Features

Classic TV Revisited: Yes Minister

Yes Minister

Written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn Yes Minister was a sitcom about the power struggle between the civil service and government ministers. Trust us, it was funnier than it sounds.

When was it on?
The Thatcher years. Yes Minister ran 1980-1982, a total of 21 episodes. From 1986, there was a 16-episode sequel, Yes Prime Minister, with Hacker promoted to PM and Sir Humphrey elevated to Cabinet Secretary.

Who wrote it?
Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. They got their material from listening to politicians. For that alone, they deserved an award.

Who were the star turns?
Paul Eddington as Jim Hacker,MP, newly-appointed Minister of Administrative Affairs; Nigel Hawthorne as Permanent Under-Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby; and Derek Fowlds as Hacker’s Principal Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley.

Where was Yes Minister set?
In Hacker’s office at the House of Commons. There was obviously no budget for filming because moving car scenes had that Crossroads feel.

Any echoes of reality?
An episode of Yes Prime Minister in which Hacker fell out with his defence secretary was screened on the very day that Michael Heseltine resigned from that post. Uncanny!

What was a typical scene?
Hacker blusters, Sir Humphrey prevaricates and Bernard wishes he was still with Basil Brush. Every episode ends with the words ‘Yes, Minister’.

Who watched it?
Mrs. Thatcher among others. She said of the show: ‘Its closely-observed portrayal of what goes on in the corridors of power has given me hours of pure joy.’

Didn’t she appear in an episode?
No, but in her usual shy and retiring way, she ordered a special scene to be written for her by her press secretary Bernard Ingham and she ‘acted’ it with Paul Eddington at an awards ceremony.

Any distant cousins?
The New Statesman and Penelope Keith’s No Job For a Lady, a back-bencher in comparison.