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Tributes after Yes Minister writer Sir Antony Jay dies aged 86

Published 24/08/2016

Comedy writer Sir Antony Jay, who has died at the age of 86
Comedy writer Sir Antony Jay, who has died at the age of 86

Sir Antony Jay's Yes Minister co-writer Jonathan Lynn has said he has "no bad memories" of their long friendship.

The political comedy writer died on Sunday at the age of 86 after a long illness.

The pair teamed up to create hit BBC 1980s comedies Yes Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister, starring Paul Eddington, Sir Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Fowlds.

Lynn, 73, said he had first considered Sir Antony's idea to write a comedy about the Civil Service "dull", but came around to the idea a few years later.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he said: " We were very, very good friends. Tony was someone I was immensely fond of.

"We didn't really agree about a great many things. He was a right-wing Conservative and I would describe myself as left-leaning."

However, he added: "There weren't any bad memories, except about his illness. We didn't have a cross word in 30-something years, we always got along well, we only had a good time."

Conservative politician Michael Dobbs, who wrote the original novel House Of Cards, said Sir Antony had patiently helped him when he started out as a writer.

He praised Yes Minister as " a programme that could actually engage the attention of Margaret Thatcher," explaining: "She never watched television, she didn't have time, yet Yes Minister was one of her favourite programmes."

On Lynn and Sir Antony's collaboration, he added: "Those two, they really got to the heart of what really goes on in Whitehall and Westminster."

A representative told the Press Association on Tuesday: "Sir Antony Jay CVO CBE died peacefully on Sunday evening after a long illness. He was surrounded by his wife and family."

The writer's distinguished career included scripting documentaries Royal Family and Elizabeth R: A Year In The Life Of A Queen, for which he was appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) for personal services to the Royal Family.

Sir Antony began his career in the BBC's current affairs department and was a founding member of the Tonight team, later becoming editor of the programme in 1962.

He authored several management books and founded management and sales training film company Video Arts alongside John Cleese and two colleagues in 1972.

Earlier this month, he reunited with Lynn on a new Yes Minister sketch inspired by Brexit for The Guardian.

Fowlds, who starred as Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley in Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, told the Press Association that working on the shows had been "seven years of heaven".

"I felt very privileged and honoured to be part of that group. We had seven wonderful years together. Sir Antony Jay was a genius, quite frankly - I was totally in awe of him," he said.

"He was very charming, a real true gent. I adored the man.

"I saw him two or three years ago. He seemed a little frail. I thought he had rallied so this was a bit of a shock."

He added: "Seeing some of the episodes today, I think that they still hold up. They're up to date. They're genius.

"With the script, you didn't have to do anything because they were quite brilliant. It was seven years of heaven to be involved in that show.

"I'll always remember his wit, his genius, his warmth and fun. He had a brilliant mind."

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