'There is a mystery I know full well, Which to all, good and bad, I cannot tell....

Stories and tales used to circulate about a legendary, near mythical Despatch Box. Did it really exist? Was it an invention of the febrile imagination of Whips and Civil Servants, meant to keep MP’s and Ministers of State in line. What did it contain?

Jonathan Aitken gives a good eyewitness account of this renowned Despatch Box in his well-reviewed biography of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality. Mr. Aitken writes,



The red boxes of official papers sent up to the Prime Minister’s flat by her private office every evening included one of a noticeably different size and colour. It was known as ‘Old Stripey’, because it had a large blue stripe across its lid. Margaret Thatcher always opened this box first. Only she and her Principal Private Secretary had a key to it. This was because ‘Old Stripey’ contained daily top-secret reports from the intelligence services and other highly sensitive material deemed to be for the eyes only of the Prime Minister.’

Extract by kind permission of Jonathan Aitken