James Bond, Humphrey Appleby, Terri Coverly – who's the greatest ever fictional civil servant?

Written by Jess Bowie & Jacqueline Tenreiro on 22 October 2015 in Culture
Culture

Many of the world’s most famous government officials never actually existed. As the legendary crown servant James Bond returns to our screens in Spectre, we profile some more made-up mandarins – and invite you to vote for your favourite. Illustrations by John Levers

James Bond 007

The name? Bond, James Bond.
First appearance: Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel, Casino Royale
Age: CLASSIFIED
Place of origin: CLASSIFIED
Job: Royal Navy Commander, CMG, RNVR, and Senior Operational Officer 
Department: 00 Branch 
Organisation: MI6
Interests: Gadgets, women, cigarettes and martinis (shaken, not stirred)
Key information: Bond – equipped with both licence and looks to kill – jets across the globe on missions of national security
Most likely to say: “Only M would have me court-martialed for illegal use of government equipment.”


 

Name: Arthur Weasley 
First appearance: JK Rowling’s novel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Age: 65(ish)
Place of origin: Ottery St. Catchpole, Devon 
Department: Misuse of Muggle Artefacts
Organisation: Ministry of Magic
Interests: Muggles, flying cars, spending time with family, wizard equality
Key information: While working for the Ministry of Magic, Arthur worked on the Muggle Protection Act, which helped keep non-magic people safe from the dangers of anti-muggle discrimination.
Most likely to say: “Tell me, what exactly is the function of a rubber duck?”


Name: Diana Prince
First appearance: Issue 1 of Sensation Comics, 1942
Age: 23
Place of origin: Themyscira
Job: Prior to her position as an agent who polices dangerous metahumans, Diana has been an Army nurse, intelligence officer, astronaut and UN employee, to name a few.  
Organisation: Department of Metahuman Affairs
Interests: Lassos, feminism
Key information: Diana Prince is the alter-ego of superhero Wonder Woman, a persona she adopted after she realised she wanted a life away from the fame of her heroics. During her time as an agent in the Department of Metahuman Affairs, her mission is – ironically enough – to capture Wonder Woman.
Most likely to say: “I know who raised me… and what I was raised to do.”


Name: John Frobisher 
First appearance: Russell T Davies’ TV drama Torchwood
Age: Actor Peter Capaldi was 51 when he began playing John Frobisher 
Job: Permanent secretary since 2003. The 90s were spent working as director of crime control policy
Organisation: Home Office
Interests: Aliens
Key information: Considered dispensable by the government, John Frobisher served as a liaison for the collusion between 456, a drug-dealing alien race, and the British government. Things went further downhill when he ordered the assassination of all individuals involved with the group, including Torchwood’s Captain Jack Harkness.
Most likely to say: “I’ve been authorised to offer you one child for every million people on planet Earth. That’s about 6,700 in total.”


Name: Natalie 
First appearance: The 2003 film Love Actually
Age: Late 20s 
Place of origin: Wandsworth (the dodgy end)
Job: The prime minister’s tea lady 
Organisation: Number 10 
Interests: Politics, sort of
Key information: Natalie is a new member of the prime minister’s household staff, more specifically the one who serves his tea and biscuits. Her first meeting with the PM could have gone better: she referred to him by his first name and accidentally let slip a few expletives. It can’t have been that bad, though, since she still got to snog him at the end.
Most likely to say: “I did have an awful premonition that I was gonna f--- up on the first day... Oh, piss it!”



Name: Terri Coverly 
First appearance: First episode of Armando Iannucci’s political satire The Thick of It
Age: Actor Joanna Scanlan was 44 when she took on the role in 2005
Job: Director of communications
Department: The Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship (DoSAC, formerly the DSA)
Interests: Call the Midwife (has been known to hum the theme tune during meetings), leaving on time, getting her dog on Britain’s Got Talent
Key information: Was formerly head of press for Waitrose. Has survived five secretaries of state, but still dreams of jacking it all in and opening a teashop in Ludlow.
Most likely to say: “I’m sorry if you think I’m being obstructive but I cannot and I will not do as you ask.”


Name: Alfred Jones 
First appearance: The 2007 novel, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Age: Actor Ewan McGregor was 40 when he played Dr Alfred Jones in the 2011 film adaptation of the book
Job: Fisheries expert 
Department: National Centre for Fisheries Excellence
Organisation: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Interests: Salmon
Key information: Fisheries expert Alfred Jones is contacted by Harriet, a financial adviser whose wealthy client has the unlikely idea of bringing fly-fishing to the Yemen desert. Dr Jones resists, but the FCO and the prime minister have their own reasons for wanting the scheme to go ahead...
Most likely to say: “When things get tricky in my life, I talk to my fish.”

 



Name: Tracy Jacks 
First appearance: In the 1994 Blur song ‘Tracy Jacks’
Age: He’s getting past 40
Place of origin: Just a train ride from Walton
Job: “Works in civil service”
Interests: He’s a golfing fanatic (but his putt is erratic)
Key information: Tracy Jacks is a highly dissatisfied civil servant, who ultimately gives up on his “steady employment” and has something of a mental breakdown – complete with running around in the nude and bulldozing down his home
Most likely to say: “It’s just so overrated!”



Name: Winston Smith
First appearance: George Orwell’s novel, 1984
Age: 39
Place of origin: Oceania
Job: Clerk
Department: Department of Records
Organisation: Ministry of Truth
Interests: Revolution, rebellion, books and gin
Key information: Though working for a totalitarian government as re-writer of historical documents, Winston dreams of revolution and freedom. In secret, his political curiosity drives him to learn more about his oppressive government and perform acts of rebellion.
Most likely to say: “Down with Big Brother” are the famous words Winston repeatedly scrawled in his diary


Name: Humphrey Appleby
​First appearance: ‘Open Government’ episode of the seminal Whitehall sitcom Yes, Minister
Age: The late Sir Nigel Hawthorne was 48 when he began playing the part of Sir Humphrey
Place of origin: Haslemere, Surrey
Job: Permanent secretary; cabinet secretary 
Organisation: Department of Administrative Affairs, later the Cabinet Office
Interests: Preserving the status quo 
Key information: Sir Humphrey is known for his elitism, his deviousness, and his ability to deploy deliberately obfuscating language when talking to his minister Jim Hacker in order achieve the outcome he desires 
Most likely to say: “Diplomacy is about surviving until the next century – politics is about surviving until Friday afternoon.”

Vote here for your favourite fictional civil servant – or tell us who we've missed!

Like this article? Try our handy guide to Whitehall jargon, or find out what it's really like being a government press officer

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