hard heads soft hearts
Wednesday, June 05, 2002
an excerpt from "The Complete Yes Prime Minister", by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay
"The first rule of politics is Never Believe Anything Until It's Been Officially Denied". . .
"We both agreed that either Eric or Duncan would present the same problem. They are both interventionists and would both have foolish notions of running the country themselves if they became Prime Miniser. The Chief Whip is also worried that whichever gets the job will antagonize the other one's supporters and split the party. A very real fear, in my view. As this could lead to a period of real instability and change, two things we wish to avoid at all costs, it is clearly advisable to look for a compromise candidate.
We agreed that the ideal candidate must have the following qualities: he must be malleable, flexible, likeable, have no firm opinions, no bright ideas, not be intellectually committed, and be without the strength of purpose to change anything. Above all, he must be someone whom we know can be professionally guided, and who is willing to leave the business of government in the hands of the experts.". . .
"`It's pretty difficult,' I said. `We're looking for someone pretty remarkable - a potential Prime Minister. Someone who's sound' The Cabinet Secretary and the Chief Whip looked at me politely, waiting for my suggestion. But I was not willing to suggest myself, just in case I'd misread the signs.
Finally, Jeffrey spoke. `Have you considered doing the job yourself?'
I pretended to be completely astonished. `Me?'. . .
But Jeffrey said there was a fly in the ointment. `You are a bit of an outsider. Unless you can stage-manage some sort of public sucess in the next few days.' I suggested that I merely start campaigning, and let people know I want the job.
`Quite the reverse, I think,' said Jeffrey. `Better to let people know you don't want it.' I wondered if that would be enough. Jeffrey and Sir Humphrey were quite sure it would be provided that I let *everybody* know that I don't want it. Jeffrey offered to manage my campaign. If anyone asks me, I am simply to say that I have no ambitions in that direction.
And if anyone tries to trap me by asking if I'd *refuse* to stand, Humphrey advised me that on previous occasions a generally acceptable answer has been that, while one does not seek the office, one has pledged oneself to the service of one's country and if one's colleagues persuaded one that that was the best way one could serve, one might reluctantly have to accept the responsibility, whatever one's private wishes might be [I wrote it down at the time]."