Yes, Minister

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Yes, Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister are British television shows that were broadcast between 1980 and 1988. All episodes were written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. The principal cast is as follows:

Contents

Yes, Minister[edit]

Series One (1980)[edit]

Episode One: Open Government[edit]

Jim Hacker: I'd like a new chair. I hate swivel chairs.
Bernard Woolley: It used to be said there were two kinds of chairs to go with two kinds of Minister: one sort folds up instantly; the other sort goes round and round in circles.

Hacker: Who else is in this department?
Sir Humphrey: 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 and he is the Principal Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary. Directly responsible to me are ten Deputy Secretaries, 87 Under Secretaries and 219 Assistant Secretaries. Directly responsible to the Principal Private Secretaries 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.
Hacker: Can they all type?
Sir Humphrey: None of us can type. Mrs Mackay types: she's the secretary.
Minister: Pity, we could have opened an agency.
Sir Humphrey: Very droll, Minister.
Hacker: I suppose they all say that, do they?
Sir Humphrey: Certainly not, Minister. Not quite all...

Bernard: But surely the citizens of a democracy have a right to know.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: No. They have a right to be ignorant. Knowledge only means complicity in guilt; ignorance has a certain dignity.

Episode Two: The Official Visit[edit]

[There are two official replies to the Minister's correspondence.]
Jim Hacker: What's the difference?
Bernard: Well, "under consideration" means "we've lost the file"; "under active consideration" means "we're trying to find it".

[The President of Buranda plans a speech urging the Scots and Irish to fight against "British colonialism".]
Jim Hacker: Humphrey, do you think it is a good idea to issue a statement?
Sir Humphrey: Well, Minister, in practical terms we have the usual six options:
  • One: do nothing.
  • Two: issue a statement deploring the speech.
  • Three: lodge an official protest.
  • Four: cut off aid.
  • Five: break off diplomatic relations.
  • And six: declare war.
Hacker: Which should be it?
Sir Humphrey: Well:
  • If we do nothing, that means we implicitly agree with the speech.
  • If we issue a statement, we'll just look foolish.
  • If we lodge a protest, it'll be ignored.
  • We can't cut off aid, because we don't give them any.
  • If we break off diplomatic relations, then we can't negotiate the oil rig contracts.
  • And if we declare war, it might just look as though we were over-reacting!

Episode Three: The Economy Drive[edit]

[Frank Weisel is quoting an article in the Express about the fact that Inland Revenue has more employees than the Royal Navy.]
Frank Weisel: "Perhaps the government thinks that a tax is the best form of defence."

Hacker: How many people do we have in this department?
Sir Humphrey: Ummm... well, we're very small...
Hacker: Two, maybe three thousand?
Sir Humphrey: About twenty three thousand to be precise.
Hacker: TWENTY THREE THOUSAND! In the department of administrative affairs, twenty three thousand adminstrators just to administer the other administrators! We need to do a time-and-motion study, see who we can get rid of.
Sir Humphrey: Ah, well, we did one of those last year.
Hacker: And what were the results?
Sir Humphrey: It turned out that we needed another five hundred people.

[There is a government building with a reinforced concrete basement in case of a nuclear war.]
Sir Humphrey: There has to be somewhere to carry on government, even if everything else stops.
Hacker: Why?
Sir Humphrey: Well, government doesn't stop just because the country's been destroyed! I mean, annihilation’s bad enough without anarchy to make things even worse!
Hacker: You mean you'd have a lot of rebellious cinders.

Episode Four: Big Brother[edit]

The Minister is already double-booked when his wife reminds him of another prior engagement.]
Jim Hacker: [on the phone] Bernard? Yes, it's me. Look, I'm going to have to cancel tomorrow. Swansea and Newcastle. Well, you see, it's my wife's wedding anniversary tomorrow.
Annie: It's yours, too!
Hacker: And mine, too, actually. Yes, it is...What do you mean, "coincidence"? Don't be silly, Bernard!

[It is 2 a.m, and Hacker has just made a phone call to a sleepy Sir Humphrey.]
Hacker: [hangs up] Oh, damn! I meant to tell him to come and see me about it before Cabinet.
Annie: Don't ring him now!
Hacker: No, perhaps you're right. It is a bit late.
Annie: Give him another ten minutes.

Episode Five: The Writing on the Wall[edit]

Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it's worked so well?
Hacker: That's all ancient history, surely?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We 'had' to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn't work. Now that we're inside we can make a complete pig's breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it's just like old times.
Hacker: But surely we're all committed to the European ideal?
Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister.
Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?
Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It's just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes.
Hacker: What appalling cynicism.
Sir Humphrey: Yes... We call it diplomacy, Minister.

[The Foreign Secretary explains the Napoleon prize.]
Martin: Yes, it's a NATO award given once every five years: gold medal, big ceremony in Brussels, £100 000. The PM's the front runner this time. It's for the statesman who's made the biggest contribution to European unity.
Sir Humphrey: Since Napoleon, that is, if you don't count Hitler.

[The Minister tries and gets a straight answer out of Sir Humphrey Appleby.]
Jim Hacker: When you give your evidence to the Think Tank, are you going to support my view that the Civil Service is over manned and feather-bedded, or not? Yes or no? Straight answer.
Sir Humphrey: Well Minister, if you ask me for a straight answer, then I shall say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another in terms of the average of departments, then in the final analysis it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day, in general terms, you would probably find that, not to put too fine a point on it, there probably wasn't very much in it one way or the other. As far as one can see, at this stage.

Episode Six: The Right to Know[edit]

Hacker: Humphrey, do you see it as part of your job to help ministers make fools of themselves?
Sir Humphrey: Well, I never met one that needed any help.

Sir Humphrey: Minister, I have something to say to you which you may not like to hear.
Jim Hacker: Why should today be any different?
Sir Humphrey: Minister, the traditional allocation of executive responsibilities has always been so determined as to liberate the ministerial incumbent from the administrative minutiae by devolving the managerial functions to those whose experience and qualifications have better formed them for the performance of such humble offices, thereby releasing their political overlords for the more onerous duties and profound deliberations which are the inevitable concomitant of their exalted position.
Jim Hacker: I wonder what made you think I didn't want to hear that?

[How to guide ministers to making the right decisions]
Sir Humphrey: If you want to be really sure that the Minister doesn't accept it, you must say the decision is "courageous".
Bernard: And that's worse than "controversial"?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, yes! "Controversial" only means "this will lose you votes". "Courageous" means "this will lose you the election"!

[While going through the Minister's post]
Sir Humphrey: You know the rules, Bernard - if it is not marked "Private and Confidential" we are obliged to open it.
Bernard: What if it's marked "Daddy"?

[Humphrey tries to explain about Lucy's nude protest]
Sir Humphrey: The Minister's daughter is to be...that is to say, she will not be...
Hacker: Come on Humphrey, make a clean breast of it!
Sir Humphrey: An unfortunate turn of phrase, Minister.

Hacker: One: I am not a "badger-butcher". Two: badgers are not an endangered species. Three: the removal of protective status does not necessarily mean the badgers will be killed. Four: if a few badgers have to be sacrificed for the sake of a master plan that will save Britain's natural heritage - tough!
Lucy: [sarcastically gives a Nazi salute] Ze "master plan", mein Fuhrer! Ze end justifies ze means, does it?!

[After Sir Humphrey prevents Lucy's nude protest by telling her that the Hayward Spinney badger colony is non-existent]
Hacker: Humphrey, was there one word of truth in that whole story that you told Lucy?
Sir Humphrey: Minister, do you really want me to answer that question?
Hacker: [thinks uneasily] No, I don't think I do.
Sir Humphrey: [smiles] Quite so. Perhaps there are some things it is better for a Minister not to know?

Episode Seven: Jobs for the Boys[edit]

Sir Humphrey: Bernard, Ministers should never know more than they need to know. Then they can't tell anyone. Like secret agents; they could be captured and tortured.
Bernard: [shocked] You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey: [seriously] By the BBC, Bernard.

Hacker: You're blathering, Bernard.
Bernard: Yes, Minister.
Hacker: Why are you blathering, Bernard?
Bernard: It's my job, Minister.

Sir Humphrey: It takes two to quango, Minister!

Series Two (1981)[edit]

Episode One: The Compassionate Society[edit]

Hacker: The National Health Service, Humphrey, is an advanced case of galloping bureaucracy!
Sir Humphrey: Oh, certainly not galloping. A gentle canter at the most.

[Sir Humphrey agrees with the union leader that industrial action at St Edward's Hospital would also benefit civil servants.]
Brian Baker: What about the Minister?
Sir Humphrey: The Minister doesn't know his Acas from his NALGO.

Episode Two: Doing the Honours[edit]

[Bernard explains to the Minister the honours available to senior Civil Servants.]
Hacker: Well, what has Sir Arnold to fear, anyway? He's got all the honours he could want, surely?
Bernard: Well, naturally he has his G.
Hacker: G?
Bernard: Yes; you get your G after your K.
Hacker: You speak in riddles, Bernard.
Bernard: Well, take the Foreign Office. First you get the CMG, then the KCMG, then the GCMG; the Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, Knight Commander of St Michael and St George, Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George. Of course, in the Service, CMG stands for "Call Me God," and KCMG for "Kindly Call Me God."
Hacker: [chuckles] What does GCMG stand for?
Bernard: "God Calls Me God."

[The Master of Bailey College learns why the honorary doctorate of law should not go to a judge.]
Hacker: [a bit drunk] A judge?! You don't want to make a judge a doctor of laws! Politicians are the ones who make the laws, and pass the laws! If it wasn't for politicians, judges wouldn't be able to do any judging! They wouldn't have any laws to judge! They'd all be out of work! There'd be queues of unemployed judges! In silly wigs!
Sir Humphrey: [tries to interrupt] I think what the Minister is trying to say is...
Hacker: Besides, it's easy for judges. Judges don't have to lie to television producers, don't have to suck up to journalists, don't have to pretend they like their Cabinet collegues. Do you know something? Well I'll tell you: if judges had to put up with some of my Cabinet colleagues, they'd bring capital punishment back tomorrow! Bloody good thing, too!
Sir Humphrey: [tries to interrupt] Well, exactly, Minister...
Hacker: And I'll tell you another thing: I can't send him [points at Sir Humphrey] to prison. Can't send him to prison! Now, if I were a judge, I could whiz old Humpy off to The Scrubs no trouble. Feet wouldn't touch. Clang, bang, see you in three years' time! One third remission for good conduct. But I can't do that! I have to listen to him! Oh, God! On and on and on! Do you know, some of his sentences are longer than Judge Jeffreys'! No, you don't want to make a judge a doctor of laws.
[Stunned pause]
Master of Bailey College: Beautifully argued, Minister.

Sir Humphrey: And the letters JB are the highest honour in the Commonwealth.
Hacker: JB?
Sir Humphrey: Jailed by the British. Gandhi, Nkrumah, Makarios, Ben Gurion, Kenyatta, Nehru, Mugabe, the list of world leaders is endless, and contains several of our students.
Hacker: Ah - our students? Which college did you go to?
Sir Humphrey: That's quite beside the point!
Hacker: But I like being beside the point. Humour me. Which college did you go to?
Sir Humphrey: Well, it so happens that I am a Bailey man, but that has nothing to do with it!
Hacker: Oh, of course not! What a thought! [slaps wrist] Naughty, naughty!

Episode Three: The Death List[edit]

Hacker: Ask Walter Fowler of The Express to meet me in the House tonight for a drink. Annie's bar.
Bernard: What for, Minister?
Hacker: First law of political indiscretion: always have a drink before you leak.

[Bernard wheels in a petition from the archives against surveillance, containing 24 million signatures.]
Bernard: Shall I file it?
Hacker: Shall you file it? Shred it!
Bernard: Shred it?
Hacker: No one must ever be able to find it again!
Bernard: In that case, Minister, I think it's best I file it.

Episode Four: The Greasy Pole[edit]

[No one at the meeting seems to know anything about chemistry.]
Joan Littler: What does "inert" mean?
Sir Humphrey: Well it means it's not… ert.
Bernard: [to himself] Wouldn't ert a fly.

Sir Humphrey: Minister, a minister can do what he likes!
Hacker: It's the peoples' will. I am their leader; I must follow them.

Episode Five: The Devil You Know[edit]

Hacker: Europe is a community of nations, dedicated towards one goal.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, ha ha ha.
Hacker: May we share the joke, Humphrey?
Sir Humphrey: Oh Minister, let's look at this objectively. It is a game played for national interests, and always was. Why do you suppose we went into it?
Hacker: To strengthen the brotherhood of free Western nations.
Sir Humphrey: Oh really. We went in to screw the French by splitting them off from the Germans.
Hacker: So why did the French go into it, then?
Sir Humphrey: Well, to protect their inefficient farmers from commercial competition.
Hacker: That certainly doesn't apply to the Germans.
Sir Humphrey: No, no. They went in to cleanse themselves of genocide and apply for readmission to the human race.
Hacker: I never heard such appalling cynicism! At least the small nations didn't go into it for selfish reasons.
Sir Humphrey: Oh really? Luxembourg is in it for the perks; the capital of the EEC, all that foreign money pouring in.
Hacker: Very sensible central location.
Sir Humphrey: With the administration in Brussels and the Parliament in Strasbourg? Minister, it's like having the House of Commons in Swindon and the Civil Service in Kettering!

[The Minister and his subordinates discuss the rumoured Cabinet reshuffle.]
Hacker: How does Bob Carver know about it when we don't?
Sir Humphrey: Perhaps he has the PM's ear.
Hacker: Yes, he is in the PM's pocket.
Bernard: Then the PM must have rather a large ear.

[Sir Humphrey claims he would be deeply sorry to see the Minister leave the DAA.]
Hacker: Yes, I suppose we have got rather fond of one another. In a way.
Sir Humphrey: [laughs] In a way, yes!
Hacker: [jokingly] Like a terrorist and his hostage!
Bernard: Which one of you is the terrorist?
Hacker & Sir Humphrey: [each points at the other] He is.

Episode Six: The Quality of Life[edit]

Sir Humphrey: Didn't you read the Financial Times this morning?
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: Never do.
Sir Humphrey: Well, you're a banker. Surely you read the Financial Times?
Sir Desmond: Can't understand it. Full of economic theory.
Sir Humphrey: Why do you buy it?
Sir Desmond: Oh, you know, it's part of the uniform.
Sir Desmond: It took me thirty years to understand Keynes' economics. And when I just caught on, everyone started getting hooked on these monetarist ideas. You know, 'I Want To Be Free' by Milton Shulman.
Sir Humphrey: Milton Friedman?
Sir Desmond: Why are they all called Milton? Anyway, I only got as far as Milton Keynes.
Sir Humphrey: Maynard Keynes
Sir Desmond: I'm sure there's a Milton Keynes...

Episode Seven: A Question of Loyalty[edit]

Hacker: Why is it that ministers can't ever go anywhere without their briefs?
Bernard: It's in case they get caught with their trousers down.

[Standard excuses when faced with serious allegations]
Sir Humphrey: There's the excuse we used for the Munich Agreement: it occurred before certain important facts were known and couldn't happen again.
Hacker: What important facts?
Sir Humphrey: Well, that Hitler wanted to conquer Europe.
Hacker: I thought everybody knew that.
Sir Humphrey: Not the Foreign Office.

[Why has the Minister been invited to Number 10?]
Sir Humphrey: Perhaps it is just for a drink, Minister.
Hacker: Don't be silly, Humphrey. They don't ask you to Number 10 for a drink just because they think you're thirsty!

Sir Humphrey: Yes, yes, yes, I do see that there is a real dilemma here. In that, while it has been government policy to regard policy as a responsibility of Ministers and administration as a responsibility of Officials, the questions of administrative policy can cause confusion between the policy of administration and the administration of policy, especially when responsibility for the administration of the policy of administration conflicts, or overlaps with, responsibility for the policy of the administration of policy.

Series Three (1982)[edit]

Episode One: Equal Opportunities[edit]

[How to deal with a nonsensical complaint]
Bernard: We can CGSM it.
Hacker: CGSM?
Bernard: Civil Service code, Minister. It stands for "Consignment of Geriatric Shoe Manufacturers".
Hacker: What?
Bernard: A load of old cobblers, Minister.
Hacker: I'm not a civil servant. I shall use my own code. I shall write: "Round Objects".
[...later...]
Bernard: You remember that letter you wrote "Round Objects" on?
Hacker: Oh yes.
Bernard: It's come back from Sir Humphrey's office. He's commented on it.
Hacker: What does he say?
Bernard: Who is Round and to what does he object?

Sir Humphrey: Now, Minister, if you are going to promote women just because they're the best person for the job, you will create a lot of resentment throughout the whole of the Civil Service!

Hacker: The three articles of Civil Service faith: it takes longer to do things quickly, it's more expensive to do them cheaply and it's more democratic to do them in secret.

Episode Two: The Challenge[edit]

Sir Arnold: Life is so much easier when ministers think they've achieved something; it stops them fretting, and their little temper tantrums.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, but now he wants to introduce his next idea.
Sir Arnold: A minister with two ideas? I can't remember when we last had one of those.

Sir Humphrey: [talking about nuclear fallout shelters] Well, you have the weapons; you must have the shelters.
Hacker: I sometimes wonder why we need the weapons.
Sir Humphrey: Minister! You're not a unilateralist?
Hacker: I sometimes wonder, you know.
Sir Humphrey: Well, then, you must resign from the government!
Hacker: Ah, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I'm not that unilateralist! Anyway, the Americans will always protect us from the Russians, won't they?
Sir Humphrey: Russians? Who's talking about the Russians?
Hacker: Well, the independent deterrent.
Sir Humphrey: It's to protect us against the French!
Hacker: The French?! But that's astounding!
Sir Humphrey: Why?
Hacker: Well they're our allies, our partners.
Sir Humphrey: Well, they are now, but they've been our enemies for the most of the past 900 years. If they've got the bomb, we must have the bomb!
Hacker: If it's for the French, of course, that's different. Makes a lot of sense.
Sir Humphrey: Yes. Can't trust the Frogs.
Hacker: You can say that again!

Episode Three: The Skeleton in the Cupboard[edit]

Sir Humphrey: If local authorities don't send us statistics, Government figures will be a nonsense.
Hacker: Why?
Sir Humphrey: They'll be incomplete.
Hacker: Government figures are a nonsense, anyway.
Bernard: I think Sir Humphrey wants to ensure they're a complete nonsense.

Sir Humphrey: The identity of the official whose alleged responsibility for this hypothetical oversight that has been the subject of recent discussion is not shrouded in quite such impenetrable obscurity as certain previous disclosures may have led you to assume; but not to put too fine a point on it, the individual in question is, it may surprise you to learn, one whom your present interlocutor is in the habit of defining by means of the perpendicular pronoun.
Hacker: I beg your pardon?
Sir Humphrey: It was... I.

Episode Four: The Moral Dimension[edit]

Hacker: Are you saying that winking at corruption is government policy?
Sir Humphrey: No, no, Minister! It could never be government policy. That is unthinkable! Only government practice.

Hacker: You're a cynic, Humphrey!
Sir Humphrey: A cynic is what an idealist calls a realist.

Episode Five: The Bed of Nails[edit]

[Hacker has been offered the job of Transport Supremo.]
Hacker: Sir Mark thinks there might be votes in it, and I do not intend to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Sir Humphrey: I put it to you, Minister, that you are looking a Trojan horse in the mouth.
Hacker: You mean if we look closely at this gift horse, we'll find it's full of Trojans?
Bernard: Um, if you had looked the Trojan Horse in the mouth, Minister, you would have found Greeks inside. Well, the point is that it was the Greeks who gave the Trojan horse to the Trojans, so technically it wasn't a Trojan horse at all; it was a Greek horse. Hence the tag "timeo Danaos et dona ferentes", which, you will recall, is usually and somewhat inaccurately translated as "beware of Greeks bearing gifts", or doubtless you would have recalled had you not attended the LSE.
Hacker: Yes, well, I'm sure Greek tags are all very well in their way; but can we stick to the point?
Bernard: Sorry, sorry: Greek tags?
Hacker: "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts." I suppose the EEC equivalent would be "Beware of Greeks bearing an olive oil surplus".
Sir Humphrey: Excellent, Minister.
Bernard: No, well, the point is, Minister, that just as the Trojan horse was in fact Greek, what you describe as a Greek tag is in fact Latin. It's obvious, really: the Greeks would never suggest bewaring of themselves, if one can use such a participle (bewaring that is). And it's clearly Latin, not because timeo ends in "-o", because the Greek first person also ends in "-o" – although actually there is a Greek word timao, meaning 'I honour'. But the "-os" ending is a nominative singular termination of a second declension in Greek, and an accusative plural in Latin, of course, though actually Danaos is not only the Greek for 'Greek'; it's also the Latin for 'Greek'. It's very interesting, really.

Sir Humphrey: The ship of state, Bernard, is the only ship that leaks from the top.

Episode Six: The Whisky Priest[edit]

Hacker: Last night a confidential source disclosed to me that British arms are being sold to Italian red terrorist groups.
Sir Humphrey: I see. May I ask who this confidential source was?
Hacker: Humphrey, I just said it was confidential.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, I'm sorry. I naturally assumed that meant you were going to tell me.

Sir Humphrey: My job is to carry out government policy.
Hacker: Even if you think it's wrong?
Sir Humphrey: Well, almost all government policy is wrong, but… frightfully well carried out.

Bernard: If it's our job to carry out government policies, shouldn't we believe in them?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, what an extraordinary idea! I have served 11 governments in the past 30 years. If I'd believed in all their policies, I'd have been passionately committed to keeping out of the Common Market, and passionately committed to joining it. I'd have been utterly convinced of the rightness of nationalising steel and of denationalising it and renationalising it. Capital punishment? I'd have been a fervent retentionist and an ardent abolitionist. I'd have been a Keynesian and a Friedmanite, a grammar school preserver and destroyer, a nationalisation freak and a privatisation maniac, but above all, I would have been a stark-staring raving schizophrenic!

Episode Seven: The Middle-Class Rip-Off[edit]

Sir Humphrey: [calmly] Bernard, subsidy is for art, for culture. [almost furiously] It is not to be given to what the people want! It is for what the people don't want but ought to have!

Hacker: Nothing wrong with subsidising sport. Sport is educational.
Sir Humphrey: We have sex education too. Should we subsidise sex, perhaps?
Bernard: [earnestly] Oh, could we?

Christmas Special (1984): Party Games[edit]

[The Home Secretary has been forced to resign after a drink-driving incident]
Hacker: What will happen to him?
Sir Humphrey: Well, I gather he was as drunk as a lord. So, after a discreet interval, they'll probably make him one.

[Bernard is waiting at the Hackers' flat for the Minister to come home]
Annie Hacker: He's obviously been held up. You can stamp some of these cards for me while you're waiting if you like.
Bernard Woolley: Oh, but aren't they to constituents?
Annie: Yes.
Bernard: Well, that's not government business, Mrs Hacker, that's political activity. I'm not allowed to help with the Minister's political activities.
Annie: Suppose they were all to journalists?
Bernard: Oh, that would be alright.
Annie: They're all to journalists.
Bernard: Fine. I suppose licking is an essential part of relationships with the press.

[Discussing possible reasons for the Prime Minister's early retirement]
Bernard: Minister, I've heard something quite different.
Hacker: What?
Bernard: That there is £1 million worth of diamonds from South Africa in a Downing Street safe, but of course it's only a rumour.
Hacker: Is that true?
Bernard: Oh, yes.
Hacker: So, there ARE all those diamonds in Downing Street!
Bernard: Are there?
Hacker: You just said there were.
Bernard: No, I didn't.
Hacker: Yes, you did! You said you'd heard this rumour, I said is it true, you said yes!
Bernard: I said yes, it was true that it was a rumour.
Hacker: You said you heard it was true!
Bernard: No, I said it was true that I heard it!
Annie: I'm sorry to cut into this important discussion, but do you believe it?
Hacker: I believe I heard it. Oh, about the diamonds. No.
Annie: Is it impossible?
Hacker: No, but it's never been officially denied. First rule in politics: never believe anything until it's officially denied.

Sir Humphrey: How are things at the Campaign for the Freedom of Information, by the way?
Sir Arnold: Sorry, I can't talk about that.

Sir Arnold: So, will our next Prime Minister be our eminent Chancellor or our distinguished Foreign Secretary?
Sir Humphrey: That's what I wanted to ask you, which do you think it should be?
Sir Arnold: Hmmm. Difficult, like asking which lunatic should run the asylum.

Sir Arnold: Have you had a chance to glance at their MI5 files yet?
Sir Humphrey: No.
Sir Arnold: You should always send for Cabinet Ministers' MI5 files, if you enjoy a good laugh.

Sir Humphrey: Bernard, what would you say to your present master as the next Prime Minister?
Bernard: The Minister?
Sir Humphrey: Yes.
Bernard: Mr Hacker?
Sir Humphrey: Yes.
Bernard: As Prime Minister?
Sir Humphrey: Yes.
[Bernard checks his watch]
Sir Humphrey: Are you in a hurry?
Bernard: No; I'm just checking to see it wasn't April the First.

Sir Humphrey: [Talking about his promotion] The relationship which I might tentatively venture to aver has been not without some degree of reciprocal utility and perhaps even occasional gratification, is emerging a point of irreversible bifurcation and, to be brief, is in the propinquity of its ultimate regrettable termination.
Hacker: ... I see.
Sir Humphrey: I'm... on my way out.
Hacker: What?
Sir Humphrey: There comes a time when one has to accept what fate has in store. When one passes on.
Hacker: [horrified] Passes on!?
Sir Humphrey: To pastures new, perhaps greener, and places oneself finally in the service of one who is greater than any of us.
Hacker: Humphrey... I'm so sorry.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, thank you, Minister.
Hacker: Does Lady Appleby know?
Sir Humphrey: Well, she's suspected it for some time, apparently.
Hacker: When did they tell you?
Sir Humphrey: This afternoon.
Hacker: How long did they give you?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, just a few weeks...
Hacker: [horrified] A few weeks!?
Sir Humphrey: Well, it'll give me enough time to sort everything out.
Hacker: [his eyes filling with tears] Oh Humphrey, you're so terribly brave.
Sir Humphrey: Well, one is a little anxious of course. One is always rather wary of the unknown, but I have faith somehow I'll muddle through.
[Hacker takes his handkerchief out of his pocket and begins to cry into it]

Yes, Prime Minister[edit]

Series One (1986)[edit]

Episode One: The Grand Design[edit]

Sir Humphrey: Open government, Prime Minister. Freedom of information. We should always tell the press freely and frankly anything that they could easily find out some other way.

Sir Humphrey: With Trident we could obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe.
Hacker: I don't want to obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe.
Sir Humphrey: But it's a deterrent.
Hacker: It's a bluff. I probably wouldn't use it.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, but they don't know that you probably wouldn't.
Hacker: They probably do.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, they probably know that you probably wouldn't. But they can't certainly know.
Hacker: They probably certainly know that I probably wouldn't.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, but even though they probably certainly know that you probably wouldn't, they don't certainly know that although you probably wouldn't, there is no probability that you certainly would!

Episode Two: The Ministerial Broadcast[edit]

Sir Humphrey: Bernard, what is the purpose of our defence policy?
Bernard: To defend Britain.
Sir Humphrey: No, Bernard. It is to make people believe Britain is defended.
Bernard: The Russians?
Sir Humphrey: Not the Russians, the British! The Russians know it's not.

Godfrey: Will you be wearing those glasses?
Hacker: Oh, well, what do you think?
Godfrey: Well, it's up to you, obviously. With them on, you look authoritative and commanding; with them off, you look honest and open. Which do you want?
Hacker: Well, really, I want to look authoritative and honest.
Godfrey: It's one or the other, really.
Hacker: What about starting with them off, and then just putting them on when I talk?
Godfrey: That just looks indecisive.
Hacker: I see.
Bernard: What about a monocle?

Episode Three: The Smoke Screen[edit]

Permanent Secretary for Health: It would be different if the Government were a team, but in fact they're a loose confederation of warring tribes.

Hacker: The statistics are irrefutable...
Humphrey: Statistics? You can prove anything with statistics.
Hacker: Even the truth.
Humphrey: Yes... No!

Humphrey: Notwithstanding the fact that your proposal could conceivably encompass certain concomitant benefits of a marginal and peripheral relevance, there is a countervailing consideration of infinitely superior magnitude involving your personal complicity and corroborative malfeasance, with a consequence that the taint and stigma of your former associations and diversions could irredeemably and irretrievably invalidate your position and culminate in public revelations and recriminations of a profoundly embarrassing and ultimately indefensible character.
Hacker: Perhaps I can have a précis of that?

Hacker: You've got to learn to come to heel. You've got to learn to 'co-operate'.
Bernard: What do you mean 'co-operate'?
Hacker: I mean obey my commands! That's what 'co-operate' means when you're Prime minister.
...
Bernard: Sir Humphrey's waiting to see you outside.
Hacker: Send him in, at once!
Bernard: Yes, Prime minister. Your word is my 'co-operation'.

Episode Four: The Key[edit]

[Sir Humphrey is not happy that Bernard has deprived him of his key to Number 10]
Bernard: Well, I believe it's the Prime Minister's decision who comes into his house. After all, I don't give my mother-in-law the key to my house.
Sir Humphrey: [furiously] I am not the Prime Minister's mother-in-law, Bernard!

Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, I must protest in the strongest possible terms my profound opposition to the newly instituted practice which imposes severe and intolerable restrictions upon the ingress and egress of senior members of the hierarchy and will, in all probability, should the current deplorable innovation be perpetuated, precipitate a constriction of the channels of communication, and culminate in a condition of organisational atrophy and administrative paralysis, which will render effectively impossible the coherent and co-ordinated discharge of the function of government within Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland!
Hacker: You mean you've lost your key?

[The PM is considering taking the joint headship of the civil service away from Humphrey and making Frank the full head]
Sir Humphrey: Oh, Frank.
Sir Frank Gordon: Yes?
Sir Humphrey: Good meeting with the PM?
Sir Frank: Yes, very good.
Sir Humphrey: Good. Any particular subject come up?
Sir Frank: Any particular subject you're interested in?
Sir Humphrey: No, not particularly. He didn't raise the issue of service appointments and so on?
Sir Frank: It may have cropped up.
Sir Humphrey: Did he foreshadow any redistribution of responsibility?
Sir Frank: Shall we say it was a wide-ranging discussion.
Sir Humphrey: Did it move towards any conclusion?
Sir Frank: There were arguments on both sides.
Sir Humphrey: Evenly balanced?
Sir Frank: Perhaps tending slightly more one way than the other.
Sir Humphrey: But nothing to worry about?
Sir Frank: Nothing for me to worry about. See you this afternoon.

Episode Five: A Real Partnership[edit]

[Hacker has just had a stormy cabinet meeting over a sudden financial crisis.]
Hacker: Bernard, Humphrey should have seen this coming and warned me.
Bernard: I don't think Sir Humphrey understands economics, Prime Minister; he did read Classics, you know.
Hacker: What about Sir Frank? He's head of the Treasury!
Bernard: Well I'm afraid he's at an even greater disadvantage in understanding economics: he's an economist.

Sir Humphrey: Real reductions in the size of the Service?! It'd be the end of civilisation as we know it!

[Bernard is trying to tell Sir Humphrey about a confidential conversation.]
Sir Humphrey: You're speaking in riddles, Bernard.
Bernard: Oh, thank you, Sir Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey: That was not a compliment, Bernard!

[Hacker is discussing Humphrey's two responsibilities.]
Sir Humphrey: It's so difficult for me, you see, as I'm wearing two hats.
Hacker: Yes, isn't that rather awkward for you?
Sir Humphrey: Not if one is in two minds.
Bernard: Or has two faces.

Hacker: If there were a conflict of interests which side would the civil service really be on?
Bernard: The winning side, Prime Minister.

Episode Six: A Victory for Democracy[edit]

Hacker: I gather we're planning to vote against Israel in the UN tonight.
Foreign Secretary: Of course.
Hacker: Why?
Foreign Secretary: They bombed the PLO.
Hacker: But the PLO bombed Israel!
Foreign Secretary: Yes, but the Israelis dropped more bombs than the PLO did.

[Bernard pulls the Prime Minister away from Luke for a private conversation.]
Hacker: You just said that the Foreign Office was keeping something from me! How do you know if you don't know?
Bernard: I don't know specifically what, Prime Minister, but I do know that the Foreign Office always keep everything from everybody. It's normal practice.
Hacker: Who does know?
Bernard: May I just clarify the question? You are asking who would know what it is that I don't know and you don't know but the Foreign Office know that they know that they are keeping from you so that you don't know but they do know and all we know there is something we don't know and we want to know but we don't know what because we don't know! Is that it?
Hacker: May I clarify the question: Who knows Foreign Office secrets, apart from the Foreign Office?
Bernard: Oh, that's easy: only the Kremlin.

[Hacker has just requested a goodwill visit to St George's Island.]
Hacker: He [the defence secretary] seemed to think 800 fully armed paratroopers was an awful lot to send on a goodwill visit.
Israeli Ambassador: No, it is just an awful lot of goodwill!

Hacker: Oh, this is nice. The Americans are delighted by our little visit to St. George's Island. That's good, isn't it?
Sir Humphrey: [resigned] Excellent.
Hacker: They say they have got a whole airborne division ready if we want reinforcements.
Sir Humphrey: [sharply] Reinforcements of what?
Hacker: Reinforcements of goodwill, Humphrey!

Episode Seven: The Bishop's Gambit[edit]

Peter Harding: Soames has been waiting for a bishopric for years.
Sir Humphrey: Long time, no see.

Bernard: It's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it: I have an independent mind; you are an eccentric; he is round the twist.

Episode Eight: One of Us[edit]

[Sir Humphrey is suspected of having once been a Russian spy.]
Sir Humphrey: So what do you think I should do, Arnold?
Sir Arnold Robinson: [calmly pours his coffee] Hmm, difficult. Depends a bit on whether you actually were spying or not. [notices Sir Humphrey's horrified expression] One must keep an open mind.
Sir Humphrey: But I couldn't have been! I wasn't at Cambridge!

Sir Arnold: If once they accepted the principle that senior Civil Servants could be removed for incompetence, that would be the thin end of the wedge. We could lose dozens of our chaps. Hundreds, perhaps.
Sir Humphrey: Thousands.

Series Two (1987-88)[edit]

Episode One: Man Overboard[edit]

Sir Humphrey: It is characteristic of all committee discussions and decisions that every member has a vivid recollection of them and that every member’s recollection of them differs violently from every other member’s recollection. Consequently, we accept the convention that the official decisions are those and only those which have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials, from which it emerges with an elegant inevitability that any decision which has been officially reached will have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials and any decision which is not recorded in the minutes has not been officially reached even if one or more members believe they can recollect it, so in this particular case, if the decision had been officially reached it would have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials, and it isn’t so it wasn’t.

Bernard: That's another of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential press briefings; you leak; he's being charged under section 2A of the Official Secrets Act.

Episode Two: Official Secrets[edit]

[Lunch with a newspaper editor]
Hacker: So I want you to retract that suppression story.
Derek Burnham: I don't see how I can.
Hacker: Well, of course you can! You're the editor, aren't you?
Burnham: Yes, but an editor isn't like a general commanding an army; he's just the ringmaster of a circus. I mean I can book the acts, but I can't tell the acrobats which way to jump!

Sir Humphrey: Gratitude is merely a lively expectation of favours to come.

Sir Humphrey: What I want is irrelevant, Bernard, it's up to you - what do you want?
Bernard: I want to have a clear conscience.
Sir Humphrey: A clear conscience?
Bernard: Yes!
Sir Humphrey: I see. And when did you acquire this taste for luxuries?

Episode Three: A Diplomatic Incident[edit]

Hacker: Don't we ever get our own way with the French?
Sir Humphrey: Well, sometimes.
Hacker: When was the last time?
Sir Humphrey: Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

Bernard: [on the phone] Yes, we will want simultaneous translators. No, not when the PM meets the leaders of the English-speaking nations. Yes, the English-speaking nations can be said to include the United States. With a certain generosity of spirit.

Episode Four: A Conflict of Interest[edit]

Hacker: Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers: The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country; The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; The Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; And The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
Sir Humphrey: Oh and Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits.

Episode Five: Power to the People[edit]

Sir Humphrey: Bernard, if the right people don’t have power, do you know what happens? The wrong people get it: politicians, councillors, ordinary voters!
Bernard: But aren’t they supposed to, in a democracy?
Sir Humphrey: This is a British democracy, Bernard!

Episode Six: The Patron of the Arts[edit]

Bernard: If there was a major crisis, you wouldn't need to go at all.
Hacker: Is there a major crisis coming up?
Bill: Not really, Prime Minister.
Hacker: Is there a distant crisis, that we could bring forward?

...

Bernard: I know, what about the death of a cabinet colleague?
Hacker: Ooh, is one imminent?

...

Bill: Well we can hardly hope for that to fall on the right day. Well, not by accident.

Hacker: Sir Humphrey, I need help.
Sir Humphrey: You do. You do?
Hacker: I've got to make a speech. It could be very embarrassing.
Sir Humphrey: Oh Prime Minister, your speeches are nothing like as embarrassing as they used to be!
Hacker: I didn't say the speech would be embarrassing, Sir Humphrey. I said the occassion could be.
Sir Humphrey: Ah, yes, yes, indeed. Why?
Hacker: It's to be to a hostile audience of posturing, self-righteous, theatrical drunks.
Sir Humphrey: The House of Commons, you mean?

Bill: There's a lot of terrible publicity if you take [arts money] away. The arts lobby is part of the educated middle class. It's one of the few ways they can get their income tax back. Mortgage tax relief, university grants, lump-sum pensions, Radio 3, and cheap subsidised seats at the theatre, opera and the concerts. You can't begrudge it us... them!

Hacker: They do some good.
Sir Humphrey: They don't, Prime Minister! They hardly do anything at all.
Hacker: Well let's abolish them!
Humphrey: No, no, no, no!

Hacker: Well of course we'll do what we can, but there are many calls on the public purse, you know. Inner cities, schools, hospitals, kidney machines...
Ladies: Tanks, rockets, H-bombs.
Hacker: Well we can't really defend ourselves against the Russians with a performance of "Henry V".

Hacker: Dorothy, you've got to help me. This is a real hot potato. If I don't do anything, it could turn into a banana skin.
Bernard: Prime Minister, a hot potato can't become a banana skin.
Hacker: What?
Bernard: Well if you don't do anything, a hot potato just becomes a cold potato.

Hacker: Nobody would be able to call me a philistine then!
Dorothy: Not unless they knew you.

Episode Seven: The National Education Service[edit]

Bernard: Sir Humphrey, he's very worried that he seems responsible for something that he can't change.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, I'm sure. Responsibility without power: the prerogative of the eunuch throughout the ages.

Hacker: I think education is extremely important. It could lose me the next election.
Sir Humphrey: Ah! In my naivety, I thought you were concerned about the future of our children.
Hacker: Yes, that too. After all, they get the vote at 18.

Hacker: Better than Channel 4 coverage. They didn't describe it as the PM's tour of the north-west. They said, 'Jim Hacker touring the marginal constituencies.'
Annie: That's true, isn't it?
Hacker: But they shouldn't say it. It's biased reporting!
Annie: Reporting the facts?
Hacker: Nothing wrong with visiting the marginals.
Annie: What they said was still true.
Hacker: It was still biased to say it!

Episode Eight: The Tangled Web[edit]

[The Prime Minister believes that he gave a clear, simple, straightforward and honest answer.]
Sir Humphrey: Unfortunately, although the answer was indeed clear, simple, and straightforward, there is some difficulty in justifiably assigning to it the fourth of the epithets you applied to the statement, inasmuch as the precise correlation between the information you communicated and the facts, insofar as they can be determined and demonstrated, is such as to cause epistemological problems, of sufficient magnitude as to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they can reasonably be expected to bear.
Hacker: Epistemological — what are you talking about?
Sir Humphrey: You told a lie.
Hacker: A lie?
Sir Humphrey: A lie.
Hacker: What do you mean, a lie?
Sir Humphrey: I mean you… lied. Yes, I know this is a difficult concept to get across to a politician. You… ah yes, you did not tell the truth.
Hacker: You mean we are bugging Hugh Halifax's telephones?
Sir Humphrey: We were.
Hacker: We were? When did we stop?
Sir Humphrey: [checks his watch] Seventeen minutes ago.

Bernard: The fact that you needed to know was not known at the time that the now known need to know was known, and therefore those that needed to advise and inform the Home Secretary perhaps felt that the information that he needed as to whether to inform the highest authority of the known information was not yet known, and therefore there was no authority for the authority to be informed because the need to know was not, at that time, known or needed.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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