Harold Wilson had of course a political, as well as an economic, motive in creating the DEA — or, rather, two political motives. Being himself conspicuously untrustworthy, he never trusted anyone else. In particular, he didn't trust the Treasury. So the prospect of splitting it in two so that he could divide and rule was attractive. Even more compelling was the need to find a suitably grandiloquent role for his erstwhile rival, George Brown, without giving him any of the major offices of state. First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs seemed to fit the bill.
When the leader of the Labour Party, Hugh Gaitskell, had died suddenly and prematurely in 1963, the succession was seen as a choice between George Brown, whose support was largely on the right of the party, and Harold Wilson, whose support was largely on the left. When I asked Tony Crosland, the shadow Cabinet's leading intellectual, why he himself was backing Jim Callaghan, who (at that time) didn't stand a chance, he told me that otherwise the party would have to choose between a drunk and a shit. In the event he told me that not a single member of the shadow Cabinet had voted for Wilson. So, initially, Wilson had to be careful to find a good home for Brown, and the DEA was it. By the time the department had been thoroughly neutered in 1966, and George Brown had been moved to be Foreign Secretary, Brown's notorious lack of sobriety (he was customarily described as being "tired and emotional") ensured that he was no longer a serious rival.
Samuel's diary of life in the DEA in those days is, as one would expect, both perceptive and well-written. It is also suitably irreverent. However, it belongs not just to a completely different era which has no lessons for us today, but it was also a time of such unrelieved national disaster that it puts even the troubles of today — which, being global, are both more serious but less sapping of national self-respect — in the shade. Its principal value is as a record of a formative period in the life of one of our greatest economic journalists, many of whose books are of enduring value.