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Bernard Ingham, press secretary to Margaret Thatcher, dies aged 90

Sir Bernard Ingham (John Stillwell/PA)
Sam Blewett and Patrick Daly, PA Political Staff

Sir Bernard Ingham, the long-standing press secretary to Margaret Thatcher, has died after a short illness, his family said.

The former reporter, who was 90, died with his family around him on Friday lunchtime, a statement said.

His family described him as a “journalist to his bones” and he continued to file a column for the Yorkshire Post until as recently as last month.

Son John Ingham said: “To the wider world he is known as Margaret Thatcher's chief press secretary, a formidable operator in the political and Whitehall jungles.

“But to me he was my dad – and a great dad at that. He was a fellow football fan and an adoring grandfather and great-grandfather. My family will miss him greatly.”

Born on June 21 1932 and educated at Hebden Bridge Grammar School, Sir Bernard started his career in journalism aged 16 on his local paper in West Yorkshire.

He worked with the Guardian before becoming a Government press officer but positioned himself as a bitter enemy of “spin”, criticising those who practised the “black art”.

Sir Bernard would handle the media as Lady Thatcher's press secretary for all but the first few months of her premiership.

He was knighted in her resignation honours and wrote a book, Kill The Messenger, about his life in No 10.

Sir Bernard was married to Nancy Ingham, a former policewoman, for 60 years. She died in 2017. He leaves a son, two grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

John Ingham thanked his father's nursing home, Tupwood Gate in Caterham, Surrey, and his previous in-home carers for their “wonderful care and support”.

Former Conservative home secretary Priti Patel described Sir Bernard as a “giant of British political communications and hugely loyal man”, while thanking him for his service to Lady Thatcher's administration.

Alastair Campbell, a former journalist and Labour spin doctor during Sir Tony Blair's time in power, said he “always treated me fairly and with consideration” during his time reporting on the Thatcher era, despite “working for a paper wholly opposed to her and her policies”.

Julia Langdon, a former political editor of the Daily Mirror and The Sunday Telegraph, recalled visiting Sir Bernard at his care home towards the end of his life.

She told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that, during a visit before Christmas, she found him on “terrific form” and he was surrounded by newspapers as he prepared to write his regular newspaper columns.

“He told me he wrote the columns based on how he would have told Mrs Thatcher about what was going on in the world today,” she said.

Recalling her time attending his briefings as press secretary for Lady Thatcher, Ms Langdon said: “You quite often had the feeling you were hearing her voice.

“Sometimes they would use the same phrases.

“You would hear Mrs Thatcher at Prime Minister's Questions using a phrase in the Commons, and you would have heard the same phrase from Bernard Ingham before or after.

“He wrote her a daily analysis of the newspapers and she picked up his phrases and he picked up hers, I think.”

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