Oh No, Minister: Satire Needs Scandals, Say Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay. Politics No Longer Provides Them

By Lynn, Jonathan; Jay, Antony | New Statesman (1996), June 20, 2011 | Go to article overview

Oh No, Minister: Satire Needs Scandals, Say Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay. Politics No Longer Provides Them


Lynn, Jonathan, Jay, Antony, New Statesman (1996)


Much has been said about how different government was when we first wrote Yes Minister--since the late 1970s, people say, the civil service has been politicised and the introduction of special advisers (otherwise known as spads) has changed everything.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

So when we considered writing the stage play Yes, Prime Minister, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the series, our first questions were: are things different now and, if so, would our task be more difficult? It turns out that most things haven't changed much at all.

There have always been special advisers. We had one for Jim Hacker in the first series; we got rid of him because he seemed too identifiable with Labour, which was in office when we wrote the first seven episodes. We knew two of them: Marcia Williams, Harold Wilson's political secretary and confidante, and Bernard Donoughue, head of the No 10 Policy Unit under Wilson and Callaghan. Then came Thatcher and her close adviser Bernard Ingham. Yet, under Blair, Alastair Campbell created such a cult of personality that everyone thought his role was new. It wasn't.

Is the civil service more politicised now? We don't think so. It is in its interest to look as though it supports the government on everything, both practical and ideological. That's what they are paid for. It is not in their interest to broadcast their own agenda. That's our job.

So, has anything changed? The answer is yes. Society has. "Shame!" MPs traditionally shout when they disapprove of something. What does that mean? Does it mean "What a pity"? Or that the statement was a shame, or worthy of shame? Or is it an instruction: "You should feel shame"? If an order, it's likely to fall on deaf ears. Since we started to write Yes Minister, shame went out of style.

Politicians, like other celebrities, reflect our society. Remember John Profumo? He had sex with a prostitute, lied to the House, and spent the next 40 years in penance. Twenty years later Cecil Parkinson, a married man, had an affair with his secretary; she went to the newspapers with the story--no shame there, apparently--and nine years later Parkinson accepted a peerage and became chairman of the "family values" party. Embarrassment, yes. Shame? Not so much. We are not moralists about sexual conductbutall satirical writing involves a moral standard, frequently self-imposed, which is not being met. Our concerns are hypocrisy and dishonesty, because those are usually the funniest. But in looking for subject matter for the play, we looked for things that still shock people. We couldn't find very many.

MPs fiddling their expenses seemed worth a mention but not much more: after all, that system was deliberately designed by the Callaghan government as a way to get around the pay freeze. MPs were supposed to inflate their expenses. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Oh No, Minister: Satire Needs Scandals, Say Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay. Politics No Longer Provides Them
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.