David Owen talks to Peter Hennessy
An Audience with David Owen
Friday 14 October 2016
Blenheim Palace, The OrangeryVenue
Former Labour Foreign Secretary and founder of the SDP Lord David Owen talks about his life and political career and his new book, Cabinet’s Finest Hour: The Hidden Agenda of May 1940, in conversation with Britain’s leading contemporary historian Lord Peter Hennessy.
Owen was the youngest person in 40 years to hold the post of Foreign Secretary when he served between 1977 and 1970. He then went on to break the mould of British politics in 1981 when he was one of the ‘Gang of Four’ that left the Labour Party to found the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He led the SDP between 1983 and 1987 but resigned when the SDP and the Liberal Party agreed to merge to form the Liberal Democrats.
Today, Owen sits as an independent social democrat in the House of Lords. He is author of a number of books. His most recent is Cabinet’s Finest Hour: The Hidden Agenda of May 1940, in which he tells the story of the pivotal coalition war cabinet meetings of May 1940. The minutes of these meetings reveal just how close Britain came to seeking a negotiated peace with Nazi Germany and Churchill’s determination to carry on with the fight rather than seek a negotiated settlement with Hitler. Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace.
Owen will be interviewed by Hennessy, Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History at Queen Mary, University of London, a crossbench peer and a former lobby correspondent. He spent 20 years as a journalist, variously working for The Times, the Financial Times and The Economist and co-founded the Institute of Contemporary British History.
In his acclaimed Reflections BBC Radio 4 series, Hennessy interviewed many leading politicians including Owen, John Major, Clare Short, Roy Hattersley, Neil Kinnock, Norman Tebbit and Nigel Lawson. The best of the interviews are contained in his new book, Reflections: Conversations with Politicians.