The Patron of the Arts

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"The Patron of the Arts"
Yes, Prime Minister episode
Episode no. Series 2
Episode 6
Written by Antony Jay
Jonathan Lynn
Produced by Sydney Lotterby
Original air date 14 January 1988
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Power to the People"
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"The National Education Service"
List of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister episodes

"The Patron of the Arts" is the fourteenth episode of the BBC comedy series Yes, Prime Minister and was first broadcast 14 January 1988.


Jim Hacker is in a quandary. Upon the recommendation of his Press Secretary, Bill Pritchard, he has accepted an invitation as guest of honour at the annual British Theatre Awards dinner. However, the size of next year's grant to the Arts Council is less than expected and, as the event is to be televised live with a potential audience of 12 million, the Prime Minister is concerned that he will be ridiculed in the speech to be given by Simon Monk, managing director of the National Theatre. He asks Sir Humphrey Appleby for his advice, and it transpires that the Cabinet Secretary has a vested interest as he is on the National Theatre's board of governors. He tells Hacker that there is no point in trying to ingratiate himself with those from the arts because, as Prime Minister, most believe he is there to be mocked. When Hacker asks why he should give them money in the first place, Sir Humphrey replies that despite the fact that nobody is interested in them, the arts are part of the nation's heritage and "as long as they're going on, you can feel part of a civilised nation." The PM suggests that Sir Humphrey has a quiet word with Monk, the managing director of the National Theatre.

Sir Humphrey dines with Monk, who wishes to know the amount of the grant. Sir Humphrey refuses to disclose it in advance but manages to reveal it by strategically moving quantities of breadsticks around the table. This equates to only £1.5 million for the National Theatre from only £6 million for the Arts Council as a whole. Monk is exasperated and asks for Sir Humphrey's help. The mandarin responds that he is there to represent the PM's interests and that there are certain things that could upset him. Sir Humphrey goes into great detail, lest they should be referred to "by mistake" in Monk's speech — and Monk is only too pleased to make a note of them.

Hacker hosts a large cocktail party at 10 Downing Street in the hope of gaining some support. His Minister for the Arts advises him to increase the grant, but the PM is against it. Meanwhile, Simon Monk is with Sir Humphrey, wondering if he ought not to wait for the amount to be published before lobbying Hacker. The Cabinet Secretary advises the opposite: if the figure is published, the government would be committed to it and could not change it thereafter. The PM finds himself cornered by a group of guests, who waste no time in politely quizzing him on his theatrical knowledge (or lack of it). Bernard spots that Hacker is besieged and Sir Humphrey steps in to rescue him. He introduces the PM to Simon Monk, who takes the opportunity to state his intentions regarding the awards dinner. He lists examples of wasteful government expenditure that he will refer to in a humorous vein in his speech if his grant is not increased.

Hacker meets with Bernard and his political advisor, Dorothy Wainwright, to try to find a solution. The latter suggests calling Monk's bluff and selling the site of the National Theatre on London's South Bank, on the grounds that nearly half of its annual grant is spent on the upkeep of the buildings. This would release finance to be spent on productions that could then be staged all over Britain, thus making it a truly National Theatre, Monk himself having claimed that theatre should be "about plays and actors not about bricks and mortar". Hacker is delighted with this idea and gloats that They wouldn't be able to call me the Philistine in 10 Downing Street, then, on which claim Dorothy Wainwright observes that it would also be necessary that they not have met him.

At the awards dinner, Hacker uses Dorothy's advice as a veiled threat to Monk if he continues with his planned speech. Monk is incensed as he feels there must be a base for the National Theatre, to which Hacker offers a second proposal, which is to rename subsidised theatres outside London as 'National Theatres'. This would make the National Theatre a truly national institution—and would reduce Monk to merely the director of the London branch of the National Theatre. Sir Humphrey calls the whole thing "barbarism", but the PM knows that his proposals would be greatly popular with the artistic community. Hacker notes that he is making his speech immediately after Monk's and hints that he will not reveal these proposals if Monk removes the humiliating material from his own speech.

The awards dinner goes ahead, and Monk refrains from criticising Hacker, instead expressing his gratitude for such a grant at a time of "national stringency". He then proposes a toast to the Patron of the Arts, the Prime Minister.

Episode cast[edit]

Actor Role
Paul Eddington Jim Hacker
Nigel Hawthorne Sir Humphrey Appleby
Derek Fowlds Bernard Woolley
John Bird Simon Monk
Deborah Norton Dorothy Wainwright
Antony Carrick Bill Pritchard
Diana Hoddinott Annie Hacker
Geoffrey Beevers Minister for the Arts
Martin Milman Party Guest
Myfanwy Talog Party Guest
David Rose Party Guest

External links[edit]

"The Patron of the Arts" on IMDb