Thirty Year Rule

One of the ways that TV companies fill their New Year news programmes is with discussing the information released under the Thirty Year Rule. Under this, after thirty years have passed the National Archives releases a new batch of declassified documents every New Year. However there are always one or two stories that either confirm things that people speculated over (for example the relationship between Tony Benn and Harold Wilson) or turn out to be quite amusing.

There are two such amusing stories that I have spotted this year. The first is the proposal by Harold Wilson to use nuclear submarines to power Belfast during the Ulster Workers’ Council strike. Straight out of Yes Prime Minister, this scheme was thwarted on two counts – firstly they didn’t have the right cable to connect the subs to the grid – secondly the subs wouldn’t have produced enough power anyway!

The second story relates to the attempt to kidnap Princess Anne in 1974. What is added to the known details is from a briefing to Harold Wilson, describing how it was Princess Anne herself who foiled the attack. Apparently the assailant had asked her to come with him because he wanted £2m, however she responded that it was “not bloody likely” and that she didn’t have £2m anyway. As Harold Wilson notes on the briefing: “A very good story. Pity the Palace can’t let it come out.”

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