Margaret Thatcher passed on bureaucratic gem to ‘Yes Minister’

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jan 01, 2015 23:16 IST

Margaret Thatcher was known to be a great admirer of the political satire ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’, but now there is proof that she passed on some rare bureaucratic insights to the writers of one of the most popular series on British television.

In one of the files from the ministry of defence during her prime ministership declassified and released by National Archives under the 30-year rule, she notes curtly, “Seldom have I received a more unsatisfactory letter. A bureaucratic gem. I will show it to Anthony Jay.”

Jay was the co-writer with Jonathan Lynn of the satire that has been adapted in various languages and countries, including India, where it was telecast as ‘Ji Mantriji’.

The 1983 file was about the ministry’s response to Thatcher’s inquiries about inadequate kit supplied to soldiers in Northern Ireland. Dissatisfied with the response, she dismissed it curtly, and wrote in the sidelines, “Send the letter back. The answer won’t do.”

Thatcher, who passed away in 2013 aged 87, wrote a comedy sketch in 1984 in honour of the series, when it was presented an award a national viewers and listeners association. She starred in the sketch as herself, alongwith 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. Its sequel ran from 1986 to 1988.

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