The Lavender List
The Lavender List is a docudrama broadcast on BBC Four in March 2006 about the events that led to the drafting of the "Lavender List", the satirical name for Harold Wilson's 1976 Prime Minister's Resignation Honours.
The list caused controversy as a small number of recipients were wealthy businessmen whose principles were considered antipathetic to those held by the Labour Party. One businessman on the list, Lord Kagan, was convicted of fraud in 1980; Sir Eric Miller, committed suicide while under investigation for fraud in 1977. Another beneficiary was the buccaneering financier James Goldsmith. Other names on the list such as actor John Mills were, however, uncontroversial. Despite the notoriety of the name, Wilson's biographers, Professor Ben Pimlott and Philip Ziegler, both stress there was never any question at the time or subsequently of financial impropriety in the drawing up of the list.
The origin of the name was the claim made by Joe Haines that the head of Wilson's political office, Marcia Williams, had written the original draft on lavender-coloured notepaper. No documentary evidence has been proferred to support this claim and Wilson and Williams denied it.
The docudrama was written by journalist Francis Wheen, deputy editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye. Wheen said that it was based on the political diaries of two members of Wilson's kitchen cabinet, press secretary Joe Haines and director of policy Bernard Donoughue. It starred Kenneth Cranham as Wilson and Gina McKee as Williams.
The production received a good review from Victor Lewis-Smith of the London Evening Standard. Most reviews were critical and it even received criticism from some of the protagonists with regard to its handling of events. Haines noted what he considered 54 inaccuracies in the production.
The BBC paid Lady Falkender £75,000 in damages over this drama documentary for claiming that she conducted an adulterous affair with Harold Wilson and exercised undue influence over the compilation of his resignation honours list.
In an out-of-court settlement, the corporation also agreed to pay an estimated £200,000 in costs and promised never to re-broadcast The Lavender List, shown on the digital television channel BBC Four. The latter condition will cost the corporation significant amounts as the critically acclaimed drama would have been repeated regularly on the channel.
- Kenneth Cranham - Harold Wilson
- Gina McKee - Marcia Williams
- Celia Imrie - Mary Wilson
- Neil Dudgeon - Joe Haines
- Dominic Rowan - Bernard Donoughue