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Ingham was educated at Hebden Bridge Grammar School, leaving at the age of 16 to join the Hebden Bridge Times newspaper,[1][2] for whom he continued to write until 2013.[3] He attended Bradford Technical College on day release as part of the studies required to qualify for the Certificate of Training for Junior Journalists, which he describes as being "taken rather seriously in early post-war Britain".[4] He went on to work for the Yorkshire Evening Post, the Yorkshire Post, latterly as Northern industrial correspondent (1952-1961), and The Guardian (1962-1967). While a reporter at the Yorkshire Post, Ingham was an active member of the National Union of Journalists, and vice chairman of its Leeds branch.[5] He is also likely to have been the anonymous and aggressively anti-Conservative columnist "Albion" for the Leeds Weekly Citizen – a Labour Party organ – from 1964 to 1967.[6] In 1967, he joined the Civil Service, working as a press and public relations officer and director of Information in various Government departments, including the Department of Energy, 1974–77, where he also served as Under-Secretary in the Energy Conservation Division, 1978-79.[7]

Ingham's father was a Labour Party councillor for Hebden Royd Town Council and he was himself a member of the Labour Party until he joined the Civil Service.[5] Ingham contested the then safe Conservative Moortown ward of Leeds City Council in the 1965 council elections for the Labour Party, having been nominated by the Fabian Society.[5]

Ingham is of both Yorkshire and Lancashire lineage.[8] The Inghams originally came from Manchester and Salford, but Ingham's grandfather Henry Ingham moved to the Calder Valley and Hebden Bridge. On his maternal side, Ingham's ancestors were mostly from Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall, while his maternal grandmother Jane Vernon descended from Staffordshire coal miners.

Press secretary to Margaret ThatcherEdit

Ingham spent 11 years as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's chief press secretary in No. 10 Downing Street. In 1989–90 he was also head of the Government Information Office. In the course of his civil service career he was also press secretary to Barbara Castle, Robert Carr, Maurice Macmillan, Lord Carrington, Eric Varley and Tony Benn.

Although a career civil servant, Ingham gained a reputation for being a highly effective propagandist for the Thatcherite cause. The phrase spin doctor did not enter common parlance until after his retirement, but he was nevertheless considered a gifted exponent in what came to be known as the "black arts" of spin.[citation needed]

In those days, Downing Street briefings were "off the record", meaning that information given out by Ingham could be attributed only to "senior government sources". Occasionally he used this deniability to brief against the government's own ministers, such as when he described the leader of the House of Commons John Biffen as a "semi-detached" member of the government.[9] Biffen was dropped at the next reshuffle. This blurring of the distinction between his nominally neutral role as a civil servant and a more partisan role as apologist and promoter of Margaret Thatcher's policies led the late Christopher Hitchens to characterise Ingham as "a nugatory individual" and to criticise what he saw as the negative consequences of Ingham's time as Thatcher's press secretary: "During his time in office, Fleet Street took several steps towards an American system of Presidentially-managed coverage and sound-bite deference, without acquiring any of the American constitutional protection in return."[10]

In 1987 Downing Street berated the Sun newspaper in a storm over honours. Thatcher was said to be furious, and Ingham, the Prime Minister's Press Secretary, sent correspondence to the Sun, for an explanation as to the honours list, given in confidence, being published. [11]

In 1989, three years after the Westland helicopter scandal led to the resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine, former cabinet minister Leon Brittan revealed in a Channel 4 programme that Ingham was one of two senior Downing Street officials who had approved the leaking of a crucial letter from the then Solicitor General Patrick Mayhew, in which he questioned some of the statements that Heseltine had made about the takeover contest of the Westland helicopter company. Brittan's claim that Ingham and Charles Powell had approved the leak of the letter led to calls from some Labour MPs for there to be a new inquiry into the Westland affair.[12]

Ingham was knighted on Thatcher's resignation – and retirement – in 1990. His successor as press secretary was Gus O'Donnell, who went on to become Cabinet secretary and head of the Civil service in 2005.[13]

Ingham's book Kill the Messenger, concerning his time as press secretary, was not well received. Paul Foot, a Marxist journalist, commented that "... there is no information in this book. I picked it up eagerly, refusing to believe that someone so close to the top for so long could fail to reveal, even by mistake, a single interesting piece of information" and he was particularly scathing about Ingham's prose style, offering the following quotation from Kill the Messenger as representative of Ingham's use of English: "Like a mighty oak, it took more than one axe to bring Mrs Thatcher down. In November 1990 they were cutting into this solid timber from all angles. The frenzy was fearsome to behold. Heaven preserve us from political axe-men in a state of panic. They would cut off their grandmas in their prime if they thought it would serve their interests. And so they cut off a grandma in her international prime by the stocking tops, to borrow one of Denis's phrases, which Mrs Thatcher often used."[14]

In a commentary in the Daily Express in April 2009, Ingham referred to Thatcher as "reckless" and a battler for Britain. He said her greatest quality was that she did not want to be loved and she came to office without a Press Secretary and had "the enormous will" to overcome "defeatist inertia", such as: "Oh you can't do that Prime Minister, they won't allow it".[15] He attended her funeral in April 2013.[16]

Television scriptEdit

Ingham helped Thatcher in the writing of the Yes Minister sketch which she performed in public with Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne.[17][18] In December 2001 Ingham said, on the death of Sir Nigel Hawthorne, "Margaret Thatcher's fascination was with the games between the elected politician and the unelected official".[19]

After ThatcherEdit

Ingham holds the position of Vice President of Country Guardian, an anti-wind energy campaign group.[20] Ingham is also a regular panellist on BBC current affairs programme Dateline London. He has also been secretary to Supporters of Nuclear Energy (SONE, 1998-2007), a group of individuals who seek to promote nuclear power in the United Kingdom.[21][22] Despite never having attended university himself,[23] Ingham lectured in public relations at The University of Middlesex.[24]

Brass EyeEdit

Ingham appeared on the satirical television programme, Brass Eye. He was persuaded to appear in a short sequence, in which he issued a stern warning to young people about the dangers of a purported new drug, "cake", one of several celebrities who appeared not to recognise the satirical nature of the programme.[25][26] Ingham said that "several people have actually been brained by saucepans used to make this kind of Cake", before asking viewers to "use their cheese-box" and "say no, never".[27]


Court caseEdit

On 8 March 1999, Ingham was bound over to keep the peace at Croydon Magistrates Court after he was accused of causing criminal damage to a Mercedes car owned by Linda Cripps, a neighbour, in Purley, south London. The charges were dropped when Ingham agreed to accept being bound over for 12 months in the sum of £1,000 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. Ingham denied that he had caused any damage to the vehicle. The Court was told that Mrs Cripps told Ingham: "You have damaged my car", to which he replied "Good, I'm glad". Ingham denied he had damaged the car and said, "I did not cause the damage complained of and to resolve the issue I accepted advice that I should agree to be bound over. I have paid £792 to cover the cost of the alleged damage to the car." Mrs Cripps's husband said after the case "We are weary of the constant bombardment that we have suffered. We are no match for Sir Bernard Ingham. Let's hope that he will now allow us to get on with our lives peacefully".[28]


In a letter addressed to a parent of a victim of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, Ingham reiterated his belief that the disaster was caused by "tanked up yobs",[29] a view later entirely refuted by the Hillsborough inquest. In a letter written to a Liverpool supporter, Ingham remarked that people should "shut up about Hillsborough".[30][31] In 1996 on Question Time, Ingham spoke with what a member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel considered to be "hate in his voice" in favour of compensating the police present at the time of the disaster, saying: "If thousands of ticketless fans had not turned up and pushed their way into the ground then the whole scenario would not have occurred."[32]

"You can't get away from what you were told," Ingham said. "We talked to a lot of people; I am not sure if it was the chief constable. That was the impression I gathered: there were a lot of tanked-up people outside." Speaking to the Guardian, he confirmed that this was what he was told when he and Thatcher were shown round, although he could not recall if Wright himself had said it.[33]

Hebden Bridge residents launched a campaign against Ingham to have him removed as a local newspaper columnist over his continued refusal to apologise for his words in the immediate aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.[34] He continued to write articles until February 2013.[35] On 26 April 2016, a jury gave the verdict that the 96 killed at Hillsborough were unlawfully killed and that the Liverpool fans behaviour did not contribute to the dangerous situation at the turnstiles. Ingham refused to apologise or respond to the previous comments he made,[30][31] which has led to a petitions being created on and, the official website for government petitions.[36]

Comments on Scotland and NorthernersEdit

Ingham derided Scottish nationalists as being "as greedy as sin", stating that "the only thing that fueled nationalism was the smell of oil and money in oil", suggesting that any nationalist sentiments were merely a disguised form of greed.[37] In November 2013, a defiant Ingham reiterated his attack on “thick” Northerners who don’t vote Tory.[38]

Margaret Thatcher's secret papersEdit

Thatcher archives: 1980 fears over "wasted year"Edit

In March 2011, it was reported by The Independent that Policy chief Sir Keith Joseph said in public the view that Margaret Thatcher's first year in Downing Street had been "wasted". Joseph's press secretary reported this to Ingham. In his reply, contained in a letter dated 1 December 1980, he said, Thatcher was "quite relaxed about it", adding: "I believe she agrees with Sir Keith but for the sake of the government and confidence in it does not say so."[39]

"Goalies against Hoolies"Edit

Following the Heysel Stadium disaster and amid growing concerns regarding football hooliganism in the United Kingdom, records from the National Archives show that Downing Street and Margaret Thatcher attempted to launch an initiative to "mark the return to decency in British soccer", called "Goalies against Hoolies".[40][41] Ingham said that "enough is enough; an entirely new attitude and approach by government, police, football clubs and players – and we hope the mass of decent fans – governs the new season."[41]

Selected worksEdit

  • Yorkshire Greats: The County's Fifty Finest (Dalesman, 2005) ISBN 1-85568-220-6
  • Bernard Ingham's Yorkshire Villages (Dalesman, 2005) ISBN 1-85568-215-X
  • The Wages Of Spin (John Murray, 2003) ISBN 0-7195-6481-6 [42]
  • Kill the Messenger ... Again (Politico's Publishing Ltd, 2003) ISBN 1-84275-048-8
  • Bernard Ingham's Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman, 2001) ISBN 1-85568-193-5
  • Kill the Messenger (Fontana, 1991) ISBN 0-00-637767-X
  • The Slow Downfall of Margaret Thatcher: The Diaries of Bernard Ingham (Biteback, 2019) ISBN 978-1-78590-478-3


  1. ^ Hebden Bridge Times
  2. ^ BBC - South Yorkshire - History - Miners Strike 1984: Sir Bernard Ingham|
  3. ^ HebWeb News 2013: Bernard Ingham column comes to an end|
  4. ^ Ingham, Bernard. "175 Heroes". 175 Heroes. Bradford College. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  5. ^ a b c Harris, Robert (1990). 'Good and Faithful Servant' – The Unauthorised Biography of Bernard Ingham. London: Faber and Faber. p. 34. ISBN 0-571-16547-8.
  6. ^ Harris, Robert (1990). 'Good and Faithful Servant' – The Unauthorised Biography of Bernard Ingham. London: Faber and Faber. p. 4. ISBN 0-571-16547-8.
  7. ^ Janus: The Papers of Sir Bernard Ingham|;sib0=216
  8. ^ Practical Family History magazine, September 2006, No 105, pages 6–10; A Foot In Both Red & White Rose Camps; the family tree of Sir Bernard Ingham by Roy Stockdill
  9. ^ Harris, Robert (1990). 'Good and Faithful Servant' – The Unauthorised Biography of Bernard Ingham. London: Faber and Faber. p. 146. ISBN 0-571-16547-8.
  10. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (10 January 1991). "What is this Bernard?". London Review of Books. 3 (1): 9.
  11. ^ From the archive, 31 December 1987: Downing Street berates Sun in honours storm | From the Guardian | The Guardian |
  12. ^ Trotter, Stuart (6 April 1989). "Westland affair re-opened by Brittan". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  13. ^ Gus O'Donnell Archived 3 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Foot, Paul (27 June 1991). "Lunchtime No News". London Review of Books. 13 (12): 8.
  15. ^ Ingham, Bernard (26 April 2009). "Maggie was 'tactless'". Daily Express (Comment).
  16. ^ "Emotional George Osborne wipes away a tear as friends and enemies united to pay respects to Britain's first female PM". USA-UK News Online. 17 April 2014.
  17. ^ The Yes (Prime) Minister Files - The Thatcher Script|
  18. ^ Cockerell, Michael (1988). Live From Number 10: The Inside Story of Prime Ministers and Television. London: Faber and Faber. p. 288. ISBN 0-571-14757-7. The phrase "with the help of Bernard Ingham" is a quotation from this source. Other sources give Thatcher sole credit; some give equal credit between the two.
  19. ^ BBC News | UK | Sir Nigel Hawthorne mourned|
  20. ^ Campaign Country Guardian Archived 26 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ SONE – Supporters of Nuclear Energy | Nuclear PowerSONE - Supporters of Nuclear Energy | Nuclear Power - Supporters of Nuclear Energy | Nuclear Power
  22. ^ "About SONE". Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  23. ^ Old Etonians and Red Princes: Tories and Labour are reverting to dynastic politics – Telegraph Blogs - note paragraph 3 for Ingham |,
  24. ^ Ingham to teach 'spin doctoring' course at university - News - The Independent |
  25. ^ The prankster king: has his bubble burst? - Telegraph|
  26. ^ Morris, Chris. "Brass Eye". Drugs. Channel 4. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  27. ^ Jonathan Gray; Jeffrey P. Jones; Ethan Thompson (1 April 2009). Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era. NYU Press. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-8147-3216-8.
  28. ^ Marks, Kathy (9 March 1999). "Ingham bound over to keep the peace". The Independent. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  29. ^ Bartlett, David (17 January 2013). "Hillsborough mum tells of Sir Bernard Ingham's "hurtful" letters". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  30. ^ a b "Bernard Ingham, who called Liverpool fans 'tanked up yobs', still refuses to apologise to Hillsborough families despite inquest findings". Belfast Telegraph. 26 April 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  31. ^ a b Bagot, Martin (26 April 2016). "Ingham STILL refuses to say sorry for blaming Liverpool fans over Hillsborough". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  32. ^ "Re: BBC Question Time June 6th 1996" (PDF document). Hillsborough Independent Panel: Disclosed Material and Report. 10 June 1996. p. 2. Retrieved 30 April 2016. What absolutely disgusted me was the justification of his point by saying that: "If thousands of ticketless fans had not turned up and pushed their way into the ground then the whole scenario would not have occurred." ... It may be that in this letter his views do not come across very strongly, but I must assure you that the man had a hate in his voice, that I have never heard when hearing people in power speaking about this subject.
  33. ^ 'A tanked-up mob' were to blame for Hillsborough, police told Thatcher | Football | The Guardian
  34. ^ Hebden Bridge residents launch campaign against Bernard Ingham | UK news ||
  35. ^ HebWeb News 2013: Bernard Ingham column comes to an end
  36. ^ Belger, Tom (27 April 2016). "Petition to strip Bernard Ingham of his knighthood for blaming fans". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  37. ^ Ingham, Bernard. "Truth, Lies, Oil and Scotland". Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  38. ^ Bernard Ingham on Northerners: Non-Tory voters are as "thick as two planks" says former Margaret Thatcher spin doctor, Daily Mirror, 26 November 2013
  39. ^ "Thatcher archives: 1980 fears over 'wasted year'". BBC News.
  40. ^ "PREM 19/1527: Football hooliganism: behaviour of British football fans abroad; Bradford City stadium fire and European Cup Final disaster in Brussels, May 1985; part 2". National Archives, Kew. 27 March 1985. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  41. ^ a b Milmo, Cahal (30 December 2014). "Margaret Thatcher secret papers: Bernard Ingham mooted 'Goalies". The Independent. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  42. ^ CPBF Archived 1 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit

External video
  Margaret Thatcher and Number 10: Sir Bernard Ingham, YouTube video
  • British Library Sound Archive - Interview with Brendan Bruce (former Director of Communications of the Conservative Party) for his book Images of Power
  • CPBF - Sir Bernard Ingham on P.M. Margaret Thatcher on 14 April 2013
  • Routledge, Paul, Bumper Book of British Lefties, 2003, Politicos (ISBN 1-84275-064-X) – provides further information on Ingham's early involvement with the Labour Party
Government offices
Preceded by
Henry James
10 Downing Street Press Secretary to Margaret Thatcher
Succeeded by
Gus O'Donnell