National Archives: Your speeches are boring, Chancellor Howe was told

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Geoffrey Howe was upbraided by Margaret Thatcher for his long-winded Budget speeches.

Files released by the National Archives show that the Prime Minister told Sir Geoffrey that he needed to cut the detail in his 1982 Budget statement “by at least a third”.

“I have one overwhelming impression of this speech – it is so detailed that the general shape and purpose of the Budget is lost,” she scrawled in the margin of Sir Geoffrey’s draft text. “I remember the House [of Commons] got very restless at last year’s detail.”

Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher’s press secretary, said Sir Geoffrey needed to come up with some “goodies” early on in the statement to win over Tory backbenchers.

“The Chancellor needs the sort of opening which perks up his supporters and rocks back the Opposition,” Mr Ingham advised.

“Nothing, apart from downright opposition, is more damaging to wider media presentation than for the Chancellor to be received in silence and sullenly by his own side.”