Some Yes, Minister light relief on a Monday morning

  • September 27, 2010 10:21
  • Katy Scholes

For a bit of light relief on a rather drab Monday morning, we thought we'd post a classic exchange between Yes Minister's Sir Humphrey and Bernard Woolley to put a smile on everyone's faces!

Sir Humphrey: Now go in there and inform me of their conversation.
Bernard Woolley: I'm not sure I can do that, Sir Humphrey. It might be confidential.
Sir Humphrey: Bernard, the matter at issue is the defence of the realm and the stability of the government.
Bernard Woolley: But you only need to know things on a need-to-know basis.
Sir Humphrey: I need to know everything! How else can I judge whether or not I need to know it?
Bernard Woolley: So that means you need to know things even when you don't need to know. You need to know them not because you need to know them, but because you need to know whether or not you need to know. And if you don't need to know you still need to know, so that you know there is no need to know.

Got your own favourite Yes, Minister quote? Let us know and enter our fantastic competition and you could win tickets to see the Yes, Prime Minister play at London's Gielgud theatre!

For more quotes, facts, titbits, lists and tips, check out The Yes Minister Miscellany by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, available from the Biteback website, priced £6.99.


The boom in coverage of the baby-boomers

  • September 24, 2010 17:09
  • Katy Scholes

In the latest issue of Total Politics magazine, “self-hating boomer” David Willetts MP argues that the baby-boomer generation (those born between 1945 and 1965) have been, and continue to be, selfish in failing to pass the riches their generation bore to their successors.

Another article this week, this time in the Evening Standard, relayed figures showing the high pressure that ageing baby boomers are expected to place on the Dept. Of Work and Pensions as well as on health and social services in London.

Never one to miss a trick, Francis Beckett, author of What Did the Baby Boomers Ever Do For Us?, makes a solid case in his book - and in person at the RSA launch event for it - for why the benefits that the baby boomers enjoyed have been denied to the youth of today.

Though there is some ambiguity over the parameters of the boom (Beckett limits it to those born between 1945 and 1955), this isn’t an argument that’s showing signs of slowing down. As the boomers retire and their children take the reins on the deficit and try to get to grips with its consequences, the issue will remain a contentious one.

So brush up on the generation blame game now and get your copy of What Did the Baby Boomers Ever Do For Us? for £12.99 here.


The Yes Minister Miscellany by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn

  • September 23, 2010 17:36
  • Katy Scholes

"Yes Minister was more than a sit-com, it was a crash course in Contemporary Political Studies - it opened the lid on the way the Government operated. It remains the most quintessentially British of the British sitcoms." Arnando Iannucci

Coinciding with our fantastic competition to win tickets to see Yes, Prime Minister at London's Gielgud Theatre, Biteback's Yes Minister Miscellany is out now in paperback.

Yes Minister, together with its sequel Yes Prime Minister, is one of the most popular and critically successful British sitcoms of all time, largely due to its fascinatingly accurate observations of the sparring between Paul Eddington's naive minister, Jim Hacker, and Nigel Hawthorne's infernally cunning Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby. Highly influential, the programme has coloured the way we look at politics today, and how politicians see themselves.

This brilliantly funny book includes lists of interesting and little-known facts about the series; Sir Humphrey's finest obfuscations; how to be a civil servant; translating civil service speak; how to stall a minister; and other essential tips from the show. Introduced by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, (also behind the Gielgud's wonderful new show) the Yes Minister Miscellany also includes important dates, classic scenes, and the legendary Margaret Thatcher sketch in its entirety. This is the perfect book for fans of great British comedy!

The Yes Minister Miscellany by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn is available to buy from the Biteback website, priced £6.99

Don't forget to enter our terrific competition to win tickets to see Yes, Prime Minister!!


Talking to a Brick Wall - a "must-read" - so we felt we must tell you!

  • September 22, 2010 15:43
  • Katy Scholes

"Deborah Mattinson's book goes beyond the soap opera of New Labour to explain its inner mechanics, the decline of the Brown years and - crucially - what the public really thought. A very important and hugely intelligent political text, and a must-read for anyone with an interest in how politics and popular opinion interact."

- Matthew D'Ancona

Talking To A Brick Wall is available now from Biteback for £17.99


Brought to Book: Jo Phillips

  • September 22, 2010 11:22
  • Katy Scholes

Stepping away from the world of trade unions, Jo Phillips reflects on seventeenth century diarists, fiesty tomboys and a slight bias towards West Ham fans...

What is your favourite book?
The Diaries of Samuel Pepys. My absolute, all time, if I only had one book, choice. There is something so utterly compelling about the intimacy of the ordinary yet it opens up seventeenth century London in a way that is so true and personal. In the midst of witnessing astonishing historical events, are the details of bad food, clothes, the weather and the daily life of London. A reminder of how long and hard it was to get anywhere, to write after dark by candlelight, to stay clean and yet there is an overwhelming joi de vivre which is infectious and uplifting. A couple of years ago, I was driving to Italy and the friend I was with had bought Pepys Diaries read by Kenneth Branagh - so utterly, utterly boring we gave up by the time we got to Dover. That's no reflection on the abilities of Mr Branagh but I think Pepys wrote a book to read, to keep by the bedside, keep in a travel bag but not to be read aloud.

As a child, what was your favourite book?
I am of the Enid Blyton generation and loved all the Famous Five, Mallory Towers and the rest. Adored Swallows and Amazons, Beatrix Potter, Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan and hated Grimm's Fairy Tales but for a while was completely hooked on the Jill books by Ruby Ferguson, all about ponies and gymkhanas. Childhood books fall into the categories of those that are read to you and those you read yourself and I think it's when you start reading yourself and lose yourself in a book that the magic sets in so it would have to be Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and I can remember reading that in bed right now. <!--more-->

What book would you take on holiday this year?
I haven't taken a holiday yet and am spending every spare minute creating a garden so my reading ranges from Geoff Hamilton and Beth Chatto to Getrude Jekyll and much in between. When I do go away later this year, I shall do my own Long List, consult friends and colleagues, and hope to end up with the best possible mix of Books You Should Read When You Have Time to Do It Properly.

Do you have a favourite political book/biography?
The Prime Minister: the office and its holders since 1945 by Peter Hennessy. Peter is a wonderful writer and a brilliant communicator because he is above all, an enthusiast for his subject and so he shares his enthusiasm and thus his knowledge generously. He's also a West Ham fan. I'm also a great admirer of Peter Oborne (also a West Ham fan) who is an elegant and thoughtful writer and I think everyone should read Why Politicians Lie.

Which book published in the last ten years do you think is the most significant?
Not just because he was once my boss but I think Paddy Ashdown's Diaries are significant and in time, will be seen as even more so. Paddy was meticulous about his diaries and is totally honest. His personal integrity and humanity shines through the diaries but for anyone interested in British politics, the Ashdown Diaries also shine a very probing light on our political system, Tony Blair and his coterie and the daily challenges of trying to be a decent politician. If, as the old saying goes, "the personal is political" then Paddy's Diaries manage to show why.

Which literary character would you most like to be?
Always wanted to be George in the Famous Five, Jo in Little Women - independent, slight tomboy, bit of a busybody so guess I'm heading towards Miss Marple with secatures in hand!

Jo Phillips is the co-author of Why Join a Trade Union?, which is available to buy from the Biteback website.