Sunday, 3 March 2013

Yes Minister: Who Watches the Watchmen?

[Although this has one similar element to another Yes, Minister sketch I posted here, I thought it worth publishing. It was inspired by the Government's decision not to follow through with mandatory porn filters at ISPs. I have to suspect there's a little glimmer of truth behind the fiction. This time, to honour the recent Yes Prime Minister theatrical production, I've put it in stage play layout, not the usual teleplay format.]


JIM HACKER at his desk. Enter SIR HUMPHREY APPLEBY, trying to balance smugness and sympathy, and not altogether succeeding.

SIR HUMPHREY: Bad news, Minister. Apparently, the Internet Service Providers are up in arms about your new censorship initiative.

JIM HACKER: Censorship?

SH: The, um, sensitive-site blocking proposals?

JH: Oh, the child protection measures!

SH: Quite so, Minister.

JH: Well, what are they complaining about this time? The last time I spoke to them, they were whinging about how porn was using so much of their - uh -

SH: Bandwidth?

JH: Bandwidth, yes - that they couldn't afford their power bills!

SH: The last time you spoke to them, Minister, was just before the previous Election.

JH: That's as it may be, Sir Humphrey, but why have they changed their tune so suddenly?

SH: Bandwidth has become cheaper in the past few years Minister. But then you - sorry, the present Government - passed legislation forcing them to store every web search, email and file request. For every user. For a decade. I think they might have taken it a little personally.

JH: Heavens above! Is it that big a thing, blocking porn unless the customer opts in?

Sir Humphrey waits for the penny to drop. It remains stubbornly aloft.

SH: It might be wise not to antagonise the ISPs, Minister.

JH: Why on Earth not?

SH: That new legislation...let us imagine a situation, Minister, where a Minister's internet records were obtained by, say, the journalist friend of an ISP's aggrieved CEO? And published?

JH: I see what you mean, Sir Humphrey. I'm sure my own records would be quite unimpeachable -

SH: An interesting choice of words, Minister.

JH: - yes, well, um...but there might be others...

SH: Indeed.

JH: So what do we do? If that's what's at stake, how can we stop it now? It's policy!

SH: Perhaps, if I might suggest...a public consultation?

JH: Hmmm?

SH: There's already something of an upswell against the proposals. Canvass the public, gather the views, then cancel the policy as a demonstration of popular democracy in action.

JH: Sir Humphrey - that's...genius! Do it!

SH: Yes Minister.