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e-Help Seminars - Lance Price
e-help Seminar 28
Instant or more-or-less instant history
Toulouse 8-10 June 2006
The publication of The Spin Doctor’s Diary is September of last year caused a minor storm in Whitehall. I was told it had provoked “apoplexy” in the Cabinet Office and I know that many people in No.10 believe it should never have been published while Tony Blair was still Prime Minister.

The serialisation in The Mail on Sunday, not surprisingly, fuelled the flames. Not least because they decided, without informing me, to publish those parts of the Diary that I had agreed to alter at the request of the Cabinet Office prior to publication. Among the more controversial stories were that the Prime Minister had “relished” first sending British troops into action in Iraq back in 1999; that he had cursed the “fucking Welsh” over the first Assembly elections and that he had apparently promised Rupert Murdoch not to change policy towards Europe without speaking to him first.

The House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration will report shortly on the whole business of whether and if so when it is acceptable for former civil servants to publish diaries. And the North Wales Police are still investigating whether Tony Blair committed and offence under the Public Order Act with his choice words about the Welsh.

I will confine my remarks to the business of engaging in instant or more-or-less instant history in the way that I have, although I’m happy to answer questions on the Welsh or anything else.

One of the questions I asked the Select Committee to consider when I gave evidence to them was ‘Who Writes History?’. Should rules designed to protect legitimate rights to government confidentiality prevent anybody other than ministers and Prime Ministers from setting out their experiences shortly after leaving the corridors of power?

Because when I first submitted the manuscript of my diary to the Cabinet Office the then Cabinet Secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull, replied and not only refused consent to publish but also said he found books like mine “totally unacceptable”. I will try to explain why I believe he was wrong to come to that snap judgement and why future writers in my position deserve to be treated more fairly.

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