Friday, 22 February 2008

From the Heritage Bunker (Episode 7)

Minister: Ah, Sir Humphrey. Have you seen this report in the newspapers?

Sir Humphrey: Which report would that be, Minister?

Minister: This report about the collapse of the Gaelic daily newspaper in Belfast.

Sir Humphrey: Indeed I have. Quite inevitable of course – the only surprising thing is that it lasted as long as it did.

Minister: You mean you knew that it would fail?

Sir Humphrey: Of course, Minister. The funding arrangements were completely inadequate - £200,000 a year was never going to be enough to sustain it.

Minister: But that’s exactly the amount we’ve said that we’ll make available in Wales!

Sir Humphrey: Quite so, Minister, quite so.

Minister: And just last week, I praised this newspaper, saying it was a good example!

Sir Humphrey: Indeed, you did Minister. The timing is rather unfortunate in the circumstances.

Minister: Unfortunate! That’s something of an understatement isn’t it? I’m in danger of looking like a complete fool!

Sir Humphrey: Do you believe that there is anything which the civil service could ever do to prevent that, Minister?

Minister: Well, you could have warned me, to start with.

Bernard: But if you had known that the paper was about to collapse because of lack of funds, you would have known that the amount we were offering here was completely inadequate as well. Then you would have looked like a dishonest complete fool. Er, that is, I mean…

Sir Humphrey: Thank you Bernard. We didn’t actually know for certain when it would collapse, Minister. And the Consultant’s report did note that the paper was already asking for extra funding – it was in the third footnote on page 1,325. Did you not read that?

Minister: If I read everything that you gave me, I’d never have time for anything else.

Sir Humphrey: Precisely, Minister.

Minister: Anyway, what do I do next? My friends are deserting me, and I'm being attacked on all sides.

Sir Humphrey: We are your friends, Minister. And we’re not deserting you, are we, Bernard?

Bernard: Of course not, Minister. You may look like a complete fool to others, but we know the truth.

Sir Humphrey: Thank you, Bernard. What do you think we should do next, Minister?

Minister: Me? I usually rely on you to tell me. Surely there’s something we can do to draw attention away from this issue?

Sir Humphrey: Ah, yes, diversionary tactics. That was one of your predecessor’s favourite approaches, too. I think we have some good news for you there, Minister. We’re quite close to completing the work on the new language legislation; I'm sure that we'll be able to announce something soon.

Minister: You mean something like, ‘Minister announces the most sweeping extensions to language rights in history’?

Sir Humphrey: Well, we may need to change the tone slightly, Minister, but you will certainly be able to announce something.

Minister: Excellent. Thank you Sir Humphrey. Get on to it right away.

Sir Humphrey: Yes, Minister.

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