13 May 2011
Sir Humphrey’s roads
Rob Fisher

I am currently watching the second series of Yes, Minister on DVD. This is a scene from the episode, Doing the Honours.

Hacker: How much further?

Bernard: A few minutes. This M40 is a very good road.

Hacker: Hm. So’s the M4. I wonder why we’ve got two really good roads to Oxford before we got any to Southampton or Dover or Lowestoft or any of the ports.

Bernard: Well nearly all our permanent secretaries went to Oxford, Minister. And most Oxford colleges give very good dinners.

Hacker: And the cabinet let them get away with it?

Bernard: Certainly not, they put their foot down. They said no motorway to take civil servants to dinners in Oxford unless there was a motorway to take cabinet ministers hunting in the shires. That’s why when the M1 was built in the ‘50s it stopped in the middle of Leicestershire.

Hacker: Oh, come on Bernard! Well what about the M11? That’s only just been completed. Don’t Cambridge colleges give as good dinners as Oxford?

Bernard: Oh yes of course, Minister, but it’s years and years since the Department of Transport have had a permanent secretary from Cambridge.

I wonder how much truth there is in it.

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