The Grand Design


‘Humphrey’s enthusiasm for Trident knows no bounds. ‘But don’t you see Prime Minister – with Trident we could obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe.’

I don’t want to obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe. I told him so. He nodded impatiently. He knew that. He thought I was missing the point. ‘It has to be an effective deterrent, Prime Minister.’

‘But it’s a bluff,’ I told him, ‘I probably wouldn’t use it.’
‘They don’t know that you probably wouldn’t use it,’ he argued.
‘They probably do,’ I said.
He was forced to agree. ‘Yes… they probably know that you probably wouldn’t. But they can’t certainly know.

He’s right about that. But they don’t have the certainty to know. ‘They probably certainly know that I probably wouldn’t,’ I said.

‘Yes,’ he agreed, ‘but even though they probably certainly know that you probably wouldn’t, they don’t certainly know that although you probably wouldn’t, there is no probability that you certainly would.’

Bernard was taking careful minutes. It’s lucky he does shorthand and was able to reconstruct this conversation for me in writing by the end of the day.’

– Lynn J., Jay A. 1986. The Complete Yes Prime Minister London, Great Britain: BBC Books (1989) p. 79-80

On Women


‘[Later in the week Sir Humphrey Appleby had lunch with Sir Arnold Robinson, the Cabinet Secretary, at the Athenaeum Club. Sir Humphrey, as always, made a note on one of his pieces of memo paper – Ed.]

Arnold’s feelings are the same as mine when it comes to women. But like me – and unlike the Minister – he sees clearly that they are different from us. In the following ways: –

1. Bad for teamwork: they put such strains on a team, by reacting differently from us.

2. Too emotional: they are not rational like us.

3. Can’t be Reprimanded: they either get into a frightful bate or start blubbing.

4. Can be Reprimanded: some of them can be, but are frightfully hard and butch and not in the least bit attractive.

5. Prejudices: they are full of them.

6. Silly Generalisations: they make them.

7. Stereotypes: they think in them.’

– Lynn J., Jay A. 1981. The Complete Yes Minister London, Great Britain: BBC Books (1991) p. 361

A Cook


‘I snapped. ‘Do you want to know what I had for lunch?’
He sensed that I was upset, but still couldn’t quite see why.
‘Um… do you want to tell me?’ he asked.
I smiled unpleasantly. ‘Yes,’ I snapped. ‘Nothing.’
‘Are you dieting Prime Minister?’

I explained succinctly that I was not dieting. I expressed my total astonishment that there are facilities at Number Ten for feeding Bernard, and all the private secretaries, the whole of the Cabinet office, the press office, the garden-room girls[1], the messengers… but not me. And I bloody live here!
Bernard asked if Mrs Hacker could cook for me. I reminded him that she has her own job. Then he offered to get me a cook. It looked a good offer – until closer examination revealed that I would have to pay for it. And, according to Bernard, the cost of a full-time cook would be between eight and ten thousands a year. I can’t afford that. Trying to get himself off the hook, he suggested that I talk to the Cabinet Secretary – obviously he didn’t want to get involved in a discussion when it wasn’t in his power to change the system. But I was very irritated. Still am, come to that. I turned back to the window and fumed silently.

Bernard cleared his throat. ‘I think the Cabinet Secretary’s due here in a few moments anyway. So shall we get on with the affairs of the nation?’
‘Stuff the affairs of the nation,’ I replied. ‘I want a cook.’

[1] The name given to the very high-class ladies of the registry and typing pool at Number Ten, who worked in a basement room that leads out on the garden.’

– Lynn J., Jay A. 1986. The Complete Yes Prime Minister London, Great Britain: BBC Books (1989) p. 72

Who is Bollocks?


‘Bernard had an amusing bit of news for me today. ‘You remember that letter you wrote “Round Objects” on?’ he asked.
‘Yes.’
‘Well,’ he said with a slight smile, ‘it’s come back from Sir Humphrey’s office. He commented on it.’
And he showed me the letter. In the margin Humphrey had written: ‘Who is Round and to what does he object?”

– Lynn J., Jay A. 1981. The Complete Yes Minister London, Great Britain: BBC Books (1991) p. 366

si tacuisses philosophus mansisses


‘If you had kept your mouth shut we might have thought you were clever.’

– Lynn J., Jay A. 1986. The Complete Yes Prime Minister London, Great Britain: BBC Books (1989) p. 468