go to."
I had this image of all the staff of Number 10 standing on the pavement,
with their laptops, cellphones and briefcases,
and I thought what a good photograph it would be in the paper the next day. So we stayed put.
Nice and calmly out the front, ladies and gents.
As the media were evacuated from Downing Street, the officials left behind
considered what information they had about those behind 9/11.
In the immediate aftermath it occurred to me how little we knew about the Taliban.
9/11 had happened and we hadn't really had the Taliban on our radar screen at all.
I walked down Whitehall to the Waterstones on Trafalgar Square
and bought a copy of all the books I could find on the Taleban.
The only one that was any use was one by Ahmed Rashid,
which is a very good book about the Taliban and the fights with the warlords.
I sat at my desk and read this for the next 12 hours.
I read the whole book. Alastair and Tony became jealous
and wanted to have my copy and had to wait.
Alastair got to read it first and Tony after that.
Then we were the experts on the Taliban.
But it's not chapter seven...
Jonathan Powell and Alastair Campbell became the most powerful unelected figures in the government.
They were members of Tony Blair's war cabinet on Afghanistan as well as Iraq.
The wars were to weaken Blair and hasten his departure from Number 10.
Also in the war cabinet was the Chancellor, Gordon Brown,
who'd long felt that he should take over Tony Blair's job.
The only time I noticed him cheering up was when the war cabinet
was briefed on a death threat to Tony and a smile crossed his face.
I thought that was very amusing.
After a decade, Tony Blair left Number 10 with his family.
It now included their young son Leo, who had been born during the Blair premiership.
What the 24-hour media called the Blair soap opera was at an end.
I don't think we'll miss you.
The previous week, Blair had been asked whether the fact he was going had sunk in.
Er, yeah, no... I definitely don't have a problem with it.
I've prepared for this for a long time.
I've no problem at all. I know everyone thinks I should be...
you know, in a state of denial about it, but I'm absolutely fine.
-This will be a new government with new priorities,
in the service of what matters to the British people.
And now let the work of change begin. Thank you.
MANDELSON: Gordon didn't have an absolutely clear idea from the beginning
how Number 10 could and should operate under his premiership.
I think he came to Number 10 with a clear sense of
it not being Blair's Number 10,
so he would overcome sofa government, so-called,
he would deprive political advisers of powers to instruct civil servants
and he would have a different set-up on the spin agenda.
It was very defined in antithesis to Blair.
A visit to the Mayor of New York's office
inspired Gordon Brown with an idea for how he should run Number 10.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a former financial trader turned media mogul
and Brown was impressed with the Mayor's open-plan office.
It was a mix of trading floor and newsroom with giant TV screens.
Brown brought the Mayor's concept back with him across the Atlantic.
He had his own office and senior staff
moved along the linking corridor from Number 10 to Number 12.
How you doing there? OK?
And created what he called the War Room.
Gordon put himself and his immediate and top civil servants
and political advisers and speech writers
all around a bank of computers and workstations with large screens,
you know, BBC over there and Sky behind you.
He was in the middle, a bit like Mission Control. He was the pilot.
Just cast your mind back to Number 10 under Harold Macmillan
and fast forward to Gordon Brown, you know,
in the War Room with the televisions, you know,
and everyone at their desks and computers with the commander in the field,
as the Prime Minister saw himself, you know, driving everyone,
responding to things very quickly
and taking thoughts from the television and sending his orders out.
Gordon would often look up at the screen and see who was saying what.
If he didn't like it, he would let you know.
Would he shout at the screen and say, "That's wrong"?
Oh, sometimes if he saw somebody saying something
on the telly that he didn't agree with or felt was inaccurate,
then he would let the television know.
I thought it must have been bedlam,
but the open plan was the way in which he thought
it was most effective to work.
Working with Brown in the War Room and trying to dominate
the round-the-clock news media was Damian McBride.
A former Treasury official, McBride had been hand-picked by Brown
for his aggressive mastery of the black arts of spin.
He was quickly dubbed "the Prime Minister's attack dog".
But McBride's emails proposing a sexual smear campaign
against leading Tory politicians and their wives were leaked.
Brown at first refused to say "sorry"
for McBride's actions.
Prime Minister, will you apologise for Damian McBride's emails?
Until he felt he had no alternative.
When I saw this first, I was horrified, I was shocked and I was very angry indeed.
The person who was responsible went immediately, and lost his job.
-Gordon never entirely succeeded in having
the right people in the right positions
with the right links and relationships
working in the absolutely right way.
MATTINSON: The atmosphere in Number 10 got worse and worse.
You know, people were incredibly unhappy.
Gordon had been at his best when he was positioning himself
-against a clear enemy...
-Be it his neighbour in Number 10,
be it poverty, he was at his best
when he was positioning himself against something.
When suddenly the stage was his, and he had to say what he was FOR,
he found that much more difficult.
Brown became increasingly indecisive in Number 10.
According to one of his civil servants,
he never once finished a Red Box,
and big issues would pile up as Brown spent his time on micro-management.
TAYLOR: Gordon Brown's management at Number 10 struck me as being pretty tense.
If the Prime Minister tries to get into the depth of every single issue,
it's a recipe for overload and madness.
Are you going to resign, Mr Brown?
You've lost, haven't you?
Two days after last May's general election
that put Labour behind the Tories in a hung parliament,
Brown was still seeking a deal that would enable him to stay in Number 10.
I went into Number 10 on the Saturday to talk about
what the prospects might be for a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition
but the weird feeling was that Number 10 was no longer the source of power.
This place, which is at the heart of the British state, where power is supposed to reside.
It was clear to me that power was not in the building.
Brown stayed put in Number 10 for four days after the election,
still hoping to construct a last-minute deal,
when his chief negotiator, Peter Mandelson, came in.
Gordon was on phone to Nick Clegg and I listened in, perfectly clear
that Nick Clegg and David Cameron were going to form a coalition.
They needed to get on with it.
I said after the phone call had ended, "Gordon, this is it.
"You shouldn't really be hanging around.
"You certainly shouldn't be hanging around waiting interminably for these two guys to make up their mind
"with the result that you might end up leaving Number 10 at nine or 10 o'clock at night. In the dark."
You know, "Is that the way we want people to see you,
the Labour prime minister leaving Downing Street
"after 13 years in office, in the dark?"
I didn't like that at all.
My resignation as leader of the Labour Party will take effect immediately,
and as I leave the second most important job I could ever hold,
I cherish even more the first, as a husband and father.
Thank you. And goodbye.
CAMERON: On the steps of Downing Street yesterday evening,
I said that Nick and I wanted to put aside party differences
and work together in the national interest.
Cameron says that when he arrived in Number 10, Brown had left him
a good-luck present of a bottle of whisky, but no revolver.
Cameron was determined to run Number 10 very differently from Blair and Brown.
This is the first coalition government for 65 years.
I think it's a great achievement to have put it together.
We have a great opportunity, I think, for the long term
because we have the chance of a five-year government
where we can really grapple with the problems the country faces.
The oldest member of the coalition cabinet has served in every Tory government from Ted Heath's on.
-David Cameron's returned to collective government.
It was practically dead as a dodo,
listening to the ex-senior civil servants under Blair and Brown.
They just had a little group in their study,
where the only people who knew what was going on really decided anything.
We had gone back to having a proper Cabinet system,
a proper Cabinet committee system which I am used to.
Every Tuesday there's a Cabinet. It used to start at nine.
With the change of Prime Ministers we now start at 9:45
because the Prime Minister and Deputy are taking their children to school first.
That's a change from the past.
Cameron said that transparency and openness were the coalition's watchwords.
He was cutting back sharply on the number of unelected political advisers.
One side, please.
Move to one side, please.
But the Number 10 minders hadn't exactly embraced the new glasnost.
Move to one side, please.
And David Cameron's top two special advisers in Number 10
sought determinedly to stay out of the limelight.
One is the camera-shy Steve Hilton,
a rebranding expert who invented the Big Society.
He's brought his casual dress sense to Number 10,
where he pads around in jeans and socks.
But Hilton was often at odds with Cameron's other major special adviser.
The highly controversial Andy Coulson had the job of connecting Cameron to the tabloids.
Coulson had resigned as editor of the News of the World
while denying any involvement in phone-tapping by his journalists.
The affair continued to haunt him in Number 10, though Cameron tried to stick by him.
CAMERON: I choose to judge him by the work that he's done for me,
for the Government and for the country. He's run
the Downing Street press office
in a professional and competent and good way.
If you compare that with the days of the dodgy dossiers and Alastair Campbell and Damian McBride
and all that nonsense we had from the previous government,
he has done an excellent, excellent job.
Coulson resigned, saying that when the spokesman needs a spokesman, it's time to go.
After other presentation and policy gaffes, Cameron made a sharp U-turn.
He brought into Number 10 a new group of Blair-style special advisers
including a new political strategy chief and a ten-strong policy unit.
It was all a far cry from the Downing Street rose garden when a year earlier.
David Cameron was coming to realise that however sunny the start you make as Prime Minister,
cold reality will always follow you into Number 10.
Next week, in the last episode of this series,
I'll be uncovering the hidden network of high-powered Whitehall warriors
that operates to try and save ministers' skins
and keep the government of the day in power.
# I like my town
# With a little drop of poison
# Nobody knows
# They're lining up to go insane
# I'm all alone... #
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Michael Cockerell reveals what life has really been like over the years in 10 Downing Street. Insiders talk candidly about the constant battles and the tragicomic events behind the famous black door. The film shows what an unlikely place No.10 is to run a government from.