March 3, 2024

Yes, Minister

If I am to be completely candid, editing BioEdge can, at times, be a bit depressing. It has its bright spots, but often enough we traffic in knavery, obfuscation, mendacity, cruelty, greed and even homicide. It comes with the territory, I suppose, so I mustn’t complain.

However, there are bright spots, like indulging myself in Yes, Minister clips on YouTube when we need to illustrate articles about government policy. Since so many stories in BioEdge are related to committee reports, politicians’ bluster and legislative debates, I find the cynical humour of this classic BBC series quite refreshing. Here are a few of my favourite quotes.  

Activist: “There is nothing special about man, Mr Hacker [the minister]. We’re not above nature. We’re all part of it.  Men are animals too, you know.” Hacker: “I know that, I’ve just come from the House of Commons.” ~ Political Animals

“Solved problems aren’t news. Tell the press a story in two halves – the problem first and the solution later. Then they get a disaster story one day and triumph story the next.” ~ Party Games

“The surprising things about academics is not that they have their price, but how low that price is.” ~ Doing The Honours

“Reorganizing the Civil Service is like drawing a knife through a bowl of marbles.” ~ The Whiskey Priest

“Press statements are not delivered under oath.” ~ A Real Partnership

“The bench of bishops should have a proper balance between those who believe in God and those who don’t.” ~ The Bishop’s Gambit

Sir Humphrey [the departmental head]: If you want to be really sure that the Minister doesn’t accept it, you must say the decision is “courageous”. Bernard [the minister’s private secretary]: And that’s worse than “controversial”? Sir Humphrey: Oh, yes! “Controversial” only means “this will lose you votes”. “Courageous” means “this will lose you the election”! ~ The Right to Know

Sir Humphrey: Bernard, Ministers should never know more than they need to know. Then they can’t tell anyone. Like secret agents; they could be captured and tortured. Bernard: [shocked] You mean by terrorists? Sir Humphrey: By the BBC, Bernard. ~ Jobs for the Boys

Hacker: Are you saying that winking at corruption is government policy? Sir Humphrey: No, no, Minister! It could never be government policy. That is unthinkable! Only government practice. ~ The Moral Dimension

Bernard: That’s one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it? I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act. ~ Man Overboard 

Michael Cook
In which we take a break from serious matters