“A Prime Minister is the only top job that does not require past work experiences,” said Sir Humphrey, the prime minister’s permanent secretary, reflecting the cynical view of an old appointed bureaucrat deeply rooted within the British civil service. In watching the play Yes Prime Minister in one of the old and small theaters of London, Gielgud, one observes the conflict between civil servants and politicians, resulting from their conflicting views and backgrounds. A civil servant like Sir Humphrey is likely to have served many prime ministers knowing the rules of the game fully and totally disinterested in public appeal for him self, unlike the prime minister whose political future is at stake.
Sir Humphrey like a lot of other civil servants elsewhere knows how to please his superiors using sophisticated rhetoric. A direct question does not necessitate a direct answer. He has developed over the years of his experience an exceptional ability of drawing a distinction between his opinion about his superiors and his role in flattering and providing close advice. This prime minister is like all his predecessor incompetent prime ministers, they are not made to run the country. They are mere puppets to do what they are asked to do from their civil servants.
Sir Humphrey’s lack of trust towards the prime minister reaches the extent of which he asks his principal private secretary to physically damage his blackberry sim-card, which is helping him in communication, and thus may be a tool in helping him run the country which is not a fortunate scenario to both secretaries. The prime minister’s actions and talk throughout the play reflect his ignorance, hesitation and lack of both confidence and competence.
At the mid of the play a moral dilemma occurs, whereby the Prime Minister’s competence is at risk, and the entire office’s morals are proven feeble. In an exchange for a 10 trillion dollars oil pipeline supply deal with the so-called country Komranistan they are required to provide Kormanistan’s foreign secretary with a perverted ‘treat’; a teenage girl for the night. The consequence of this request is the core of the drama and comedy that are to take place for the rest of the play.
In the events of the play flattering politicians, customizing rhetoric to legitimize hidden agendas and deceitful deeds and actions are some of the characteristics among others that were portrayed in a comic way in criticism to the British political and governmental system. After watching the play it becomes possible to accept that even the so-called democratic virtuous system of ‘Great Britain’ that has occupied our textbooks during college years as the classic parliamentary system, a mentor to all other parliamentary systems suffer from the same problems as the rest of the world.
The ‘symptoms’ of incompetent political leaders, corruption in political offices, lies that have probably been invented by politicians, immoral actions and decisions are not peculiar to the British political system or to any other system elsewhere. There is not a single government amid the financial turmoil that did not claim that they were the best to recover from the crisis. Political leaders of the most affected countries by the financial crisis would claim without stumbling that they owned the most resilient financial systems. A vicious cycle of lies, an everlasting conflict of interest between civil servants and politicians, significant conflicts between deeds and words are all common characteristics for most of governments of the world. The real major difference between governments does not lie within governments or political systems as much as it lies within the checks and balances system that surrounds the system.
At the beginning of the play the Prime Minister’s principal secretary questions in disbelief “Why on earth would one choose to be a prime minister?” which resembles the hardship involved in holding a public office. The prime minister was the most infuriated throughout the play due to the excessive scrutiny he is put under from the media. If the lie uttered from the political leader is confronted with BBC’s hard talks, and the decision taken is closely analyzed and heavily criticized by the Economist, and the mere rumor about the Prime Minister’s office is published in the Daily Mail. If University students could represent a real threat to the political system and civil society organizations are the first to jump at the throat of the political leader in any wrong doing. If the right checks and balances system occurs represented in the media, journalism and all the other means, political villains are likely to remain contained.
A political leader in a developed political system is continuously under scrutiny and criticism. If he goes right, there will be those demanding a change in his orientation, and if he goes left the rightists will stand in his way. A whole process of an effect and counter effect, with all entities in the civil society seeking to demand their rights fully produces an end result that is likely to develop a mature political system. The business community should defend their capital rights aggressively, the journalists should demand their freedom rights fully, human rights organizations should be alert at each violation, writers should write extensively from all streamlines. It is only when the surrounding civil society and opposition is well substantiated do we reach political maturity. In which case it will be hard for the political leader to stay more than his terms allow, even if the constitution or state laws allow for indefinite rule. The leader is at the end a human being, and there is no human being capable of tolerating this amount of scrutiny and criticism for more than the ones allotted in developed nations. This in my humble opinion is the route to political development.