Antony Jay, co-writer of the evergreen political satires “Yes Minister” and “Yes Prime Minister” that delighted generations of people in Britain, India and elsewhere, has died at the age of 86.
Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher was among the numerous fans of the BBC series. A 1983 file declassified and released by the National Archives revealed she was once so upset by a bureaucratic response that she wrote: “A bureaucratic gem. I will show it to Antony Jay.”
Cambridge-educated Jay co-wrote the series with Jonathan Lynn. A wry take on the interaction between politicians in office and bureaucrats, the series went on to be adapted in various languages and countries, including India, where it was telecast as “Ji Mantriji”.
Noopur Tiwari, who co-wrote the Indian version telecast in 2001, told Hindustan Times: “We tried to adapt this humour to the Indian scenario. It was delightful of course, yet quite overwhelming to work with such utterly perfect scripts.
“Their humour just doesn’t get dated and that shows just how brilliant they were and also how little the world has changed. The upside is that we can still keep laughing with ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’.”
Jay’s writing career included scripting documentaries such as “Royal Family” and “Elizabeth R: A Year in the Life of a Queen”, for which he was appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. He was made a Knight Bachelor in 1988.
A representative of Jay’s family said: “Sir Antony Jay CVO CBE died peacefully on Sunday evening after a long illness. He was surrounded by his wife and family.”
Thatcher, who died in 2013 aged 87, wrote a comedy sketch in 1984 in honour of the series. She starred in the sketch as herself, along with the main actors Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne.
She once praised the series for "its clearly-observed portrayal of what goes on in the corridors of power", stating that it "has given me hours of pure joy".
“Yes Minister” was broadcast between 1980 and 1984 over three seven-episode series. Its sequel “Yes Prime Minister” ran from 1986 to 1988.