Brian Wilson’s Smilefinally
appeared
38 years late. But very few people have ever seen the Margaret Thatcher episode
– or mini episode – of Yes Minister.
It’s like a concentrate of the series:

Margaret
Thatcher: Ah, good morning Jim, Sir Humphrey. Do come in and sit down. How’s
your wife? Is she well?

Jim
Hacker: [Puzzled] Oh yes, fine, Prime Minister. Fine. Thank you. Yes, fine.

MT: Good.
So pleased. I’ve been meaning to have a word with you for some time. I’ve got
an idea

JH:
[Brightening visibly] An idea, Prime Minister? Oh good.

Sir
Humphrey: [Guardedly] An idea, Prime Minister?

Ideas, revelations or anything new
are some of the most dangerous concepts in public administration. And that’s
why the easy guide to the four stages in killing a report appeared early on in
the life of Yes Minister. So in case the learned commissioner
can’t get a copy of “The Greasy Poll” (Yes Minister: series two, episode four),
here’s that guide in full. He and Mr Agius can tick the excuses off as they’re proffered:

  1. The public interest:
    • Hint at security considerations.
    • Could put unwelcome pressure on the
      Government because it might be misinterpreted.
    • Better to wait for a wider and more
      detailed appraisal over time.
    • If there is no such appraisal being
      carried out, better still, commission one.
    1. Discredit the evidence by leaking to the
      press that the report:
      • Leaves important questions unanswered.
      • Contains data that is inconclusive.
      • Contains figures that are open to other
        interpretations.
      • Contains findings that are contradictory
      1. Undermine the recommendations through an
        assortment of government phrases:
        • “Not really a basis for long term
          decisions”
        • “Not sufficient information on which to
          base a valid assessment”
        • “No reason to undertake a fundamental
          rethink of existing policy”
        • “Broadly speaking, it endorses current
          practice”
        1. If Stage 3 still leaves doubts, discredit
          the author of the report (off the record)
          by explaining:
        • He
          harbours a grudge against the Government.
        • He
          is a publicity seeker.
        • He
          is trying to get his Knighthood.
        • He
          used to be a consultant to a multinational company.
        • He
          wants to be a consultant to a multinational company.

        Peter Fray

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