The Secret Treasury Review: Oh Darling

February 28, 2010 by  
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GREAT OFFICES OF STATE – THE SECRET TREASURY: Sunday, 28th February, BBC 4, 7pm ALERT ME

“Routine punctuated by orgy� says one expert when asked about life in the Treasury.

Sadly, working in Whitehall isn’t as exciting as he makes it sound. The orgies refer to moments of great disarray and stress, not Caligula style romps.

This documentary does its best to make the civil service exciting but we all know that’s going to be a tough task, and as narrator Michael Cockerell makes clear, the suits in the Treasury are the dullest of the lot.

Selected for their intellect and numerical nous these bods are not known for their rowdy Christmas parties, but they do hold the fate of the nation in their hands.

Nobody has ever been given much access to their offices (including some prime ministers) and they work in what’s been called a “gloomy cathedral�.

But despite their “poor social skills� they are the country’s tax collector and bank manager, meaning they hold a lot of power. Like most people in their situation, they are very protective of this power and the programme reveals a constant struggle between number 10 and 11 that has gone on for decades.

We hear from the big-players from periods of economic turmoil as well as interviews with today’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling.

There is some amusing old news footage including clips a youthful Darling sporting a full white beard and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown playing tennis in one-size-too-tight shorts.

If you’re into politics then Secret Treasury provides a rare insight into this well-guarded Whitehall department. If you’re not…