The Kitchen Cabinet was a term used by political opponents of President of the United States Andrew Jackson to describe his ginger group, the collection of unofficial advisors he consulted in parallel to the United States Cabinet (the "parlor cabinet") following his purge of the cabinet at the end of the Eaton affair and his break with Vice President John C. Calhoun in 1831.
Secretary of State Martin Van Buren was a widower, and since he had no wife to become involved in the Eaton controversy he managed to avoid becoming entangled himself. In 1831 he resigned his cabinet post, as did Secretary of War John Eaton, in order to give Jackson a reason to re-order his cabinet and dismiss Calhoun allies. Jackson then dismissed Calhounites Samuel D. Ingham, John Branch, and John M. Berrien. Van Buren, whom Jackson had already indicated he wanted to run for Vice President in 1832, remained in Washington as a member of the Kitchen Cabinet until he was appointed as Minister to Great Britain. Eaton was subsequently appointed Governor of Florida Territory.
Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet included his longtime political allies Martin Van Buren, Francis Preston Blair, Amos Kendall, William B. Lewis, Andrew Jackson Donelson, John Overton, Isaac Hill, and Roger B. Taney. As newspapermen, Blair and Kendall were given particular notice by rival papers.
Blair was Kendall's successor as editor of the Jacksonian Argus of Western America, the prominent pro-New Court newspaper of Kentucky. Jackson brought Blair to Washington, D.C. to counter Calhounite Duff Green, editor of The United States Telegraph, with a new paper, the Globe. Lewis had been quartermaster under Jackson during the War of 1812; Andrew Donelson was Jackson's adoptive son and private secretary; and Overton was Andrew Jackson's friend and business partner since the 1790s.
The first known appearance of the term is in correspondence by Bank of the United States head Nicholas Biddle, who wrote of the presidential advisors that "the kitchen ... predominate[s] over the Parlor." The first appearance in publication was by Mississippi Senator George Poindexter in an article in the Calhounite Telegraph of March 13, 1832, defending his vote against Van Buren as minister to Great Britain:
The President's press, edited under his own eye, by a 'pair of deserters from the Clay party' [Kendall and Blair] and a few others, familiarly known by the appellation of the 'Kitchen Cabinet,' is made the common reservoir of all the petty slanders which find a place in the most degraded prints of the Union.
In colloquial use, "kitchen cabinet" refers to any group of trusted friends and associates, particularly in reference to a president's or presidential candidate's closest unofficial advisers.
The term was introduced to British policies to describe British Prime Minister Harold Wilson's inner circle during his terms of office (1964-1970 and 1974-1976); prior to Tony Blair, Wilson was the longest-serving Labour Party Prime Minister. Members included Marcia Williams, George Wigg, Joe Haines, and Bernard Donoughue. The term has been used subsequently, especially under Tony Blair, for the sidelining of traditional democratic cabinet structures to rely far more on a close group of non-elected advisors and allies. Examples of this practice include Blair's reliance on advisor Andrew Adonis before his appointment to the cabinet. Traditionally, the role of creation of education policy would have rested on the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when formulating policy.
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's reliance on a kitchen cabinet (Treasurer Wayne Swan, Rudd's successor Julia Gillard and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner) was a factor in his removal as PM.
Starting February 2012, Kitchen Cabinet is a TV entertainment series hosted by political commentator Annabel Crabb, in which she interviews notable Australian politicians while preparing and sharing meals with them.
In India, the quasi-governmental body formerly headed by Sonia Gandhi, called the National Advisory Council, was often referred to as a "Kitchen Cabinet" by the media and general public, although the government at that time was headed by Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.