Yes Minister

yes_minister.jpgIf there’s one thing I am grateful to the BBC for, it is the fabulous Yes Minister series. It redefined the word satire. Governance was suddenly refused to closed room volleyball of words and more words. The irony of course was that it was painfully close to how heavy bureaucracies actually function. Because India did inherit the Civil Service concept from Britain, much of what was satirized in the series, was and is true of India as well.

So you have the three main characters – Jim Hacker, the naive, trusting Minister of Administrative Affairs (later the Prime Minister), Sir Humphrey Appelby the Permanent Secretary (your essential Civil Servant) and Bernard Woolley, the Principal Private Secretary. I’m now spending an inordinate amount of time on this website listening to small audio clips.

Sample this wonderful piece. (audio link)

Jim Hacker: “What am I going to do with all this correspondence?”
Bernard Woolley: “You do realize you don’t actually have to, Minister.”
Jim Hacker: “Don’t I?”
Bernard Woolley: “Not if you don’t want to, we can draft an official reply.”
Jim Hacker: “What’s an official reply?”
Bernard Woolley: “It just says The Minister has asked me to thank you for your letter and we say something like The matter is under consideration, or even if we feel so inclined under active consideration.”
Jim Hacker: “What’s the difference?”
Bernard Woolley: “Well, under consideration means we’ve lost the file, under active consideration means we’re trying to find it.”

6 Comments

Filed under Music, Film and Art, UK

6 Responses to Yes Minister

  1. The greatest one I found was:

    Jim Hacker: “Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Humphrey is not God, okay.”
    Bernard Woolley: “Will you tell him or shall I?”

    The books “Yes Minister” and “Yes Prime Minister” are also too good… They are supposedly Jim Hacker’s diaries.

  2. Oh yes! I love ‘em. Love ‘em both. The series on tv was good and the books are a fantastic read too.

  3. km

    That was a great show. Remember the infamous “one of us is one of them” episode? (I think it was from “Yes Prime Minister”)

  4. IMHO, the book is more fun than the TV Series Nigel Hawthorne as Humphrey Appleby notwithstanding
    Fished out for this Bernard Wooley quote ( All hail Geekdom ! )
    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.”

  5. shekhar

    km.
    that is indeed from yes pm. and the realisation that you mention grows and grows till it becomes…. “if one of us could one of them, and if two of us could be, you know, two of them, then all of us… could be… that is to say… could be…”
    hacker sardonically finishes the thought: …all of them?”
    outstanding stuff. all of us could be all of them.

    my fave moment, well, one of them, anyway, comes again from yes pm. hacker has been pm for a while now. his megalomania has reached epic proportions. and then, a mandarin/scientist pops into meet him.
    mandarin/scientist: prime minister, this is an honour.
    hacker (without looking up): yes. i know.

    or this…
    i paraphrase heavily, mind you. “if his years in journalism had taught hacker to regard language as a window to the mind, prolonged exposure to the civil service, as personified by sir humphrey appleby, taught him to regard language as a curtain to draw across it.”

    ah, nega.
    that you would only post yes min clips. :-)

    cheers

  6. Reached here while blog-hopping. Thank you so much for the link. YM and YPM happen to be among the best satires you’d find in this day and age. The tele-series did justice to the work. I spent a long time going through the audio clips on the site you mentioned. Thanks again.