How life imitates Yes, Minister

You might have noticed by now that I have a slight obsession with Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. If I ruled the world (or, less ambitiously, if I controlled the curriculum) I would have pupils watch it in schools, so it could be a “crash-course” in British politics and how government works.

After highlighting how James Hacker must be the inspiration behind Zac Goldsmith’s recent interview, I recently saw something else that struck me with its similarities to Yes, Minister. (Of course, this whole government has been an eleven-week run of The Economy Drive from the show’s first series.) Via this Julian Glover article:

On the Treasury website there is a little list of ideas for cuts, picked from 60,000 sent in by public workers. The second suggestion is that “office stationery orders should be centralised”. Poor things. A few discount staples won’t save them.

Which reminded me of a scene in A Question of Loyalty, where Hacker is called before the select committee to explain various examples of government waste. Betty Oldham MP brandishes a book by a former civil servant who complains that all orders of stationary have to be placed centrally, with Hacker’s Ministry for Administrative Affairs. Then a conversation like this ensues (I’m quoting from memory here):

Hacker: That seems quite sensible. There can be great savings to be made with bulk ordering.

Oldham: He then goes on to demonstrate that it would be four times cheaper for civil servants to simply buy what they wanted from the local stationary shop.

I’ve no idea whether central ordering of staples will help cut the deficit or not, but as Glover indicates, it feels a bit like trying to put out an inferno by peeing on it.

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