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31 minutes | Jan 11, 2016
Martha Kearney reviews secret government files from 1986 - the year of US air strikes against Libya, the Chernobyl disaster and a Royal wedding between Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. She discusses the annual release of official papers with three distinguished politicians from the time - former Health Secretary Lord Fowler, former Labour leader Lord Kinnock and former Liberal leader Lord Steel - as they look for new insights into some of the top political stories of that year. Early 1986 saw the Westland helicopter crisis and the resignation of two Senior Ministers, Michael Heseltine and Leon Brittan. On the opposition benches, Labour was engaged in a struggle with the Militant left wing of the party, but the popularity of the new SDP / Liberal Alliance failed to materialise into votes in the 1987 election. Meanwhile Britain was gripped by a fear of AIDS, and arms talks between the USSR and the United States faltered at Reykjavik, but led ultimately to a treaty between the superpowers just a year later, marking a significant thaw in Cold War relations. Producer: Deborah Dudgeon A Whistledown production in association with Takeaway Media for BBC Radio 4.
59 minutes | Jan 9, 2015
Martha Kearney reviews today's release of secret government files from the mid 1980s. The year long miners' strike came to an end in 1985, but social unrest continued with riots in London leaving a policeman dead in Tottenham. Football hooliganism burgeoned, resulting in horrific scenes at the European Cup Final in Heysel when 39 people died during violent riots before the Liverpool/Juventus match. Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet leader and Oleg Gordievsky was one of a number of high profile Russian defectors to Britain. As nuclear arms talks between the Soviet Union and the United States made a tentative start, a catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine released radioactive particles over much of the Western USSR. A row in Cabinet over the future of Westland helicopters resulted in Michael Heseltine's resignation as Defence Secretary in early 1986. A Cabinet Committee considered government policy on AIDS for the first time, and several Whitehall departments collaborated to develop what became the 'Poll Tax'. As the official Cabinet papers of the mid-80s are opened to the public for the first time, Martha Kearney discovers how these events were viewed in Government. With access to the Prime Minister's personal correspondence, minutes of top secret meetings and telephone calls, and confidential policy advice, UK Confidential offers fresh insights into history. Martha is joined in the studio by key political players from the time - Defence Secretary Lord (Michael) Heseltine, Shadow Chancellor Lord (Roy) Hattersley, Margaret Thatcher's private secretary Lord (Charles) Powell, and Channel 4 Political Correspondent Elinor Goodman. Produced by Deborah Dudgeon A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.
58 minutes | Jan 10, 2014
Martha Kearney uncovers the secrets within the Government files of 1984. Margaret Thatcher's government faced some formidable adversaries. The long-anticipated battle with the National Union of Mineworkers and its leader, Arthur Scargill, finally erupted, dominating the political scene well into 1985. The charismatic Ken Livingstone, leader of the Greater London Council, was winning the costly PR war against abolition of the GLC. And terror hit home with the shooting of policewoman Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy and the IRA bombing of the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton. On the world stage, the Cold War reached a crucial turning point. The cost of the nuclear arms race was rocketing and the world needed a new approach to East-West relations. Rising star of the Soviet Politburo, Mikhail Gorbachev, was invited to Britain and spent five hours at Chequers in a now famous meeting with the Prime Minister. As the official Cabinet papers of 1984 are opened to the public for the first time, Martha Kearney discovers how these events were viewed in Government. With access to the Prime Minister's personal correspondence, minutes of top secret meetings and telephone calls, and confidential policy advice, Martha can now offer fresh insights into history. Former Ministers and other key insiders from the time join Martha in the studio to help her interpret the papers and give their own impressions of the revelations within them. Producer: Deborah Dudgeon A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.
59 minutes | Aug 1, 2013
Martha Kearney uncovers the secrets within the government files of 1983 - who said what in Cabinet, and what did the Prime Minister really think about the issues of the day? It was the year that Compact Discs and £1 coins were first sold in Britain. The country was introduced to the joys of wheel clamps and breakfast television, and Shergar - the most valuable racehorse in the world - was stolen, never to be seen again. It was an election year, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was riding high on the Falklands victory of the year before. Peace campaigners were demonstrating outside Greenham Common as the American nuclear missiles arrived, and Britain entered talks with China over the future of Hong Kong. As the official Cabinet papers of 1983 are opened to the public for the first time, Martha Kearney discovers what the big stories were inside Government that year. With access to the Prime Minister's personal correspondence, minutes of top secret meetings and telephone calls, and confidential policy advice, Martha can now offer fresh insights into history. There are the secret messages between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, the Prime Minister's highly colourful comments on points of view she disagreed with, and entertaining messages between staff at Number 10. Martha is joined by key insiders from the time to help her interpret the papers and give their own impressions of the revelations within them. Producer: Deborah Dudgeon A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.
59 minutes | Dec 28, 2012
With unique access to secret government papers, Martha Kearney presents a look at the political events of 1982 as told through the Cabinet minutes, Prime Ministerial papers and Foreign and Commonwealth Office documents and briefings that are being released to the public at the end of the year. Close to 30,000 Government papers containing top secret memos, notes and briefings are included in the release, and the Radio 4 team have been given special access over the last few weeks. In a dramatic year, 1982 saw Britain at war with Argentina over the Falklands, which is expected to dominate much of the papers released under the thirty year rule. We anticipate discovering details of the talks to avert conflict, of events such as the loss of HMS Sheffield and the Battle of Goose Green, and of the controversial sinking of the Argentine Navy cruiser General Belgrano. In addition we may well find out details of how the Franks Inquiry into the Falklands War put politicians and civil servants under the spotlight and how those around Margaret Thatcher sought to capitalise on her renewed popularity in the wake of the victory in the South Atlantic. Producer: Deborah Dudgeon A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4, in association with Takeaway Media.
59 minutes | Dec 30, 2011
It was the year of the Royal Wedding, urban riots and soaring unemployment. Leading economists despaired of the government's handling of the economy, while spending cuts were considered too deep, and relations with European allies fragile. This was 1981. Martha Kearney reviews newly-released government papers from 1981 with guests including former Ministers, government advisers and leading opponents. There are fascinating insights to be gleaned from Margaret Thatcher's personal files, containing secret memos, letters from Ministers and foreign leaders, often furiously annotated with her immediate response. Minutes of Cabinet meetings reveal divisions between departments over the government's handling of key policies. This was the year in which Mrs Thatcher visited the newly instated Ronald Reagan, ten IRA prisoners died on hunger strike in Northern Ireland, and trouble flared in British cities, with looting and rioting in Brixton, Moss Side and Toxteth. Martha and guests will look beyond the headlines to see how key government decisions were made, and where tensions between Ministers lay. Producer: Deborah Dudgeon A Wingspan and Whistledown co-production for BBC Radio 4.
59 minutes | Dec 30, 2010
On the day that previously secret government files from 1980 are released to the public, Martha Kearney and guests discuss what they reveal about government thinking at the time. It was a year of government cutbacks, high unemployment and economic gloom. The newly-released papers highlight the astonishing resonance with today. Martha and guests will examine the Prime Minister's personal papers, complete with handwritten notes in the margins, and memos from trusted aides; transcripts of conversations between Margaret Thatcher and other world leaders; and vivid accounts of arguments in cabinet that show what individual Ministers were really thinking. As well as shedding light on what we know happened, the papers also reveal what didn't happen, as we hear accounts of policies or actions that were considered but later abandoned. It was the year that Polish workers won trade union rights, while in the UK steel workers went on strike. The government failed to secure a boycott of the Olympic games in Moscow, and Zimbabwe elected a new leader: Robert Mugabe. War broke out between Iran and Iraq and a group of American hostages in Tehran remained in captivity. President Jimmy Carter lost out to Ronald Reagan in the American elections and Michael Foot became leader of the Labour Party. These are just some of the stories that dominated 1980. This programme will reveal the issues that dominated the minds of Ministers at the time. Producer: Deborah Dudgeon A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4.
58 minutes | Dec 30, 2009
With unique access to Secret government papers, Martha Kearney presents a look at the political events of 1979 as told through the Cabinet minutes, Prime Ministerial papers and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Documents that are being released to the public at the end of the year. Domestic stories include the growing crisis of confidence in the Labour government, the handling of backbench rebellions, the winter of discontent and the handover of power to Margaret Thatcher following the Conservative victory in the 1979 General election. We discover the government's first response to the Ayatollah's return to Iran and the diplomatic standoff about finding a permanent home for the exiled Shah. Why arms sales to the RUC were chipping away at Anglo-American diplomatic relations and how cabinet ministers fell out over the question of what to do with refuges from Vietnam. UK CONFIDENTIAL weaves together dramatised extracts from the papers, news footage material, discussion with studio guests (including former cabinet ministers and top level civil servants), and special reports compiled by correspondents. Studio Guests: Lord Michael Heseltine, Lord Roy Hattersley, Elinor Goodman, Michael Dobbs Producer: Emily Williams A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4, in association with Takeaway Media.
59 minutes | Dec 30, 2008
It's the loneliest decision of all, they say, when to go for a general election. Turn the clock back thirty years and it was the big question facing the then Prime Minister Jim Callaghan. With industrial strife gripping the country, a slew of manufacturers on their knees asking Government for help, and a dangerous situation brewing in Rhodesia, it was a testing time for Labour. The secret government files from 1978 have been transferred to the National Archives in Kew, West London and opened to the public. UK CONFIDENTIAL is granted advance access and the team have been sifting through the files, full of phone transcripts, secret minutes and hand written notes. Joining Martha Kearney is Roy Hattersley (the then Labour secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection), David Owen (the then Foreign Secretary), Tom McNally who was Senior Adviser to Jim Callaghan, Leon Brittan (the then Conservative front-bencher) and Matthew Parris who was working in Margaret Thatcher's Research Unit. A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4, in association with Takeaway Media. Producer: Emily Williams.
40 minutes | Dec 28, 2007
Martha Kearney presents a look at the political events of 1977, as told through the Cabinet minutes, Foreign Office documents and other Government papers that are released under the thirty year rule at the end of the year. Stories will include the Lib Lab pact, the question of when to go for a general election, the rise of Margaret Thatcher, back bench rebellions, nuclear power to Iran and the Silver Jubilee. UK CONFIDENTIAL includes extracts from papers read by actors, discussion with studio guests, and reports compiled by correspondents. With contributions from Michael Foot, Lord Steel, Baroness Williams and Lord Donoghue, an economic overview of the year by Newsnight's Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders and the Today programme's Jon Manel presents a special report. Studio guests include Lord Owen and Anthony Howard. A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4, in association with Takeaway Media. Producer: Emily Williams.
39 minutes | Dec 29, 2006
Martha Kearney presents a look at the events of 1976, as told through the Cabinet papers, Foreign Office Documents and other Government papers that are being released released under the thirty year rule at the end of the year. UK CONFIDENTIAL features Harold Wilson's resignation and failing health, Rhodesia, Trade Union relations at breaking point, the Cod Wars, Chairman Mao's death, the drought, the run on the pound and Cabinet splits over the IMF loan. The programme includes extracts from papers read by actors, discussions with Lord Donoughue, Peter McKay and Baroness Williams, plus reports compiled by correspondents at the time. Producer: Emily Williams A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4, in association with Takeaway Media.
43 minutes | Dec 31, 2005
Martha Kearney looks at the events of 1975, as told through the cabinet papers, Foreign Office Documents and those of other Government departments that are released under the thirty year rule at the end of the year. UK CONFIDENTIAL features the aftermath of President Nixon's resignation over Watergate, Harold Wilson's failing health, Trade Union negotiations starting to break down, IRA activity and security arrangements following terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland, Cabinet splits on the need for a European Referendum, the British Government's relationships with Iraq's Ba'ath party leader Saddam Hussain, pandas at London Zoo and the John Stonehouse Affair. Taking part are Anthony Howard, Jon Snow, Giles Foden, Joe Haines, Baroness Williams and Jim McDowell. A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4, in association with Takeaway Media. Producer: Emily Williams.
29 minutes | Jan 1, 2005
1974 was a year of political confusion and domestic strife. There was the Three Day week, a Miners Strike and two General Elections as well as on-going problems over Northern Ireland and Cyprus, and an attempt to kidnap Princess Anne. With exclusive access to papers released by The National Archives under the thirty year rule, Sue MacGregor presents UK CONFIDENTIAL, a special Radio 4 programme which will give a new insight on many of the political decisions and controversies of the time. The programme also features interviews with Tony Benn (the then Secretary of State for Industry), Sir Edward Heath, Lord Walker (the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry), Merlyn Rees (the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland), Lord Fitt, Patrick Jenkin (the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury) and other politicians and civil servants of the day who will talk candidly about the events of that year for the first time. Also taking part are Lord Howard, Joe Haines, Ian Aitken and Lord Armstrong. Producer: David Prest and Louise Adamson A Whistledown Production, in association with Takeaway Media.
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