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.

Yes, Minister


Series One (1980)


Episode One: Open Government

[First lines. The episode opens at night with people on a balcony, including Minister James George "Jim" Hacker and the Mayor, who is announcing the results]
Mayor: David Lloyd Evans, 4,106...
Narrator: And here at Birmingham East, the Returning Officer is just declaring the result.
Mayor: ...James George Hacker: 21,793! Arthur William Gaunt: 19,321!
Narrator: So Jim Hacker's back with an increased majority, and after many years as a Shadow Minister, seems almost certain to get a post in the new Government.

[Hacker is in his new office with Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley]
Bernard: A sherry Minister?
Hacker: Jim.
Bernard: Oh, gin.
Hacker: No, no, Jim, Jim. Call me Jim.
Bernard: Oh. Oh, well I think it was all the same to you. I would prefer to call you Minister, Minister.
Hacker: Minister, Minister? Oh quite, quite. I see what you mean. Does that mean I have to call you Private Secretary, Private Secretary?
Bernard: No, do call me Bernard.
Hacker: Thank you, Bernard. (Bernard gives him a glass)
Bernard: You're most welcome, Minister.
Hacker: Cheers, Bernard.
Bernard: Your health, Minister.
Hacker: Well what now?
[Sir Humphrey Appleby enters the office]
Bernard: Ah, Minister, allow me to present Sir Humphrey Appleby, Permanent Under Secretary of State and Head of the D.A.A..
Hacker: Hello, Sir Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey: Hello, and welcome. (Shakes hands with Minister Hacker)
Hacker: Thank you, Sir Humphrey.
Bernard: I believe you know each other.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, we did cross swords when the minister gave me a grilling over the estimates in the Public Accounts Committee.
Hacker: I wouldn't say that.
Sir Humphrey: You came up with all the questions I hoped nobody would ask.
Hacker: Opposition's about asking awkward questions.
Sir Humphrey: And Government is about not answering them.
Hacker: Well, you answered all mine anyway.
Sir Humphrey: I'm glad you thought so, Minister. (Bernard gives him a glass) And Good luck.
Hacker: Now 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, Minister. Mrs Mackay types: she's the secretary.
Minister: Pity, we could have opened an agency.
Sir Humphrey: Very droll, Minister.
Bernard: Very, very amusing, sir.
Hacker: I suppose they all say that, do they?
Sir Humphrey: Certainly not, Minister. Not quite all...
Hacker: Right, now then, to business. Now you'll have to forgive me if I'm a bit blunt, but that's the sort of chap I am. Frankly, this depart... (Sits on a brown leather swivel chair) Don't care for this chair very much.
Bernard: We can change it, Minister.
Hacker: Can you?
Bernard: We can change anything, Minister. The furniture, decor, office routine - Your wish is our command.
Hacker: In that case, I'd like a new chair. I hate swivel chairs.
Bernard: 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: Now then, gentlemen, frankly this Department has got to cut a great swathe through all this stuffy Whitehall bureaucracy. We want a new broom. We're going to throw open the windows, let in a bit of fresh air, cut through all the red tape, streamline this creaking old bureaucratic machine.
Sir Humphrey: You mean a clean sweep, Minister?
Hacker: That's it. A clean sweep. Far too many people just sitting behind desks. (Admires his desk) Not like us, of course. But we've got to get rid of all those people just making work for each other.
Bernard: Get rid of them?
Sir Humphrey: I think you mean "Redeploy them", Minister.
Hacker: Yes. Good Lord no, I don't mean put them out of work. No, no. Open Government, that's what my party believes in, that was the main plank of our manifesto. Taking the nation into our confidence. Now how does that strike you? Do sit down.
Sir Humphrey: May I? In fact, just as you said in the House on May 2nd last year, and again on November 23rd, and in your Observer article and in your Daily Mail interview, and as your manifesto made clear.
Hacker: You know about that?
Sir Humphrey: I'd like to have a look at these proposals, Minister. They outline the ways in which this policy could be implemented, and contain draft proposals for a white paper for your approval. We thought the white paper might be called "Open Government".
Hacker: You mean it's all been...
Sir Humphrey: It's all been taken care of, Minister.
Hacker: Who did all this?
Sir Humphrey: The creaking old bureaucratic machine. No, quite seriously. We are fully seized of the need for reform and we have taken it on board.
Hacker: Must say, I'm rather surprised. I expected to have to fight you all way along the line with this.
Sir Humphrey: People do have funny ideas about the Civil Service. We're just here to help you formulate and implement your policies.
Hacker: (Reading the piece of paper) "Proposals for shortening approval procedures in planning appeals"?
Sir Humphrey: Hansard Volume 497, page 1102, Column B. Quote "Mr. Hacker: Is the Minister aware that planning procedures make building a bungalow in the 20th century slower than building a cathedral in the 12th century? Opposition laughter and Government cries of shame".
Hacker: Well they didn't actually cry shame.
Sir Humphrey: Quite so, Minister.

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

Episode Two: The Official Visit

[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".]
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

[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 administrators 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.

Hacker: Bernard, this government is here to govern, not merely preside like our predecessors did. When a country is going downhill, it is time for someone to get into the driving seat, and put his foot on the accelerator.
Bernard Woolley: I think you mean the brake.

Episode Four: Big Brother

[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

[One day, Mr. Hacker is taking some paperwork out of his red box and Sir Humphrey has come to see him]
Hacker: I am still not happy with this report, Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey: Then, Minister, we shall be happy to redraft it for you.
Hacker: You've redrafted it three times already.
Bernard: That's not absolutely correct, Minister.
Hacker: Yes, it is, Bernard, I can count. This is the third draft report.
Bernard: It's quite so, Minister, therefore it's been drafted once and subsequently redrafted twice.
Hacker: Don't quibble, Bernard.
Sir Humphrey: But we shall be happy to redraft it a third time.
Hacker: And a fourth and a fifth and a sixth, no doubt. And it still won't say what I want it to say, it'll say what you want it to say, and I want it to say what I want it to say.
Bernard: What do you want it to say, Minster?
Sir Humphrey: We want it to say what you want it to say.
Bernard: I'm sure the parliament doesn't want you to say anything you don't want to say.
Hacker: Stop wittering, Bernard! Six weeks ago, the Think Tank asked us for our evidence on Civil Service overmanning. Three times, I have briefed a group of civil servants in words of one syllable and each time, they've sent back a totally unintelligible report, saying the exact opposite of what I asked them to say.
Sir Humphrey: With respect, Minister, how do you know it says the opposite if it's totally unintelligible?
Hacker: All I am saying is that the Civil Service is grossly overmanned and must be slimmed down.
Sir Humphrey: Quite so. That is what the report says.
Hacker: No, it doesn't.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, it does, Minister.
Hacker: It - it does... Look, what I'm talking about is a phased reduction in the Civil Service of about 200,000 people. Are you going to put that in this report or not?
Sir Humphrey: Well, Minister, perhaps if you were to take that draft home with you this weekend and study it, you might find that it does, in fact, say what you want it to say.
Hacker: And if it doesn't?
Sir Humphrey: Then I can only suggest that we redraft it.
Hacker: Humphrey? Humphrey, sit down. (Humphrey sits in the chair opposite Hacker) Will you give me a straight answer to a straight question?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, well, Minister, as long as you are not asking me to resort to crude generalisations and vulgar oversimplifications, such as a simple yes or no. I shall do my utmost to oblige.
Hacker: Is that "yes"?
Sir Humphrey: (Takes a deep breath) Yes.
Hacker: Right. Well, here's the straight question.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, I thought that was it.
Hacker: When you give your evidence to the Think Tank, are you going to support my view that the Civil Service is overmanned 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 time 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.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, I thought that was it.
Hacker: Is that "yes" or "no"?
Sir Humphrey: Yes and no.
Hacker: Suppose you weren't asked for a straight answer?
Sir Humphrey: Well then I should play for time, Minister.

[Sir Humphrey stands up to Minister Hacker]
Sir Humphrey: One more thing, Minister. The evidence to the Central Policy Review Staff.
Hacker: You mean the Think Tank?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, Minister.
Hacker: What about it?
Sir Humphrey: Have you redrafted the redraft of your draft?
Hacker: You don't want it yet, do you?
Sir Humphrey: Yes.
Hacker: Why?
Sir Humphrey: So that we can redraft it.
Hacker: Well that won't be necessary, Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey: I think it will, Minister.
Hacker: Humphrey, Drafting is not a Civil Service monopoly, you know.
Sir Humphrey: No, it's a highly specialised skill which few outside the Service can master.
Hacker: Nonsense. Drafts is easy. It's a game anyone can play.
Sir Humphrey: Not without getting huffed. So could I have the draft proposal, please?
Hacker: Certainly, Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey: When, Minister?
Hacker: Later, Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, but when?
Hacker: Well, you're always saying we mustn't rush things, aren't you?
Sir Humphrey: Minister, I must ask you for a straight answer. On what day? Tomorrow? Monday? Tuesday?
Hacker: In due course, Humphrey. At the appropriate juncture. In the fullness of time. When the moment is ripe. When the necessary procedures have been completed. Nothing precipitate, of course.
Sir Humphrey: Minister, this is getting urgent.
Hacker: Urgent, Humphrey? What a lot of new words we're learning!
Sir Humphrey: Now, Minister, you'll forgive me if I say this, but I'm beginning to suspect that you are concealing something from me.
Hacker: Surely you and I have no secrets from each other, have we, Humphrey?
Sir Humphrey: I'm sorry, Minister, but sometimes one is forced to consider the possibility that affairs are being conducted in a way which, all things being considered, and making all possible allowances, is, not to put too fine a point on it, perhaps not entirely straightforward.
Hacker: Well you're the expert on straightforwardness.
Sir Humphrey: So what about the draft evidence to the Central Policy Review Staff?
Hacker: Well, since you ask, Humphrey, and to be perfectly straightforward, I have redrafted it myself. I don't want you to redraft it. (Gets out of his seat and picks up his red box which he will put the redraft in) I am perfectly happy with it as it is. (Walks over to the fireplace)
Sir Humphrey: May I be bold enough to ask what you have said?
Hacker: I've said what I wanted to say: Phased reductions in the Civil Service.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, but I...
Hacker: Humphrey, you have frustrated me over open government, you have frustrated me over the economy drive, but this time I'm going to have my way. The party wants it, the public wants it. And I'm bound to say that all we get from the Civil Service is delaying tactics.
Sir Humphrey: Well, I wouldn't call Civil Service delays "tactics", Minister, that would be to mistake lethargy for strategy.
Hacker: Very droll, Humphrey, but you must realise that there is a real desire for radical reform in the air. The all-party Select Committee on Administrative Affairs, which I founded, was a case in point. It's a great success.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, indeed. What has it achieved?
Hacker: Nothing yet, but the party's very pleased with it.
Sir Humphrey: Why?
Hacker: Ten column inches in last Monday's Daily Mail for a start.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, I see. The government is going to measure its success in column inches, is it?
Hacker: Yes, no. Yes and no! [Sits down in his chair off camera]
Sir Humphrey: Minister, the evidence that you're proposing to submit is not only untrue, it is also, which is much more serious, unwise. Now, we've been through all this before. The expansion of the Civil Service is the result of parliamentary legislation, not bureaucratic empire building.
Hacker: So when this next comes up in Question Time, you want me to tell Parliament that it's their fault that the Civil Service is too big?
Sir Humphrey: But it's the truth, Minister.
Hacker: I don't want the truth! I want something I can tell Parliament! Humphrey, you're my permanent secretary, you're supposed to enact my policies. Yet, I still don't understand why you seem implacably opposed to them. I must know where you stand on all this.
Sir Humphrey: Where one stands, Minister, depends upon where one sits.
Hacker: Am I to infer that you'll not support me?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, we'll always support you, Minister; but as your standard bearer, not as your pallbearer.
Hacker: Humphrey, What are you saying?
Sir Humphrey: I should have thought it was crystal clear, Minister. Do not send this report to a body whose recommendations are to be published!
Hacker: That is exactly why I'm sending it. Now I don't want to hear any more about it.
Sir Humphrey: May I say just one more thing?
Hacker: Only if it's in plain English!
Sir Humphrey: Very well, Minister: if you're going to do this damn silly thing, don't do it in this damn silly way.

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.

Daniel Hughes: Let's face it, all your functions could be subsumed by other departments. Jim Hacker will win through with a thoroughly public-spirited, self-sacrificing policy. The PM will probably kick him upstairs: Lord Hacker of Kamikaze. [chuckles]
Sir Humphrey: I hardly think that's funny, Daniel. Or likely.
Daniel Hughes: But why not? I mean, he ran the leadership campaign against the PM, didn't he? This could be the PM's masterstroke! In one fell swoop: approbation, elevation, and castration. You know the PM's motto: in defeat, malice. In victory, revenge.

Episode Six: The Right to Know

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 Frederick: [...] there are four words to be included in a proposal if you want it thrown out.
Sir Humphrey: Complicated. Lengthy. Expensive. Controversial. And 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

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)


Episode One: The Compassionate Society

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

[Hacker is reading some paperwork in his office when Sir Humphrey enters]
Sir Humphrey:: Good Morning, Minister. Morning, Bernard.
Hacker: Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey:: Er, two things, Minister. The first, this matter of the departmental recommendations for the honours list.
Hacker: Oh, the honours list again!
Sir Humphrey:: Yes, Minister.
Hacker: Well, I think we'll leave that for the moment, Humphrey, shall we?.
Sir Humphrey: I don't think we can leave it, Minister. (Hands the papers back to Hacker) It's getting dangerously near the five weeks.
Hacker: Five weeks?
Bernard: Oh, yes. All recipients are notified at least five weeks before prorogation. It gives them time to refuse, you know.
Hacker: When did a civil servant last refuse an honour?!
Bernard: Well I think there was somebody in the Treasury that refused a knighthood.
Hacker: Good God. When?
Bernard: I think it was 1496.
Hacker: Why?
Bernard: He'd already got one.
Sir Humphrey: Well, Minister, if you've approved the list...
Hacker: Humphrey, did you know that 20% of all honours go to civil servants?
Sir Humphrey: A fitting tribute to their devotion to duty, Minister.
Hacker: No, their duty is what they get paid for. The rest of the population has to do something extra to get an honour. Something special. They work for 27 years with mentally handicapped children six nights a week to get an MBE. Your knighthoods simply come up with the rations.
Sir Humphrey: Minister, her Majesty's civil servants spend their lives working for a modest wage and at the end, they retire into obscurity. Honours are a small reward for a lifetime of loyal, self-effacing discretion and devoted service to Her Majesty, and to the nation.
Hacker: "A modest wage", did you say?
Sir Humphrey: Alas, yes.
Hacker: Humphrey, you get over £30,000 a year! That's £7,000 more than I get.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, but still relatively the modest wage.
Hacker: Relative to whom?
Sir Humphrey: Well, Elizabeth Taylor, for example.
Hacker: Humphrey, you are not relative to Elizabeth Taylor. There are important differences.
Sir Humphrey: Indeed, yes. She didn't get a first at Oxford.
Hacker: And you do not retire into obscurity?! You take a massive index-linked pension and go off to become directors of oil companies and banks.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, yes, but very obscure directors, Minister.
Hacker: You're in no danger of the sack. In industry if you screw things up, you get the boot. In the civil service, if you screw things up, I get the boot.
Sir Humphrey: Very droll, Minister, now if you've approved the list...
Hacker:: No, Humphrey. I'm not going to approve any honour for any civil servant of this department who hasn't earned it.
Sir Humphrey: What do you mean "earned it?"
Hacker: I mean "earned it." Done something to deserve it.
Sir Humphrey: [outraged] But that's unheard of!
Hacker: My new policy is to withhold all honours from all civil servants in this department who do not make a cut in their budgets of 5% per year. May I take it that your silence indicates approval?
Sir Humphrey: You may not! Where did you get that preposterous idea?
Hacker: It, uh... just came to me.
Sir Humphrey: But it's ridiculous! It's unheard of! It's out of the question!
Hacker: Why?
Sir Humphrey: But the whole idea is... it it it it it... It's... It strikes at the very roots of... It's the beginning of the end! The thin end of the wedge! A Bennite solution! Where will it end? The abolition of the monarchy?
Hacker: Don't be absurd, Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey: There is no reason to change the system which has worked so well in the past.
Hacker: But it hasn't.
Sir Humphrey: But we've got to give the present system a fair trial.
Hacker: Ah, yes, I thought you might say that. It may interest you to know, Humphrey, that the Most Noble Order of the Garter was founded in 1348 by King Edward III. I think perhaps it may be coming towards the end of its trial period now, don't you?
Sir Humphrey: Minister, if you block honours pending economies, you might create a dangerous precedent.
Hacker: You mean that if we do the right thing this time, we might have to do the right thing again next time? Nothing would ever get done at all!
Sir Humphrey: On the contrary, many, many things must be done, but...
Hacker: Nothing must be done for the first time! Don't...
Sir Humphrey: No, Minister! What I mean is that I am fully seized of your aims, and of course I will do my utmost to see that they're put into practice.
Hacker: If you would.
Sir Humphrey: To that end, I recommend that we set up an interdepartmental committee with fairly broad terms of reference, so that at the end of the day, we'll be in a position to think through the various implications and arrive at a decision based on long-term considerations rather than rush prematurely into precipitate and possibly ill-conceived actions which might well have unforeseen repercussions.
Hacker: You mean "no"?
Sir Humphrey: I mean, as far as one can see, in the fullness of time, looking at...
Hacker: No, no, no, no, Humphrey. You know me: Action now!
Sir Humphrey: [mutters] Action now.
Hacker: Nobody in their right mind can want honours. They encourage sycophancy, snobbery, jealousy, and it's not fair civil servants shouldn't get them all!
Sir Humphrey: But, Minister...
Hacker: No, no! I'm - I'm sorry, Humphrey, I have decided. What was your other point?
Sir Humphrey: Other point?
Hacker: You had two.
Sir Humphrey: Did I? Yes, I'm sorry. The shock! Yes. Minister, Yesterday, I had representations from Baillie College, Oxford. A new ruling about grants for overseas students. Now Baillie stands to lose nearly a quarter of a £1,000,000 a year.
Hacker: They must just take more British students.
Sir Humphrey: I'm sure nothing would please them more, Minister, but you see, Baillie has quite easily the highest proportion of foreign students, and there could be very serious repercussions at the schools of tropical medicine, and international law, and the Arabic department might have to close down completely.
Hacker: I'm sorry, we simply can't go on educating foreigners at the taxpayer's expense.
Sir Humphrey: Well it's not just foreigners, you know, Minister, if the diplomatic service had nowhere to immerse its recruits in Arab culture, for example, the results could be catastrophic. We might even end up with a pro-Israeli Foreign Office! And what would happen to our oil policy then?
Hacker: You just have to immerse its recruits elsewhere.
Sir Humphrey: Where else would they learn Arabic?
Hacker: Arabia?
Bernard: Actually, Minister, Baillie College does have an outstanding record. It's filled the jails in the British Empire for many years.
Hacker: [off camera] Jails?
Bernard: Yes indeed. As you know, the letters "JB" are the most outstanding 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: "Our students"? Humphrey, which college did you go to?
Sir Humphrey: That's quite beside the point!
Hacker: But I like being beside the point. Humour me, Humphrey. Which college did you go to?
Sir Humphrey: It so happens that I am a Baillie man, but that has nothing to do with it!
Hacker: Oh, of course not! What a thought! [slaps wrist] Naughty!
[The telephone sounds and Bernard answers it]
Bernard: Yes? (to Hacker) Oh. it's the division, Minister.
Hacker: Well, that rather settles it, doesn't it, Humphrey? (Gets out of his chair) No more time. (Gives his paperwork to Bernard) Oh, Bernard, which am I supposed to be voting, "aye" or "no"?
Bernard: "No". It's an opposition, it's the second reading...
Hacker: I don't want to know what it is. I don't want to go through the wrong door. (He goes over to the door as Bernard throws his paperwork back on the desk)

[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 Baillie 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 colleagues. 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 Baillie College: Beautifully argued, Minister.

Episode Three: The Death List

Hacker: What does "egregious" mean?
Sir Humphrey: Um, I think it means outstanding... In one way or another.

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.

Hacker: The freedom of the British people is worth more than the lives of a few Ministers. Freedom is indivisible. Ministers are expendable. A man in public life must expect to be the target of cranks and fanatics. [Sliding into a Churchill impersonation.] It is a Minister's duty to set his life at naught. He must be able to stand up and say, here I am, do your worst! And not cower in craven terror behind electronic equipment, secret microphones, and all the hideous apparatus of the police state. [He snaps back to his normal self.] Anyway, Humphrey, I don't want to hear any more about it.
Sir Humphrey: But Minister, you must allow me to say just one more thing on this matter.
Hacker: Very well, just one, but be brief.
Sir Humphrey: The Special Branch have found your name on a death list.
Hacker: That has absolutely no bearing on the situation... What?!

[Bernard wheels in a petition from the archives against surveillance, containing more than two 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.

[Sir Humphrey informs the Minister that the Special Branch no longer believe there is a threat to the Minister's life.]
Hacker: How do they know?
Sir Humphrey: Surveillance. They overheard a conversation.
Hacker: What did it say?
Sir Humphrey: Oh I don't think it's of any particular—
Hacker: [Interrupting] Come on, Humphrey! I have a right to know!
Sir Humphrey: Well, it was a conversation to the effect that in view of the somewhat nebulous and inexplicit nature of your remit, and the arguably marginal and peripheral nature of your influence within the central deliberations and decisions within the political process, there could be a case for restructuring their action priorities in such a way as to eliminate your liquidation from their immediate agenda.
Hacker: They said that?
Sir Humphrey: That was the gist of it.
Hacker: What does it mean? In English?!
Sir Humphrey: Well, it means that they don't think you're really important enough for it to be worth assassinating you.

Episode Four: The Greasy Pole

[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 people's will. I am their leader; I must follow them.

Sir Humphrey: The people are ignorant and misguided.
Hacker: Humphrey, it's the people who elected me.
Sir Humphrey: [smiles and nods]

Episode Five: The Devil You Know

Hacker: Europe is a community of nations, dedicated towards one goal.
Sir Humphrey: [laughs moderately]
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

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. It took me thirty years to understand Keynes' economics. Then when I'd just cottoned on, everyone started getting hooked on these new 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've only got as far as Milton Keynes.
Sir Humphrey: Maynard Keynes.
Sir Desmond: I'm sure there's a Milton Keynes.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, there is, but it's... [Humphrey gives up]

Episode Seven: A Question of Loyalty

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!

Betty Oldham: Look, Sir Humphrey, whatever we ask the Minister, he says is an administrative question for you, and whatever we ask you, you say is a policy question for the Minister. How do you suggest we find out what is going on?
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.
Betty Oldham: Well, that's a load of meaningless drivel. [pause] Isn't it?
Sir Humphrey: It's not for me to comment on government policy. You must ask the Minister.

Series Three (1982)


Episode One: Equal Opportunities

[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".
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

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

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.

Bernard: [on the phone] Hello, Graham, it's Bernard. Tell Sir Humphrey that the Minister's just gone walkabout. Yes, yes, AWOL. Well, of course I told him, yes. I know. I think you'd better let him know right away.
[hangs up]
Bernard: One... two... three... four... five... six... seven... eight... nine... TEN.
Sir Humphrey: [walks in on the stroke of ten] What's all this about?
Bernard: The minister's just left the office, that's all.
Sir Humphrey: That's all? Do you mean he's loose in the building? Why didn't you warn me?
Bernard: I did advise him, but he is the minister. There's no prohibition against ministers talking to their staff.
Sir Humphrey: Who's he talking to?
Bernard: Perhaps he was just restless.
Sir Humphrey: If the minister's restless, he can feed the ducks in St James's Park!
Bernard: Yes, Sir Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey: Tell me who the minister's talking to.
Bernard: Well, surely the minister can talk to anyone?
Sir Humphrey: Bernard... I'm in the middle of writing your annual report. Now, it is not a responsibility that either of us would wish me to discharge whilst I am in a bad temper. Who's the minister talking to?
Bernard: Perhaps you could help me. I can see that you should know if he calls on an outsider. I fail to see why you should be informed if he just wants to, to take a hypothetical example, to check a point with... Dr Cartwright...
Sir Humphrey: Thank you, Bernard. Must fly.
Bernard: Room 4017.
Sir Humphrey: I know!

Hacker: Bernard, how did Sir Humphrey know I was with Dr Cartwright?
Bernard: God moves in a mysterious way.
Hacker: Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Humphrey is not God, OK?
Bernard: Will you tell him or shall I?

Hacker: Get Humphrey to come back here at once.
Bernard: Yes, Minister. [Picks up phone] The Minister wonders if Sir Humphrey could spare time for a meeting sometime in the next few days.
Hacker: At once.
Bernard: In fact, sometime today is really...
Hacker: At once!
Bernard: ...Sometime during the next 60 seconds. [hangs up] He's coming round now.
Hacker: Why? Did he faint?
Bernard: No, he's just, you know...
[they both start giggling]
Hacker: This is serious, Bernard.
Bernard: Yes, I know.
Hacker: This is no laughing matter.
Bernard: No, certainly not.
Hacker: The question is, how am I going to deal with it?
Bernard: In my opinion...
Hacker: The question was purely rhetorical, Bernard.

Sir Humphrey: The identity of the official whose alleged responsibility for this hypothetical oversight 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.

Hacker: How am I going to explain the missing documents to the Mail?
Sir Humphrey: Well, this is what we normally do in circumstances like these.
[passes Hacker a memo]
Hacker: "This file contains the complete set of papers, except for a number of secret documents, a few others which are part of still active files, some correspondence lost in the floods of 1967..." Was 1967 a particularly bad winter?
Sir Humphrey: No, a marvellous winter. We lost no end of embarrassing files.
Hacker: "...Some records which went astray in the move to London and others when the War Office was incorporated in the Ministry of Defence, and the normal withdrawal of papers whose publication could give grounds for an action for libel or breach of confidence or cause embarrassment to friendly governments". That's pretty comprehensive. How many does that normally leave for them to look at?

[Humphrey shrugs]

Hacker: How many does it actually leave? About a hundred?... Fifty?... Ten?... Five?... Four?... Three?... Two?... One?... Zero?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, Minister.

Sir Humphrey: Well, obviously I'm not a trained lawyer or I wouldn't have been in charge of the legal unit!

Episode Four: The Moral Dimension

Hacker: Isn't this terrible? Print baseless accusations like this!
Sir Humphrey: Oh, yes, yes, terrible.
Hacker: Baksheesh, palm-greasing! Good God, we're British!
Sir Humphrey: Absolutely, Minister!
Hacker: Still, it's not like the FT to print a story like this unless there's something behind it. Is there something behind it, Humphrey?
Bernard: I think the sports news is behind it.
Hacker: I want to know the truth, Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey: I don't think you do, Minister.
Hacker: Will you answer a direct question?
Sir Humphrey: I strongly advise you not to ask a direct question.
Hacker: Why?
Sir Humphrey: It might provoke a direct answer.
Hacker: It never has yet.

Hacker: Bernard, what do YOU know about this? Tell me on your word of honour.
Bernard: Oh, well, I... er... Er, that is... there was. Someone did.
Sir Humphrey: It’s a lot of gossip, that's all. Rumour, hearsay.
Hacker: Bernard?
Bernard: Well one of the Kumranis did tell me he'd received...
Sir Humphrey: Hearsay, Minister.
Hacker: Hearsay?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, Bernard heard him say it.

Hacker: Are you telling me Humphrey that the BES contract was won by bribery?
Sir Humphrey: Oh Minister, I do wish you wouldn't use words like bribery.
Hacker: What would you like me to say? Slush funds, sweeteners, brown envelopes?
Sir Humphrey: Oh Minister these are extremely crude and unworthy expressions for what is no more than creative negotiation. It is the general practice.
Hacker: You do realise what you're saying don’t you, Humphrey? I ratified that contract, didn’t I? In good faith!
Sir Humphrey: Yes indeed, Minister.
Hacker: And in that communiqué I issued to the press, I announced a British success won in a fair fight!
Sir Humphrey: Mm, yes, I did wonder about that bit.
Hacker: Now you're telling me it was got by bribery.
Sir Humphrey: No, Minister.
Hacker: Oh, it was not got by bribery?
Sir Humphrey: That is not what I said.
Hacker: What did you say?
Sir Humphrey: I said I'm not telling you it was got by bribery.
Hacker: Well how would you describe these payments?
Sir Humphrey: How does the contract describe them you mean? Oh, well, that's really quite simple. Retainers, personal donations, special discounts. Miscellaneous outgoings, agents' fees, political contributions, management expenses.
Hacker: And how are these payments made?
Sir Humphrey: Well anything from a numbered account in a Swiss bank, to a fistful of used oncers slipped under the door of the gents.

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

[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

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.

Bernard: So what do we believe in?
Sir Humphrey: At this moment, Bernard, we believe in stopping the minister from informing the Prime Minister.
Bernard: But why?
Sir Humphrey: Because once the Prime Minister knows, there will have to be an enquiry, like Watergate. The investigation of a trivial break-in led to one ghastly revelation after another and finally the downfall of a president. The golden rule is don't lift lids off cans of worms. Everything is connected to everything else. Who said that?
Bernard: The Cabinet Secretary?
Sir Humphrey: Nearly right. Actually, it was Lenin.

Bernard: How do you stop a Cabinet Minister talking to a Prime Minister?
Sir Humphrey: Interesting question. You tell me.
Bernard: I don't know.
Sir Humphrey: Work it out. You're supposed to be a high flier. Or are you really a low-flier supported by occasional gusts of wind?

[The Minister has received a letter with information about sanctions violations.]
Hacker: I'm trapped. I can't tell the PM, I can't not tell the PM.
Sir Humphrey: I see.
Bernard: I was just wondering, Minister, if we may not use the Rhodesia solution.
Sir Humphrey: Bernard! You excel yourself! Of course, Minister, the Rhodesia solution!
Hacker: What are you talking about?
Sir Humphrey: Oil sanctions, remember? A member of the government was told about the way British companies were sanction-busting.
Hacker: What did you do?
Bernard: He told the Prime Minister.
Hacker: What did he do?
Sir Humphrey: He told the Prime Minister in such a way that the Prime Minister didn't hear him.
Hacker: Would you mean I should mumble it or something in the division lobby?
Sir Humphrey: No, Minister, you write a note.
Hacker: In very faint pencil? Please, impractical.
Sir Humphrey: No, Minister, it's awfully obvious; you write a note which is susceptible to misinterpretation.
Hacker: Oh, I see. Dear Prime Minister, it has come to my attention that the Italian Red Terrorists are getting hold of British top secret bomb-making equipment—how do you misinterpret that?
Sir Humphrey: You can't.
Hacker: Well, exactly.
Sir Humphrey: So you don't write that. You use a more circumspect style, and you avoid any mention of bombs, or terrorists, or any of that.
Hacker: Wouldn't that be rather difficult? Is that what it's all about?
Sir Humphrey: You say—Bernard, write this down—My attention has been drawn, on a personal basis, to information which suggests the possibility of certain irregularities under Section... [snaps fingers]
Bernard: Section 1 of the Import, Export and Customs Powers Defence Act 1939 C.
Sir Humphrey: Thank you, Bernard. You then go on to suggest that somebody else should do something about it. Prima facie evidence suggests that there could be a case for further investigation; to establish whether or not enquiries should be put in hand. And then you smudge it all over.
Sir Humphrey: Nevertheless, it should be stressed that available information is limited, and relevant facts could be difficult to establish with any degree of certainty.
Hacker: I see.
Sir Humphrey: Then, if there were an inquiry, you'd be in the clear, and everybody would understand that the busy PM might not have grasped the full implications of such a letter
Hacker: They certainly would; that's most unclear.
Sir Humphrey: Thank you, Minister. Then you arrange for the letter to arrive at Number 10 on the day the PM leaves for an overseas summit, so there's also doubt about whether it was the PM or the acting PM who read the note. And so the whole thing is written off as a breakdown in communications, everybody's in the clear, and everybody can get on with their business.
Bernard: Including the Red Terrorists.
Sir Humphrey: Exactly.

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

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?

Sir Humphrey: In addition to your existing responsibilities, you will be Cabinet Minister responsible for the Arts.
Hacker: [smiling] Eh? I say, that's rather good, isn't it? Hold on -- how do you know about this before I do?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, I just happened to be with the Cabinet Secretary shortly after the decision was taken.
Hacker: [pleased] Cabinet Minister with the responsibility for the Arts, eh? Well well well!
Sir Humphrey: Yes indeed!
Hacker: Thank you for letting me know, Humphrey! Anything more? I'm just about to start a meeting.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, the meeting, yes. Now Minister, I do hope that you've considered the implications of your new appointment on the subject you're discussing.
Hacker: What, rescuing a football club?
Sir Humphrey: No, no, no; I was wondering how it would look if, as Cabinet Minister responsible for the Arts, your first action would be to knock down an art gallery.

Councillor Brian Wilkinson: I can't believe this! You mean I've got to go and tell the people back home that you've gone back on your word? I mean, it was your own idea!
Hacker: I mean, it's not me, it's the law!
Councillor Brian Wilkinson: Well, why didn't you find out until now?
Hacker: Well, um--
[Bernard coughs, attracting the Minister's attention, and keeps glancing at the paperwork for increased allowances for councillors, until Hacker finally gets the hint]
Hacker: [taking the paperwork in hand] Let me be absolutely frank with you. The truth is, it would be possible to push this through. Just possible. But it would take an awful long time.
Councillor Brian Wilkinson: Okay, take the time! We've spent enough!
Hacker: Yes, but the trouble is, you see, something else would have to go by the board. And the thing that's taking my time at the moment is forcing through this increase in councillor's expenses and attendance allowances. You see, I can't put my personal weight behind both schemes. I suppose I could forget about the increased allowances for councillors...
[Wilkinson and his fellow councillors look at each other, alarmed]
Hacker: ...concentrate on the legal obstacles to the sale of the art gallery.
Councillor Brian Wilkinson: [in a less confrontational tone] Tricky things, legal obstacles.
Sir Humphrey: And this is a particularly tricky one.
Councillor Brian Wilkinson: And at the end of the day, you might still fail.
Hacker: Every possibility.
Councillor Brian Wilkinson: Well, if that's the way it is... [turns to one of his fellow councillors] There is a chance that we might want to close Edgehill Road Primary at the end of the year. That site should fetch a couple of million, give or take.
[the councillors rise from their chairs]
Councillor Brian Wilkinson: Well, there it is, then! No ill feelings, Jim! [shakes hands with the Minister]
Hacker: Good! And you'll explain locally that we can't overcome the legal obstacles?
Councillor Brian Wilkinson: Of course we will!
[Councillor Wilkinson points at the paperwork regarding increased allowances for councillors]
Councillor Brian Wilkinson: Ah, carry on with the good work, eh?
[the councillors depart]
Sir Humphrey: Oh, Minister...a work of art.

Christmas at the Ministry (1982): "The Funny Side of Christmas"

Sir Humphrey: I wonder if I might crave your momentary indulgence in order to discharge a by no means disagreeable obligation which has, over the years, become more or less established practice in government service as we approach the terminal period of the year — calendar, of course, not financial — in fact, not to put too fine a point on it, Week Fifty-One — and submit to you, with all appropriate deference, for your consideration at a convenient juncture, a sincere and sanguine expectation — indeed confidence — indeed one might go so far as to say hope — that the aforementioned period may be, at the end of the day, when all relevant factors have been taken into consideration, susceptible to being deemed to be such as to merit a final verdict of having been by no means unsatisfactory in its overall outcome and, in the final analysis, to give grounds for being judged, on mature reflection, to have been conducive to generating a degree of gratification which will be seen in retrospect to have been significantly higher than the general average.
Jim Hacker: Are you trying to say "Happy Christmas," Humphrey?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, Minister.

Christmas Special (1984): Party Games

[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.

[The EEC wants to standardise sausages, and it turns out British bangers are not up to the standard]
Hacker: By the end of next year, we shall be waving good-bye to the good old British sausage, and we'll be forced to accept some foreign muck like salami or bratwurst or something in its place.
Bernard: They can't stop us eating the British sausage, can they?
Hacker They can stop us calling it the sausage, though. Apparently, it's going to be called the "emulsified high-fat offal tube".
Bernard: And you swallowed it?

[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 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 we any allies?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, quite a few yes; the Chief Whip, particularly. But he's worried that whichever gets the job will antagonise the other's supporters and split the party.
Sir Arnold: So we're looking for a compromise candidate.
Sir Humphrey: Hmm. Malleable.
Sir Arnold: Flexible.
Sir Humphrey: Likeable.
Sir Arnold: No firm opinions.
Sir Humphrey: No bright ideas.
Sir Arnold: Not intellectually committed.
Sir Humphrey: Without the strength of purpose to change anything.
Sir Arnold: Someone who you know can be manipula— professionally guided.
Sir Humphrey: And leave the business of government in the hands of the experts.
[Long beat as Sir Arnold and Sir Humphrey slowly realise Hacker is the perfect candidate. They catch each other's eye and burst into uproarious laughter.]

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 approaching 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]
Sir Humphrey: Minister, what is the matter?
Hacker: I am sorry, Humphrey. Just, well we had our ups and downs.
Sir Humphrey: Oh Minister, do not take on so. We will still be seeing one another regularly. Yes, once a week at least.
[Hacker looks up, aghast]
Hacker: What??
Sir Humphrey: I have not told you where I am going yet. I have been appointed Secretary to the Cabinet.
Hacker: Secretary to the Cabinet?
Sir Humphrey: What did you think I meant?
Hacker: I thought, I..., I....

Sir Humphrey: How are things at the Campaign for Freedom of Information?
Sir Arnold: I'm sorry, I can't talk about it.

[Hacker, Humphrey and Chief Whip Jeffery are talking about Hacker's campaign on Prime Ministership ]
Hacker: But supposing somebody would say "Does that mean you refuse to stand?" You know how these media people try to trap you.
Sir Humphrey: Well, Minister, it's not my place, but on previous occasions, a generally acceptable answer has been "While one does not seek the office, one has pledged oneself to the service of one's country. And if one's friends were to persuade one that that was the best way one could serve, one might reluctantly have to accept the responsibility, whatever one's own private wishes might be."
Hacker: [taking notes] "...private wishes might be." yes, I think I've got that.

[Jim Hacker and Maurice, the EEC Commissioner, are having a meeting to discuss the EEC plans to name British sausages 'emulsified high fat offal tubes':]
Hacker: One of your officials pays farmers to produce surplus food, while on the same floor, the next office is paying them to destroy the surpluses.
Maurice: That is not true!
Hacker: No?
Maurice: He is not in the next office, not even on the same floor!

Yes, Prime Minister


Series One (1986)


Episode One: The Grand Design

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.

[On pressing the nuclear button]

Hacker: Wouldn't anybody... argue with me?
General Howard: Serving officers obey orders without question!
Hacker: What if I were to get drunk?
Sir Humphrey: On the whole, it would be safer if you didn't.

Bernard: Prime Minister, isn't conscription a courageous policy?
Hacker: [panicking a bit] Courageous? Oh my God, is it?

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!

[Discussing Trident with General Sir Guy Howard]

General Howard: We don't need it. Complete waste of money. Totally unnecessary.
Hacker: Well, that's what I said!
General Howard: You're right.
Hacker: And the whole defence staff agree?
General Howard: No, the Navy want to keep it. It's launched from their submarines. Take away Trident, they'd hardly have a role left.
Hacker: And the RAF?
General Howard: Well, you could ask them if you're interested in the opinion of garage mechanics.

Sir Humphrey: If you walked into a nuclear missile showroom, you would buy Trident. It's lovely, it's elegant, it's beautiful – it's quite simply the best, and Britain should have the best. In the world of the nuclear missile, it is the Savile Row suit, the Rolls-Royce Corniche, the Château Lafite 1945. It is the nuclear missile Harrods would sell you. What more can I say?
Hacker: Only that it costs fifteen billion pounds and we don't need it.
Sir Humphrey: Well, you could say that about anything at Harrods!

Episode Two: The Ministerial Broadcast

Bernard: But he's the Prime Minister!
Sir Humphrey: Indeed he is, Bernard. He has his own car, a nice house in London, a place in the country, endless publicity and a pension for life. What more does he want?
Bernard: I think he wants to govern Britain.
Sir Humphrey: Well, stop him, Bernard.

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?

Hacker: [reading a speech written for him] "We shall of course be reviewing a wide range of options over the whole field of government expenditures." Bernard, this doesn't say anything.
Bernard: Oh, thank you, Prime Minister.
Hacker: It's completely lacking impact.
Bernard: You're too kind, Prime Minster.

Episode Three: The Smoke Screen

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

Sir 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: He’s got to learn to come to heel. He’s 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

[Sir Humphrey is not happy that Hacker has decided to move Dorothy Wainwright back into her old office, which was turned into a waiting room on Sir Humphrey's orders while she was away on holiday.]
Jim Hacker: People can wait in the lobby or in the state rooms.
Sir Humphrey: Some people, but some people must wait where other people cannot see the people who are waiting; and people who arrive before other people must wait where they cannot see the people who arrive after them being admitted before them; and people who come in from outside must wait where they cannot see the people from inside coming in to tell you what the people from outside have come to see you about; and people who arrive when you are with people they are not supposed to know you have seen must wait somewhere until the people who are not supposed to have seen you have seen you.

[Jim is trying to explain to Dorothy why he's changed his mind about moving her back to her old office]
Jim Hacker: ...That is, if people saw people coming, before people saw them seeing people, people would see people! The whole ship would go off the rails - you see?
Dorothy Wainwright: Did you work all that out for yourself?

[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!

Jim Hacker: But me no buts, Bernard. Shakespeare.
Bernard: Oh no, Prime Minister. "But me no buts" is circa 1820. Mrs. Centlivre used the phrase in 1708, but actually it was Scott's employment of it in The Antiquary in 1816 which made it fashionable.
Jim Hacker: Shall we keep to the point please, Bernard?

Jim Hacker: I wanted to sound you out about something.
Sir Frank Gordon: Of course, Prime Minister.
Jim Hacker: It's about Humphrey. I wonder if he hasn't got rather too much on his plate.
Sir Frank Gordon: Oh I'm sure he can manage. Tremendously able.
Jim Hacker: You don't think he is overstretched?
Sir Frank Gordon: Oh no, got it all under control. No problem there.
Jim Hacker: I see, because I was wondering, speculating of course, about his position as the head of the civil service.
Sir Frank Gordon: Ah...
Jim Hacker: It could make some sense if everything were to be transferred to the Treasury if you think you could do part of Humphrey's job.
Sir Frank Gordon: Oh... Yes, that could make a lot of sense.
Jim Hacker: But if as you say he's not overstretched...
Sir Frank Gordon: Ah, when I say not 'overstretched', I was of course talking in the sense of total cumulative loading taken globally, rather than in respect of certain individual and essentially anomalous responsibilities which are not, logically speaking, consonant or harmonious with the broad spectrum of intermeshing and inseparable functions and could indeed be said to place an excessive and supererogatory burden on the office when considered in relation to the comparatively exiguous advantages of their overall centralization.
Jim Hacker: You could do part of Humphrey's job!

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

[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.

[Hacker complains about the MP deputation came to him to ask for a pay rise.]
Annie: But aren't they underpaid in fact?
Hacker: Underpaid? Backbench MPs, Darling? Being an MP is a vast subsidised ego trip. It's a job for which you need no qualifications, no compulsory hours of work, no performance standards. A warm room and subsidised meals for a bunch of self-opinionated windbags and busybodies who suddenly find people taking them seriously because they got letters "MP" after their names. How can they be underpaid when there're about two hundred applicants for every vacancy? You could fill every seat twenty times over even if they have to pay to do the job.

[Hacker asks Humphrey about the sudden financial crisis.]
Hacker: Why the sudden crisis? The Treasury must've seen it coming.
Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, I'm not the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. You must ask Sir Frank.
Hacker: What would Sir Frank say?
Sir Humphrey: It is not for a humble mortal such as I to speculate on the complex and elevated deliberations of the mighty. But in general, I think Sir Frank believes that if the Treasury knows something has to be done, the Cabinet shouldn't have too much time to think about it.
Hacker: But that's an outrageous view!
Sir Humphrey: Yes, indeed. It's known as Treasury policy.
Hacker: Suppose the Cabinet has questions?
Sir Humphrey: Well I think Sir Frank's view is that on the rare occasions when the Treasury understands the questions, the Cabinet doesn't understand the answers.

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

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!

Bernard Woolley: What if the Prime Minister insists we help them?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Then we follow the four-stage strategy.
Bernard Woolley: What's that?
Sir Richard Wharton: Standard Foreign Office response in a time of crisis.
Sir Richard Wharton: In stage one we say nothing is going to happen.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Stage two, we say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.
Sir Richard Wharton: In stage three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there's nothing we *can* do.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Stage four, we say maybe there was something we could have done, but it's too late now.

Bernard Woolley: What if he demands options?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, it's obvious, Bernard. The Foreign Office will happily present him with three options, two of which are, on close inspection, exactly the same.
Sir Richard Wharton: Plus a third which is totally unacceptable.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Like bombing Warsaw or invading France.

Episode Seven: The Bishop's Gambit

Sir Humphrey: Bishops tend to have long lives. Apparently the Lord isn't all that keen to let them join him.

Man: In such an awful country, they cut people's hands off and women get stoned when they commit adultery.
Sir Humphrey: Unlike Britain, where they commit adultery when they get stoned.

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

[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)


Episode One: Man Overboard

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

[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.
Reference to François de La Rochefoucauld

Bernard: The problem is, the prime minister *did* try to suppress the chapter, didn't he.
Sir Humphrey: I don't know, did he?
Bernard: Well, didn't he? Don't you remember?
Sir Humphrey: What I remember is irrelevant, Bernard. If the minutes don't say that he did, then he didn't.
Bernard: So you want me to falsify the minutes?
Sir Humphrey: I want nothing of the sort! It's up to you, Bernard - what do you want?
Bernard: I want to have a clear conscience.
Sir Humphrey: A clear conscience.
Bernard: Yes!
Sir Humphrey: When did you acquire this taste for luxuries?

Sir Humphrey: You choose from a jumble of ill-digested ideas a version which represents the Prime Minister's views as he would, on reflection, have liked them to emerge.
Bernard: But if it's not a true record...
Sir Humphrey: The purpose of minutes is not to record events, it is to protect people. You do not take notes if the Prime Minister says something he did not mean to say, particularly if it contradicts something he has said publicly.

Episode Three: A Diplomatic Incident

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.
Bernard: [on the phone] No we can't have alphabetical sitting in the Abbey, you would have Iran and Iraq sitting together, plus Jordan and Israel all in the same pew, we would be in danger of starting World War Three. No! I know Ireland begins with an I but No! Ireland doesn’t make it any better, Ireland doesn’t make anything any better.

Episode Four: A Conflict of Interest

Sir Humphrey: The only way to understand the Press is to remember that they pander to their readers' prejudices.
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

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!

Sir Humphrey: To put it simply, Prime Minister, certain informal discussions took place involving a full and frank exchange of views out of which there arose a series of proposals, which on examination proved to indicate certain promising lines of inquiry, which, when pursued, lead to the realization that the alternative courses of action might, in fact, in certain circumstances, be susceptible of discreet modification, leading to a reappraisal of the original areas of difference and pointing the way to encouraging possibilities of compromise and cooperation, which, if bilaterally implemented with appropriate give and take on both sides might, if the climate were right, have a reasonable probability at the end of the day of leading, rightly or wrongly, to a mutually satisfactory resolution.
Hacker: What the hell are you talking about?
Sir Humphrey: We did a deal.

Episode Six: The Patron of the Arts

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 occasion 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!
Sir 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

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

[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.

[Final lines. Sir Humphrey enters the Cabinet Room]
Hacker: Ah, Humphrey, come in, come in, come in! (Chuckles) How did your broadcast go?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, very well, very well.
Hacker: What did you say?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, nothing in particular. I think I pointed out some of the difficulties in allocating responsibilities as between politicians and civil servants.
Hacker: But you were discreet?
Sir Humphrey: Why do you ask?
Hacker: Were you or weren't you?
Sir Humphrey: Yes.
Hacker: Yes, you were or yes, you weren't?
Sir Humphrey: Yes.
Hacker: Humpy?
Sir Humphrey: Wouldn't you expect me to be discreet?
Hacker: Yes, of course.
Sir Humphrey: There you are, then.
Hacker: Good. Well, that's all right, then, isn't it?
Sir Humphrey: Why do you ask, Prime Minister?
Hacker: Well, it's just that the BBC sent me a tape.
Sir Humphrey: A tape? What tape?
Hacker: A tape of your broadcast. I thought we might listen to it together.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Hacker: Why not?
Sir Humphrey: No, it isn't at all interesting.
Hacker: Not interesting? The Cabinet Secretary talking to the nation?
Sir Humphrey: Well, not VERY interesting.
Hacker: You mean you were too discreet? (to Bernard) Play it, would you, Bernard?
[Bernard plays the tape]
Sir Humphrey: [on tape. We hear what Humphrey said after he assumed recording had stopped.] My dear Ludo, nobody tells the truth about unemployment.
Ludovic Kennedy: [on tape] Oh, why not?
Sir Humphrey: [on tape] Because everyone knows you can halve it in a few weeks.
Ludovic Kennedy: [on tape] How?
Sir Humphrey: [on tape] Cut off all Social Security to all claimants who refuse two job offers. There's genuine unemployment in the north...
Hacker: Humphrey!
Sir Humphrey: I'm terribly sorry, Prime Minister, I didn't know! They didn't tell me! The interview was over!
Hacker: The indiscretion! The irresponsibility! Is there any more?
Sir Humphrey: No.
Bernard: Yes.
Hacker: Play it, Bernard.
Sir Humphrey : [on tape] ...may be off the register as soon as you could say "parasite". Frankly, this country can have as much unemployment as it's prepared to pay for in social security, and no politicians have got the guts to do anything about it!
[Bernard stops the tape. ]
Hacker: You said that!?
Sir Humphrey: It was Mike Yarwood...
Hacker: I'm in somewhat of a difficulty as to know what to do about this, Humphrey. I think I need advice.
Sir Humphrey: Advice?
Hacker: Perhaps I ought to play it to the Cabinet, get their reaction.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, please!
Hacker: Or the Privy Counsel.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, please!
Hacker: Or... Her Majesty?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, God!
Hacker: Do you realise what this would mean if it got into the papers, the damage it would do to me, to the government?
Sir Humphrey: I could say I got it wrong! I've checked, it isn't true!
Hacker: But it is true.
Sir Humphrey: But I could say it isn't! Nobody can prove it, it's never been tried!
Hacker: You would tell an untruth in public?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, for YOU, Prime Minister! We can issue a clarification.
Hacker: I think you already made yourself very clear.
Sir Humphrey: No, Prime Minister, a clarification is not to make oneself clear, it is to put oneself IN the clear.
Hacker: "Oh, what a tangled web we weave". (to Bernard) Give me the tape, would you, Bernard? (Bernard gives him the tape and Hacker turns back to Sir Humphrey) Now I've got something to tell you. (Shows Sir Humphrey the tape) This is a copy... (Takes out the film reel from inside his jacket) ...but this is the original, the master.
Sir Humphrey: You mean?
Hacker: They were retrieved from the BBC.
Sir Humphrey: By whom?
Hacker: Intelligence.
Sir Humphrey: So no one else will ever know?
Hacker: Well, that rather depends on what I choose to tell them. Of course, I could just hand over the tapes or... I could hold onto them while I consider the security and disciplinary implications. I certainly have no intention of joining "some shabby cover-up". Oh, that reminds me, have you decided yet what you're going to tell the Privileges Committee?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, yes, yes, Prime Minister. I've decided that, uh, in the interests of national security, that, um, the only honourable course is to support your statement in the House.
Hacker: And say that Hugh Halifax's telephone has never been bugged?
Sir Humphrey: And say I have no evidence?
Hacker: No, Humphrey, and say the government has never authorised the bugging of MPs' telephones.
Sir Humphrey: ...say the government has never author... Supposing they find out the truth?
Hacker: You'll just have to say that nobody told you, because you didn't need to know. Agreed? (Sir Humphrey sighs) Splendid. Well, that's settled, then.
Sir Humphrey: May one have one's tapes back?
[Hacker extends the cassette and the original tape reel toward Humphrey but then withdraws them]
Hacker: Tomorrow. After the Committee on Privileges. All right, Humphrey?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, Prime Minister. (Leaves the table)

Main Cast


See also


External links

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