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27 June 2012
By Michael Holland
A stately set reflected the glory of Government; oak panelling and high ceilings mirrored the importance of high office; shelves of leather bound books looked haughtily at a leather topped desk and a pair of Chesterfields.
This was evidently a room that belonged to someone of stature. We soon find it is Chequers, the country abode of our Prime Minister, but what was to follow in Yes, Prime Minister brought this Number One job down to the levels of Carry On Politicking.
Jim Hacker PM is having a bad day and it is getting worse. His Cabinet Secretary Humphrey is the power behind the throne and is tending to his own agenda rather than to affairs of government or his boss. Bernard, the wimpish Private Secretary, wants to do what’s best for the country, though is not sure what that actually is.
Kumranistan wants to run a pipeline to Britain without crossing Russia, which makes it almost impossible unless you go through Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain, Morocco, France, Germany, Norway and Ibiza. Get the picture? A ridiculous route, but the dodgy president of newly oil-rich Kumranistan has promised billions of dollars to save the Eurozone.
Humphrey has promised that Britain will change to Euros to make this deal happen as he has shares in a benefiting concern. And the Ambassador, who has arrived at Chequers, wants the PM to arrange an orgy for him, which will involve the Vice Squad, a Royal helicopter and the chance that the whole thing will be leaked to the press. Could it get any worse for Jim Hacker? Well, he does start getting messages from God, so I suppose the answer to that question is Yes.
Writers Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn have created a work that is just as good as the award-winning series of the Thatcher years. It is sitcom writ large and even though it fiddles with farce it keeps this side of decency.
There are some great lines in it: ‘Horizontal diplomacy’, when trying to justify getting call girls for the visiting ambassador, and ‘Denial works better when there’s truth in it’. When talking about moving a Minister to Culture, Media and Sport it is described as the ‘graveyard job’ because ‘none of them matter’.
As the problems get worse and worse so the PM gets drunker and drunker, and then the media get involved. There are several laugh out loud moments.
Ultimately, Yes, Prime Minister, says that politics takes second place to looking after your own job. As Jim Hacker says: ‘There is a moral necessity to stay in power’.
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