Alan Watkins
Alan Rhun Watkins was for over 50 years a British political columnist in various London-based magazines and newspapers. He also wrote about wine and rugby
Rugby football
Rugby football is a style of football named after Rugby School in the United Kingdom. It is seen most prominently in two current sports, rugby league and rugby union.-History:...


Life and career

Born in Tycroes
Tycroes is a village in Carmarthenshire, Wales. As measured in the 2001 Census, the population of Tycroes was 2,156 persons . Tycroes School has around 180 pupils....

, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire is a unitary authority in the south west of Wales and one of thirteen historic counties. It is the 3rd largest in Wales. Its three largest towns are Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford...

, with parents who were teachers, he was educated at Tycroes Primary School and Amman Valley Grammar School before studying law at Queens' College, Cambridge
Queens' College, Cambridge
Queens' College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The college was founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou , and refounded in 1465 by Elizabeth Woodville...

. After National Service he was called to the Bar.

Much of his long career as a commentator on politics was spent at The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

newspaper (1976–93), but he also wrote for The Sunday Express
Daily Express
The Daily Express switched from broadsheet to tabloid in 1977 and was bought by the construction company Trafalgar House in the same year. Its publishing company, Beaverbrook Newspapers, was renamed Express Newspapers...

(1959–64), The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

(1964–67), the New Statesman
New Statesman
New Statesman is a British centre-left political and cultural magazine published weekly in London. Founded in 1913, and connected with leading members of the Fabian Society, the magazine reached a circulation peak in the late 1960s....

(1967–76), the Sunday Mirror
The Daily Mirror
The Daily Mirror is a British national daily tabloid newspaper which was founded in 1903. Twice in its history, from 1985 to 1987, and from 1997 to 2002, the title on its masthead was changed to read simply The Mirror, which is how the paper is often referred to in popular parlance. It had an...

, and the London Evening Standard
Evening Standard
The Evening Standard, now styled the London Evening Standard, is a free local daily newspaper, published Monday–Friday in tabloid format in London. It is the dominant regional evening paper for London and the surrounding area, with coverage of national and international news and City of London...


He was noted for coining the political phrase "the men in grey suits", indicating a delegation of senior party figures who come to tell a party leader that it is time to go. But as he wrote in a footnote in A Conservative Coup:

The original phrase was 'the men in suits'. It was used, for example, by the present writer in the Observer, 6 May 1990. During and before the 39 hours it became transformed into 'the men in grey suits', which stuck. As Lord Whitelaw observed on television, it was an inaccurate phrase, because on the day in question, 21 November, his interviewer could see that he was wearing a blue suit. And, indeed, the typical Conservative grandee tends to wear a dark blue or black suit, with chalk- or pin-stripes, what may be called a White's Club suit. The original phrase 'the men in suits' is the more accurate.

His style might best be described as that of a political raconteur, gently reminding readers that, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."

He coined a number of phrases that have passed into common journalistic parlance, such as "young fogey" (1984).

At the end of each year he wrote a piece called "Master Alan Watkins' Almanack", written in the style of a 17th century seer and making tentative, and slightly tongue-in-cheek, predictions for the year ahead.

He was the author of A Short Walk Down Fleet Street, A Slight Case of Libel: Meacher vs Trelford and Others, Brief Lives and A Conservative Coup.


Watkins was in failing health for several weeks prior to his death at his London home on 8 May 2010 from renal failure
Renal failure
Renal failure or kidney failure describes a medical condition in which the kidneys fail to adequately filter toxins and waste products from the blood...

. He was 77.


  • Watkins, Alan (1982) Brief Lives, London: Hamish Hamilton ISBN 0-241-10890-X
  • Watkins, Alan (1990) A Slight Case of Libel: Meacher Versus Trelford and Others, London: Duckworth ISBN 0-7156-2334-6
  • Watkins, Alan (1991) A Conservative Coup: The Fall of Margaret Thatcher, London: Duckworth ISBN 0-7156-2386-9
  • Watkins, Alan (1998) The Road to Number 10: From Bonar Law to Tony Blair, London: Duckworth ISBN 0-7156-2815-1
  • Watkins, Alan (2001) A Short Walk Down Fleet Street: From Beaverbrook to Boycott, London: Duckworth ISBN 0-7156-3143-8


Review of .

Further reading

  • Watkins, Alan (1991). A Conservative Coup: The Fall of Margaret Thatcher, London, Duckworth. ISBN 0-7156-2386-9.

External links

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