A feminist all my life, I had my doubts about writing a biography of Marcia Williams, Baroness Falkender, the infamous ’70s dominatrix- cum-secretary to Labour prime minister Harold Wilson. But my late husband Austin Mitchell, who had retired after a long stint as the MP for Grimsby, said he really liked Williams and had enjoyed her sharp intelligence. He thought she’d been badly misjudged, and I soon
realised he was right.
When Williams died bedridden and broke in a Warwickshire nursing home in 2019 she was a political hate figure with a horrible history of having ruined the reputation of her prime ministerial partner. The accusations were impressive. She bossed him about, humiliated him and wrote a famous ‘Lavender List’ (it was on lilac-tinted paper) of all her friends, most of whom Wilson had never met, and demanded that he give them all peerages.
Worst of all, when he was leader of the opposition, she had come between Wilson and his wife Mary. She stood on her front doorstep and shouted at Mary, “Back in the ’50s I had sex with your husband six times, and it was unsatisfactory every time!”
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All these accusations were collected and presented over the years in various attempts to reveal “the truth about Marcia” by Joe Haines, a brilliant journalist who had been Wilson’s head of press between 1969 and 1976.
Marcia Williams, whose first job was working for Morgan Phillips, general secretary of the Labour Party, and Wilson became an item on the night of 3 April 1956 at a Labour dinner in the House of Commons for Soviet leaders Khrushchev and Bulganin. Williams and a co-worker were in charge of the seating plan and taking shorthand notes of the speeches.