INSIDE NUMBER TEN by Marcia Williams


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Last year we had former Prime Minister Harold Wilson's memoir, A Personal Record of the Labour years 1964-70; at the same time George Brown, Wilson's estranged deputy, offered his recollections, typically In My Way. Both accounts added materially to the historical scrollwork. Now Mrs. Williams, Personal and Political Secretary to the P.M. during the Wilson governments, adds her twopence worth. It is a perky, nattering, above all adulatory reconstruct more concerned with who ate sausage for breakfast than the political currents which eventually overwhelmed Labour. Her admiration for Wilson, the person and the leader, is nothing short of cloying -- no wonder Harold (as he is called here) approved her writing the book. He is a ""great"" Parliamentary debater, is a ""great"" political tactician, has a ""great"" gift for conversation, and another ""great thing about Harold was that throughout his years at No. 10 he never lost his nerve."" Finally, having exhausted ""great,"" Mrs. Williams turns to metaphor: ""To sum up Harold Wilson is like trying to encapsulate War and Peace"" There are also good words for the lesser men of Labour, like Jim Callaghan (he gave her table linen as a wedding gift and, like Harold, ""knows exactly how to operate in a political set-up""), and even the rascal Brown (""George remains a big figure, and I suppose he always will, because of his personality""). The miscreants of the piece, of course, are the Tortes, those ""masters"" of British industry, the City, and the Whitehall Establishment, the latter especially snotty to the Labourites (""We were treated as ships passing in the night""). But Mrs. Williams is most comfy when chattering about how a leading Scarborough beauty shop inadvertently changed her hair color from blond to brown or how she coped with answering all Harold's Christmas mail. No keyhole sensations here, just a little bird telling ""how I saw it all.

Pub Date: Dec. 11th, 1972
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan