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Secretaries of the Cabinet

2 of 2 portraits of Robert Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Ilminster

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Secretaries of the Cabinet

by John Stanton Ward
oil on canvas, 1984
54 1/8 in. x 36 in. (1374 mm x 915 mm)
Commissioned, 1985
Primary Collection
NPG 5794

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  • John Stanton Ward (1917-2007), Portrait painter, book illustrator and architectural draughtsman. Artist or producer of 15 portraits, Sitter in 8 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The three holders of the post of Secretary to the Cabinet, the most influential post in the Civil Service during the Wilson/Thatcher years, are seen here in the Secretary's Office in Whitehall. All three were made Life Peers at the end of their careers in public service. Trend became Rector of Lincoln College Oxford (1973-83), and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford (1975-83). Hunt went on to chair the Inquiry into Cable Expansion and Broadcasting Policy (The Hunt Report on the Future of Cable Television, 1982) and Armstrong, having famously admitted to being 'economical with the truth' in the Spycatcher Trial (1986), became Chairman of the Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Current affairs

The Provisional IRA bomb the Grand Hotel in Brighton where various politicians, including the Prime Minister, where staying for the annual Conservative Party conference. The bomb killed five people including a conservative MP, but no members of the cabinet. Thatcher began the next session of the conference the following morning at 9.30 as planned saying: 'all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.'

Art and science

Dr Alec Jeffreys discovers that patterns in an individual's DNA can be identified and that each person has a unique 'genetic fingerprint'. The technique was soon utilised by forensic scientists to help in criminal investigations, and in order to identify human remains, for paternity testing, and to match organ donors.
Ted Hughes is appointed poet Laureate.


Ethiopia suffers severe drought and famine. The Ethiopian government responded by uprooting large numbers of peasants in the worst affected areas and by setting up new villages for the displaced people. However, the planned villages were frequently poorly equipped and many people chose to flee rather than acquiesce with government plans leading to further decline in food production and bringing the total death toll to over 1 million.

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