Sir Humphrey Appleby; "Well, briefly Sir, I am the Permanent Under Secretary of State, known as the Permanent Secretary. Woolley here is your Principal Private Secretary. I, too have a Principal Private Secretary who is Principal Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary. Directly responsible to me are 10 Deputy Secretaries and 87 Under Secretaries and 219 Assistant Secretaries. Directly responsible to the Principal Private Secretary are plain Private Secretaries, and the Prime Minister will be appointing two Parliamentary Under Secretaries and you will be appointing your own Parliamentary Private Secretary."
When James Hacker asked whether any of them could type, Sir Humphrey replied "None of us can type, Mrs Mackay types. She is the secretary."
Reason this 'gem' came to mind (or rather to that of No 1 son, Edward who sent it to me today) was that this week I became a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Welsh Office. I don't think this makes me a part of 'the Government', but it does make me a part of 'the Ministerial team'. I also believe that its often interpreted as the "first rung on the greasy pole" - as John Prescott might say. Anyway, you know what I mean. Now I'm not the sort to get carried away by this sort of thing, but I do think this is rather pleasing.
OK you cynics. I know what you think - and it surely does mean the sacrifice of a degree of freedom. I can't vote against the Government (already told the Chief Whip I wouldn't - so no burden there) and it probably means a certain trimming of opinion at the edges. I see it as a trade of some 'independence' (inevitable) for some 'influence' (hopeful). And after all, its for 'influence' that many of us enter the black world of politics. Or is this the triumph of hope over realism?
Don't know precisely what this new job entails - except that by convention I do not sign EDMs, or be a member of a select Committee. But its bound to give me a role in delivering the referendum on Assembly law making powers programmed for next March. Despite my resolution on entering national politics that I would not be influenced by any desire for 'advancement' or 'preferment', I do feel rather honoured and uplifted.