yes minister -2

by rainsight on 01/4/2012
[It is interesting to observe that senior civil servants, perhaps because they have spent thirty years writing notes in the margin of a memo or minute, only write in the margin even if there is nothing else on the page – Ed. ]
Arnold and I compared notes [on 2 November] about the new government. His new Cabinet is scarcely distinguishable from the last one. My new boy is learning the rules very quickly.
I sounded Arnold out about the American Ambassador – rumour has it he has been spending a lot of time with the PM.
Arnold confirmed this. But was unwilling to say whether it was about defence or trade. He is anxious about a leak – therefore it is imperative that the Cabinet doesn’t hear about it yet.
I concluded, correctly, that it is defence and trade, i. e. the new aerospace systems contract.
The aerospace contract would be a considerable coup for the PM, less than two weeks after the election. Of course, it’s been in the pipeline for months, but the new PM will obviously take the credit.
It will mean four and a half billion dollars, and many new jobs in the Midlands and North-West. All in marginal seats, too – what a coincidence!
This is valuable information. I gathered from Arnold that it would, therefore, be a grave embarrassment to the PM if a hypothetical Minister were to rock the Anglo-American boat. Man overboard. The end of a promising new Ministerial career, in fact.
Therefore, I have ensured that the Weasel1 receives a copy of the invoice
1 Frank Weisel.
for the new American addressing machines. Naturally he has not received it, because it is sensitive. But I think that this is the right moment.
I instructed my secretary to ensure that the Weasel find the invoice near the bottom of a pile. Let the man feel he has achieved something.
[Bernard Woolley joined Sir Humphrey and Sir Arnold at the club, for an after-dinner coffee while they drank their after-dinner brandy – Ed. ]
I asked young Bernard what he makes of our new Minister. Bernard is happy. So am I. Hacker swallowed the whole diary in one gulp and appar­ently did his boxes like a lamb last Saturday and Sunday. He’ll be housetrained in no time.
All we have to do is head him off this Open Government nonsense, I remarked to Bernard. Bernard said that he thought that we were in favour of Open Government. I hope I have not over-promoted young Bernard. He still has an awful lot to learn.
I explained that we are calling the White Paper Open Government because you always dispose of the difficult bit in the title. It does less harm there than on the statute books.
It is the law of Inverse Relevance: the less you intend to do about something, the more you have to keep talking about it.
Bernard asked us, ‘What’s wrong with Open Government? ’ I could hardly believe my ears. Arnold thought he was joking. Sometimes I wonder if Bernard really is a flyer, or whether we shouldn’t just send him off to a career at the War Graves Commission.
Arnold pointed out, with great clarity, that Open Government is a con­tradiction in terms. You can be open – or you can have government.
Bernard claims that the citizens of a democracy have a right to know. We explained that, in fact, they have a right to be ignorant. Knowledge only means complicity and guilt. Ignorance has a certain dignity.
Bernard then said: ‘The Minister wants Open Government. ’ Years of training seem to have had no effect on Bernard sometimes.
I remarked that one does not just give people what they want, if it’s not good for them. One does not, for instance, give whisky to an alcoholic.
Arnold rightly added that if people do not know what you’re doing, they don’t know what you’re doing wrong.
This is not just a defence mechanism for officials, of course. Bernard must understand that he would not be serving his Minister by helping him to make a fool of himself. Every Minister we have would have been a laughing-stock within his first three weeks in office if it had not been for the most rigid and impenetrable secrecy about what he was up to.
Bernard is a Private Secretary. I am a Permanent Under-Secretary of State. The very word Secretary means one who can keep a secret.
Bernard asked me what I proposed to do. Naturally I did not inform him of my plans for the Weasel to make a great discovery. This would be putting too great a strain on Bernard’s loyalty to Hacker.
I asked Bernard if he could keep a secret. He said he could. I replied that I could, too. [Appleby Papers 14I/QLI/9a]
[Hacker was, of course, in complete ignorance of the meeting described above – Ed. ]
November 5th
Guy Fawkes Day. Fireworks inside the office too. A fitting day on which to enforce the supremacy of parliament and HMG.
Frank Weisel came bursting into my office, waving a document, ‘Have you seen this? ’ he enquired at four thousand decibels.
I was delighted that the civil servants were giving him all the papers now. I said so.
‘They’re not, ’ he said derisively. ‘Not the real papers. ’
‘Which real papers aren’t you getting? ’ I wanted to know.
‘How do I know, if I’m not getting them? ’
This is, of course, absolutely true. And I don’t know what he can do about it. [This, of course, is an example of what management consul­tants call the Light-in-the-Refrigerator Syndrome, i. e. is the light on when the door is shut? The only way to find out is to open the door-in which case the door is not shut any more – Ed. ]
But Frank did not want to discuss his problems in getting necessary information out of the officials.
‘They think they’re sending me the rubbish. But look what I’ve found – oho, we’ve got them, we’ve got them by the short and curlies. ’
I still didn’t know what he was talking about. Frank explained further.
‘We’ve got Sir Humphrey-Bloody-Appleby and Mr Toffee-Nose- Private-Secretary-Snooty-Woolley just where we want them. ’
He brandished a sheaf of papers under my nose. I still didn’t know what he was talking about, but I do think he has a wonderful line; in invective – perhaps I should let him write the draft of my conference speech next year.
I made Frank sit down, and explain calmly. He has found some ordinary office invoices that have tremendous political significance. The DAA has apparently bought one thousand computer video display terminals, at ten thousand pounds each. Ten million pounds of the taxpayers’ money. And they are made in Pittsburgh!
This is shocking. Humphrey’s been keeping very quiet about this. And I’m not surprised. We make computer peripherals in my consti­tuency, Birmingham East. And we have rising unemployment. It is a

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