The British Prime Minister by Anthony King (eds.)

By Anthony King (eds.)

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I have mentioned the Treasury first because it is the department of economic policy. However, economic policy is not conducted in isolation by the Treasury. The prime minister in Downing Street is at the heart of the central capability of British government and therefore the view from Downing Street is a central one. Indeed the prime minister is formally the First Lord of the Treasury. It will be a central theme of this analysis to describe how that often nominal and 'dignified' role of First Lord of the Treasury became increasingly an effective role during the 1970s as the prime minister became more actively engaged in policymaking.

In three months from midSeptember to mid-December 1975, I had 44 speeches to prepare and deliver, 18 of them major ones, involving a great deal of research, briefing and preparation. This excludes some seven or eight speeches each evening during party conference, on the nightly tours of dinners or receptions given by regional parties, associated organisations and trade unions. The heaviest concentration was the 40 days between 3 November (at the opening of the Forties Field) and 12 December when there were 15 speeches, nearly all of them major, including the Lord Mayor's Guildhall banquet, the main speech in the debate 24 A Prime Minister at Work on the opening of the new session of parliament and, within 24 hours, the local government conference at Eastbourne, the London Mayors' Association dinner, two political speeches on the same day in Carlisle and Newcastle, the first Blackett Memorial Lecture, the annual conference of the National Council of Social Services and my Guildhall speech on receiving the freedom of the city of London.

In all these meetings the prime minister is, of course, flanked by the ministers principally concerned. In the week that ended with the announcement of the government's counter-inflation policy on ll July 1975, I called in the TUC, the CBI and the chairmen of 31 publicly-owned industries and services. Other ministers saw the representatives of all the relevant organisations such as the local authorities and the farmers. Sometimes the prime minister takes the initiative to invite representatives of an important profession, or group of people, to come for an informal evening meeting or dinner.

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