Jim Hacker: “Humphrey, who is it who has the last word about the government of Britain? The British Cabinet or the American President?” Sir Humphrey: “You know that is a fascinating question. We often discuss it.” Jim Hacker: “And what conclusion have you arrived at?” Sir Humphrey: “Well, I must admit to be a bit of a heretic. I think it is the British Cabinet. But I know I am in the minority.”
Yes Minister changed the way many people thought about politics. It was a sitcom that showed how the system actually worked, and did so with great humour, superb scripts and brilliant acting. This book tells the story of how the show originated, developed and left a legacy that continues to inspire countless other satirists.
I think this book represents a unique meeting of minds. Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn wrote a sitcom full of political sophistication, and in doing so left a challenging legacy for any writer wishing to celebrate it. But in Graham McCann the show has found a historian of sitcoms who also has a background in political theory, so there’s an authority about his analysis that’s an ideal fit. It means that he can convey all that is admirable about the show, in terms of its research, its accuracy and its humour, but he can also provide critiques of certain episodes that really engage with the politics involved. It’s an approach that reassures the reader that this is no one-dimensional sort of celebration. And the fact that he lavishes praise elsewhere underlines how balanced he strives to be.
The overall message this fine book delivers is one of huge respect and admiration for the writers, the actors and the shows. The author makes it clear how diligent the writers were at finding reliable sources and ensuring that each story was rooted in truth; he provides some delightful insights into the art of the actors, Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Fowlds; and he rightly, I think, underlines how brilliant the shows were in enlightening the public as to the nature of government, bureaucracy and politics.
I particularly liked the little case studies of the real life connections between the episodes and real life incidents (such as the disguised whisky in the ‘dry’ country), and the preparations for each series. The treatment of the passing of Eddington and Hawthorne was also, I thought, very sensitive and moving. All in all, precisely the kind of book that the show deserves.
Sir Desmond: “So it all boils down to the Industry Co-partnership Committee. Still, I find that quite acceptable.” Sir Humphrey: “Well, it is within the gift of my Minister, and you would only put in appearances once or twice a month.” Sir Desmond: “Are there lots of papers?” Sir Humphrey: “Yes, but it wouldn’t be awfully necessary to read them.” Sir Desmond: “Then I wouldn’t have anything to say at the monthly meetings.” Sir Humphrey: “Splendid, I can see you’re just the chap I’m looking for.”
The rose, the speech, and the bomb: New Thatcher papers
By Adam DonaldPolitical reporter, BBC News
War of the roses
The first female prime minister had to wade through a diplomatic quagmire that, it seems safe to say, no male occupant of the office will ever stumble into.
After agreeing to a request by the German Central Horticultural Association that it be allowed to name a rose in her honour, Mrs Thatcher was embarrassed to discover a letter in her in-tray from an irate Japanese businessman.
One Mr Takatori had received permission to name a rose in honour of the prime minister six years previously. Peter Ricketts, now a knight of the realm and Ambassador to France, was instrumental in crafting a sensitive solution.
A letter was dispatched to Mr Takatori that read: “The two roses are different in appearance, but if an error has been made, the prime minister very much hopes that it can be satisfactorily and easily resolved. We can understand your concern, and would like to assure Mr Takatori of our high regard for the masterpiece he named.”
Whether this appeased Mr Takatori is unknown. Mrs Thatcher survived one of the less damaging scandals in recent political history.
Discussions over the rose controversy take up 40 pages of the PM’s personal papers in 1984
Richard Brooks, Arts Editor Published: 28 September 2014
THE power struggle between the politician Jim Hacker and his scheming permanent secretary Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minister was comedy gold.
Now a book has revealed that the rivalry between the actors off screen was every bit as intense — and a good deal more serious.
Although Paul Eddington, who played Hacker, and Nigel Hawthorne, who was Appleby, were outwardly friendly, their relationship was strained by tension and jealousy.
Eddington had spotted straight away that Appleby was the better comedy role, but was persuaded to stick with Hacker. He may well have regretted the decision after Hawthorne won four Baftas as best comedy performer, while Eddington, though nominated four times, always lost out.
Jim Hacker: “Sir Mark thinks there maybe votes in it. And if so, I don’t intend to look a gift horse in the mouth.” Sir Humphrey: “I put it to you, Minister, that you are looking a Trojan Horse in the mouth.” Jim Hacker: “If we look closely at this gift horse, we’ll find it’s full of Trojans?” Bernard Woolley: “If you had looked a Trojan Horse in the mouth, Minister, you would have found Greeks inside. Well the point is that it was the Greeks that gave the Trojan Horse to the Trojans, so technically it wasn’t a Trojan Horse at all, it was a Greek Horse. Hence the tag Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes which you recall is usually, and somewhat inaccurately translated as Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Or doubtless you would have recalled had you not attended the LSE. […] No well, the point is, Minister, that just as the Trojan Horse was in fact Greek, what you describe as a Greek tag is in fact Latin. It’s obvious really, the Greeks would never suggest bewaring of themselves if one used such a participle, bewaring that is, and it is clearly Latin, not because Timeo ends in ‘o’, because the Greek first person also ends in ‘o’. Though actually, there is a Greek word called Timao meaning I honour. But the ‘os’ ending is a nominative singular termination of the second declension in Greek, and an accusative plural in Latin of course, though actually Danaos is not only the Greek for Greek but also the Latin for Greek, it is very interesting really.”