Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1984 Jan 20 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Speech (and sketch) for BBC1 Yes, Prime Minister

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: All Souls Church, Langham Place, London
Source: Thatcher Archive
Editorial comments: 1215-1430 MT spoke at the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association Award Presentation. She then performed a sketch - supposedly of her own composition - with Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1491
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Media, Religion & morality

It really is a great pleasure for me to be your guest today, because this is after all a birthday party. Mrs Whitehouse, you are very modest in not knowing that it was 20 years ago to the very day that you started on your campaign. But your many admirers are absolutely delighted that that is so.

It was 20 years ago that you first launched your “Clean up TV Campaign” which was the forerunner of this Association. And we all know that Mrs Whitehouse has become concerned about the way the permissive society was being broadcast and invading our living rooms.

But she is a very unusual person, she didn't just grumble about it. She decided that if she felt strong that she must do something about it. She decided to put obstacles in the way of those who, in her view, were in the business of transmitting smut; she decided to halt the slide into what she believed was decadence, and to render what was transmitted over the airwaves more wholesome.

Inevitably she attracted criticism. So will anyone who sets out to do something positive. Don't I know it. Some tried to ridicule her, some still do. But nothing will break her spirit.

She has compelled broadcasters and others to think twice about what they offer the public.

Let no-one ever again say “What can one person do?” Look at Mrs Whitehouse and see the answer.

Now another consequence of Mary Whitehouse, the campaigner, is this annual award which I am delighted to present today.

You've said so many marvellous things about it that there is not very much for me to add.

I can't really begin to tell you what pleasure the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association choice gives me personally. “Yes Minister” is truly my favourite programme. [end p1]

I was about to refer to its perceptive portrayal, you went one further and referred to its authentic portrayal. Its perceptive portrayal of what goes on in the corridors of power has given me hours of pure joy, and no worries at all. Indeed, we spent part of one Christmas break at Chequers revelling in a whole series of “Yes Ministers” on video.

You asked whether all PPS's are like that—No, Mrs Whitehouse, some are very critical.

You asked whether all our permanent secretaries are like that—I don't know of any who are held in greater affection than Sir Humphrey.

And of course all Ministers are grateful to their spouses, I certainly am for mine.

I wondered how, on behalf of millions of viewers, I might really show my appreciation of the superb acting and writing which goes into the programme.

I am afraid that for Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne my idea will involve a little work. But I'm sure they won't mind.

They are so professional—I am only an amateur.

What I have in mind is that we might perform a little sketch in the Prime Minister's study. I know that “Yes Minister” has never identified the Prime Minister of the day for the very dubious reason that they thought I might be replaced by a man. Oh ye of little faith.

So, with apologies to Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, who are not to blame for what follows, I have arranged for Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne to have a couple of scripts. And I should be grateful if they would now join me in my imaginary study for the World Premiere of “Yes, Prime Minister”. [end p2]

Yes (Prime) Minister

Prime Minister

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.

Prime Minister

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

Jim Hacker

(Brightening visibly). An idea Prime Minister? Oh good.

Sir Humphrey

(Guardedly). An idea, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

Well, not really an idea.

I've done quite a bit of thought and I'm sure you, Jim, are quite the man to carry it out. It's got to do with a kind institution and you are sort of responsible for institutions, aren't you?

Sir Humphrey

(Cautiously). Institutions, Prime Minister?

[end p3]

Jim Hacker

(Decisively). Oh yes, institutions fall to me. Most definitely. And you want me to set one up, I suppose?

Prime Minister

Set one up? Certainly not. I want you to get rid of one.

Jim Hacker

(Astonished). Get rid of one, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

Yes. It's all very simple. I want you to abolish economists.

Jim Hacker

(Mouth open). Abolish economists Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

Yes, abolish economists—quickly.

Sir Humphrey

(Silkily). All of them, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

Yes, all of them. They never agree on anything. They just fill the heads of politicians with all sorts of curious notions, like the more you spend, the richer you get.

[end p4]

Jim Hacker

(Coming round to the idea). I take your point Prime Minister. Can't have the nation's time wasted on curious notions can we? No.

Sir Humphrey

(Sternly). Minister.

Prime Minister

Quite right, Jim. Absolute waste of time. Simply got to go.

Jim Hacker

(Uncertain). Simply got to go?

Prime Minister

(Motherly). Yes Jim. Don't worry. If it all goes wrong I shall get the blame. But if it goes right—as it will—then you'll get the credit for redeploying a lot of misapplied resources. Probably get promotion too.

Sir Humphrey

(Indignantly). Resources? Resources, Prime Minister? Surely we're talking about economists.

Prime Minister

Were, Sir Humphrey. Were.

Jim Hacker

(Decisively). Yes Humphrey, were. We're going to get rid of them.

[end p5]

Prime Minister

Well it's all settled then. I'll look forward to receiving your plan for abolition soon. Tomorrow, shall we say? I'd like you to announce it before it all leaks.

Jim Hacker

(Brightly). Tomorrow then, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister

Yes, well, sort it out. Now Sir Humphrey—what did you say your degree was?

Sir Humphrey

(Innocently). Degree, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

(Firmly). Yes, Sir Humphrey, degree. Your degree. You have one, I take it—most permanent secretaries do—or perhaps two.

Sir Humphrey

(Modestly). Er, well actually Prime Minister, a double first.

Prime Minister

Congratulations Sir Humphrey, but what in?

Sir Humphrey

(Weakly). Politics—er … and er … economics.

Prime Minister

(Soothingly). Capital, my dear Sir Humphrey. You'll know exactly where to start.

Sir Humphrey

(Bleakly). Yes, Prime Minister.

Exit Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey [end p6]

Modesty forbids me to say how the plot works out in the end. But I can give you a clue—the economy perks up—as it is doing now.

Heaven knows what the professionals will think of my little plot—I hasten to say they had nothing to do with the script.

It's about time we had a new “Yes Minister” programme. After all they earn money abroad too. BBC TV Enterprises have so far sold “Yes Minister” to 31 countries.

From Norway to New Zealand, from Zimbabwe to Zambia, from Bangladesh to the Bahamas, from India to Iceland “Yes Minister” is a winner. Though what they make of it in Libya is really another matter.

Let me say an enormous thank you to the “Yes Minister” team for creating so much pleasure for so many people. And now let me present to Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne, Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn this award with many, many congratulations and grateful thanks from us all.