Bernard Ingham once loomed large in my life. He was Margaret Thatcher's press secretary throughout her years as prime minister, from 1979 to 1990. For the last two years of Mrs T's time in No. Ten, I was the BBC World Service lobby correspondent (in other words, a political correspondent who also had the right to attend the twice daily, then off the record, lobby briefings usually given by the PM's press secretary).
I went along fairly religiously to the 11 o'clock morning lobby in 10 Downing Street, and more occasionally to the 4 pm afternoon lobby in the press room high up in the attics of the Houses of Parliament.
Ingham was bluff and at times bombastic. He was brought up in Hebden Bridge (now made famous as the setting for Happy Valley) - his father was a weaver and Labour councillor. He worked for the Yorkshire Post and then as a labour correspondent covering trades unions and industrial relations, for (strange as it may seem) the Guardian.
He was seen initially as a Labour supporter, though not an ideologue. But in the course of the 1970s he moved sharply to the right, and came to believe that the unions and their leadership were part of the problem not the answer.
Like Mrs T, Bernard saw himself as an outsider in Westminsiter. That was about both class and geography (and of course in Thatcher's case, gender too). And like her, he was impatient with - and sometimes contemptuous of - the cosy Whitehall establishment. As far as journalists were concerned, Ingham's great virtues were that he really instictively understood his boss, so he really did say what she thought ... and he was sometimes indiscreet.
I only caught the rough side of his tongue once. I was a very junior member of the lobby, and rarely asked questions at the lobby briefings. I recall that one time Arafat was in town and was coming round to the foreign office, but wasn't due to see the foreign secretary (then Geoffrey Howe, I think). I asked if, should the foreign secretary have a chance encounter while Arafat was at the foreign office, the two men would shake hands. This led to a minor ourburst. 'On no, I'm not going to get caught on that one again! You'll have to do better than that. I'm not answering bloody hypothetical questions. Forget it!'
He had recently got himself in a bit of bother for comments in response to another speculative question, and was clearly still a little wounded.
I liked Bernard Ingham, and from memory I believe I went to the lobby's farewell for him - when Thatcher left No 10, as I recall, he went too. John Major brought in a new press secretary, Gus O'Donnell.
He was at heart a hack, and he was still writing a column for the Yorkshire Post until a few weeks ago.
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