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Marcia Matilda Falkender, Baroness Falkender CBE (born 10 March 1932), formerly Marcia Williams, previously Marcia Field, is a Britishmarker Labour politician, being first the private secretary for, and then the political secretary and head of political office to, Harold Wilson. She is thought to have been one of the principal sources of true stories behind the Yes Minister series.

Background and early career

Marcia Field, as she was known prior to her marriage, was educated at the independent selective Northampton High School for Girlsmarker and read for a BA in History at Queen Mary Collegemarker, University of London. After graduating she became secretary to the General Secretary of the Labour Party in 1955.

In the service of Harold Wilson

In 1956, Marcia Williams, as she was then known, became private secretary to Harold Wilson, M.P., a position she retained until 1964, when she rose to be his political secretary and head of the political office in his position as Leader of the Labour Party and as Prime Minister from 1964 until 1970 and again from 1974 to 1976.

Questions were raised in the press at the time about her commercial dealings, and both Wilson and Williams successfully sued many London newspapers for libel.. Later it emerged that this may have formed part of a media smear campaign against Wilson.

When Wilson resigned, Joe Haines, Wilson's press secretary, nicknamed "Vinegar Joe" by Roy Jenkins accused Lady Falkender of writing the first draft of his Prime Minister's Resignation Honours on lavender paper which Haines styled as the "Lavender List". However as Professor Ben Pimlott observed in his biography of Wilson, secretaries often write down lists at the instructions of their employer and that the list was pink does not itself prove anything. Both Lady Falkender and Harold Wilson maintained that the list was Wilson's. Joe Haines never substantiated his allegation and altered it considerably over time. In a BBC TV interview on Panorama on the day of publication of his first version of events, Joe Haines explicitly denied any financial impropriety and claimed the motivation for writing the pink list was "frivolity".

The Lavender List by journalist and writer Francis Wheen was a BBC Four docudrama, with Gina McKee as Falkender and Kenneth Cranham as Wilson which depicted alleged events leading up to the drafting of the document. The BBC subsequently paid Falkender £75,000 and an estimated £200,000 costs in an out of court settlement over claims in the programme. and is committed to not repeating the programme.

Peerage

She was elevated to the Peerage as Baroness Falkender, of West Haddonmarker in the County of Northamptonshiremarker on 11 July 1974.

Writings

She has written two books about her time in Downing Street: Inside Number 10 on the period 1964-1970 and Downing Street in Perspective on Wilson's third term as Prime Minister 1974-1976. After retiring from working in Downing Street, she worked as a columnist for the Mail on Sunday from 1983 to 1988 . She continued to work for Lord Wilson handling his private business from the time of his resignation in 1976 until his death in 1995.

She was also one of the founder members of the Silver Trust, a charity which sponsored British silversmiths to provide a silver service for 10 Downing Street. Prior to the Silver Trust Downing Street had no silver of its own; it was provided on loan from other government offices.

Personal

Marcia Field married George Edmund Charles Williams in 1955, but they divorced in 1961; she continued to be known as Marcia Williams in her professional life.

Eddie Williams, a graduate of the University of London, emigrated to the United States to become an engineer with the Boeing company in Seattle and still lives there to this day.

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