TV VIEW; BBC SITCOM PROVES POLITICS HAS ITS LAUGHS
By JOHN J. O’CONNOR Published: June 14, 1987
Yes, Minister and then Yes, Prime Minister. Aired in the mid to late 80’s it was a huge hit in the US and Britain and won loads of awards as well as being a show really enjoyed by the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. I love this show so much! Paul Eddington did a terrific job as the Rt Hon. Jim Hacker MP, The Minister for Administrative Affairs, who just wanted to get things done and who was always butting heads with (Sir) Humphrey Appleby, his British Civil Service Permanent Secretary, played brilliantly by Nigel Hawthorne. He (Humphrey) enjoys power and keeping things just as they have always been. His own Principle Secretary Bernard Wooley seems to get caught in the middle quite often. It’s a Parliament based British sitcom with rapid dialogue and even faster wit! No matter what Jim Hacker tries to do, Sir Humphrey doesn’t want him to do it! I loved the dialogue, the pace AND I learned a great deal about the differences between the American and British Government Systems. #britishtelevision #pauleddington #nigelhawthorne #jimhacker #humphreyappleby #yesminister #bbc #telly #audible #audio #listen #watch #comedy #10 (at mi casa)
The satirical sitcom Yes Minster was first seen on 25th February 1980. The title sequence and music of the pilot was replaced in later episodes with Gerald Scarfe cartoons which contrasted with the stately theme tune and made it clear that the programme was not deferential to those in government. The comedy was based on the premise that real power was held by civil servants rather than ministers. The main characters were Jim Hacker MP - played by Paul Eddington - and Sir Humphrey Appleby, his Permanent Secretary, played by Nigel Hawthorne. Hacker’s Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley, was played by Derek Fowlds.
Yes Minister was written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, who were praised for being accurate as well as funny. They were advised by people who had themselves been in government, and several of the comedy situations depicted arose from real events. The programme influenced the public perception of the state, and Sir Humphrey’s pronouncements revealed the art of political spin.
The success of Yes Minister led to 6 BAFTA Awards. After three series it became Yes Prime Minister, as Hacker was unexpectedly promoted, and continued to 1988. Today the comedy The Thick of It is a direct descendant and the term Sir Humphrey is understood to mean a career civil servant.
'Yes Minister' - 'The Whisky Priest'
Stage One: Refuse to publish in the public interest saying
- There are security considerations.
- The findings could be misinterpreted.
- You are waiting for the results of a wider and more detailed report which is still in preparation. (If there isn’t one, commission it; this gives you even more time).
Stage Two: Discredit the evidence you are not publishing, saying
- It leaves important questions unanswered.
- Much of the evidence is inconclusive.
- The figures are open to other interpretations.
- Certain findings are contradictory.
- Some of the main conclusions have been questioned. (If they haven’t, question them yourself; then they have).
Stage Three: Undermine the recommendations. Suggested phrases:
- 'Not really a basis for long term decisions'.
- 'Not sufficient information on which to base a valid assessment'.
- 'No reason for any fundamental rethink of existing policy'.
- 'Broadly speaking, it endorses current practice'.
Stage Four: Discredit the person who produced the report. Explain (off the record) that
- He is harbouring a grudge against the Department.
- He is a publicity seeker.
- He is trying to get a Knighthood/Chair/Vice Chancellorship.
- He used to be a consultant to a multinational.
- He wants to be a consultant to a multinational.”
To suppress an internal government report, rewrite it as official advice to the Minister. Then it is against the rules to publish it, so you can leak the bits you want to friendly journalists.