Yes Minister

Yes Minister

Yes Minister is a political satire British sitcom written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. Split over three seven-episode series, it was first transmitted on BBC Two from 1980 to 1984. A sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, lasted 17 episodes and ran from 1986 to 1988. All but one of the episodes lasted half an hour, and almost all ended with a variation of the title of the series spoken as the answer to a question posed by Minister (later, Prime Minister) Jim Hacker. Several episodes were adapted for BBC Radio; the series also spawned a 2010 stage play that led to a new television series on Gold in 2013. Set principally in the private office of a British Cabinet minister in the fictional Department of Administrative Affairs in Whitehall, Yes Minister follows the ministerial career of Jim Hacker, played by Paul Eddington. His various struggles to formulate and enact policy or effect departmental changes are opposed by the British Civil Service, in particular his Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby, played by Sir Nigel Hawthorne. His Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley, played by Derek Fowlds, is usually caught between the two. The sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, continued with the same cast and followed Jim Hacker after his unexpected elevation to Number 10 upon the resignation of the previous Prime Minister. The series received several BAFTAs and in 2004 was voted sixth in the Britain's Best Sitcom poll. It was the favourite television programme of the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher.

Genre: Comedy
Year:
1980
Website
25,523 Views

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Well, Bernard, have you enjoyed having your Minister away for a week?

Bernard Woolley:
Not very much. Makes things very difficult.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Ah, Bernard! A Minister's absence is a godsend! You can do the job properly for once. No silly questions, no bright ideas, no fussing about the papers. I think our Minister doesn't believe he exists unless he's in the papers. I'll bet the first thing he says is, "Any reports on my Washington speech?"

Bernard Woolley:
How much?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
A pound.

Bernard Woolley:
Done. He won't because he's already asked. In the car on the way back from Heathrow.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
You're learning, Bernard. Sit down. See why a Minister's absence is a good thing?

Bernard Woolley:
Yes, but so much work piles up.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
With a couple of days' briefing before he goes and debriefing after, he's out of our hair for a fortnight. If he complains of being uninformed, say it came up while he was away.

Bernard Woolley:
Hence so many summit conferences?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
That's the only way the country works! Concentrate all the power at Number 10 then send the PM away to EEC summits, NATO summits, Commonwealth summits, anywhere! Then the Cabinet Secretary can run the country properly.

Bernard Woolley:
We ought to see him now.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
What do you think of the Washington speech? [Reads] "British administration as a model of loyalty and efficiency. A ruthless war on waste, cutting bureaucracy to the bone. A lesson Britain can teach the world!"

Bernard Woolley:
Can we prove it?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
A good speech isn't one where we can prove he's telling the truth. It's one in which nobody else can prove he's lying!

Bernard Woolley:
But even so, I'm sure it was good, but I just wondered whether it might have been boring for the audience.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Of course it was boring! Bored the pants of them! Ghastly to have to sit through it, I should think! Ministers' speeches aren't written for the audience. Delivering a speech is just a formality you go through to get into the papers. We can't worry about entertaining. We're not writing for a comedian. Well, not a professional one. The point is the speech said the right things.

Bernard Woolley:
But why say it in public?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
It's vital. Once it's printed, the Minister has to defend us in select committees.

Bernard Woolley:
He defends us anyway.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Well... Only to a point, Bernard. Once something goes wrong, the Minister's first instinct is to rat on his department. That's why we write him a speech that nails his trousers to the mast.

Bernard Woolley:
You mean nail his colours to the mast?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
No, his trousers. Then he can't climb down!

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Formulating policy means making choices. Once you do that, you please the people that you favour, but infuriate everybody else. One vote gained, ten lost. If you give the job to the road services, the rail board and unions will scream. Give it to the railways, the road lobby will massacre you. Cut British Airways investment plans, they'll hold a devastating press conference that same day.

James Hacker:
But I'm going to be Transport Supremo!

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
I believe the Civil Service vernacular is Transport Muggins!

James Hacker:
No, the Prime Minister has asked me to undertake this task, this necessary duty. After all, we must all endeavour to do our duty. Furthermore, Sir Mark thinks there may be votes in it. And if so, I don't intend to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
I put it to you, Minister, that you are looking a Trojan horse in the mouth!

James Hacker:
If we look closely at this gift horse, we'll find it full of Trojans?

Bernard Woolley:
If you had looked a Trojan horse in the mouth, Minister, you'd have found Greeks inside. Well the point is, 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'll 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.

James Hacker:
Greek tags are all very well, but can we stick to the point?

Bernard Woolley:
Sorry, Greek tags?

James Hacker:
"Beware of Greeks bearing gifts". I suppose the EEC equivalent would be, "Beware Greeks bearing an olive oil surplus"!

Bernard Woolley:
No, the point is, Minister, just as the Trojan horse was Greek, what you call 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, and it's clearly Latin not because "Timeo" ends in "o", as the Greek first person also ends in "o". No, 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, though actually Danaos is not only the Greek for Greek, it's also the Latin for Greek.

James Hacker:
This can't go on, Humphrey!

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
I'm glad you said that, minister, because it isn't going to. We have just heard from the Special Branch that your protection is being withdrawn.

James Hacker:
Ah, now wait a minute. I... I... I didn't mean... But why?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Well, the police have suffered an acute personnel establishment shortfall.

James Hacker:
They what?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
They're short-staffed, so they can no longer continue protecting you.

James Hacker:
Short-staffed?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Yes, because of the much more real and dangerous threat to the Soviet Premier at the Chequers meeting tomorrow.

James Hacker:
But he's Russian. I'm British.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Well, in fact, minister the special branch have reason to believe the threat to your life has been diminished.

James Hacker:
How do they know?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Surveillance. They overheard a conversation.

James Hacker:
What did it say?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Oh, I don't think it is of any imp...

James Hacker:
Come on, Humphrey, I have a right to know!

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
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 on the central deliberations and decisions within the political process, that there could be a case for restructuring their action priorities in such a way as to eliminate your liquidation from their immediate agenda.

James Hacker:
They said that?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
That was the gist of it.

Bernard Woolley:
[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 Woolley:
One... two... three... four... five... six... seven... eight... nine... TEN.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
[arrives at the office] What's all this about?

Bernard Woolley:
The minister's just left the office, that's all.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
That's all? Do you mean he's loose in the building? Why didn't you warn me?

Bernard Woolley:
I did advise him, but he is the minister. There's no prohibition aga inst ministers talking to their staff.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Who's he talking to?

Bernard Woolley:
Perhaps he was just restless.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
If the minister's restless, he can feed the ducks in St James's Park!

Bernard Woolley:
Yes, Sir Humphrey.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Tell me who the minister's talking to.

Bernard Woolley:
Well, surely the minister can talk to anyone.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
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 Woolley:
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 Appleby:
Thank you, Bernard. Must fly.

Bernard Woolley:
Room 4017.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
I know.

Bernard Woolley:
So what do we believe in?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
At this moment, Bernard, we believe in stopping the minister from informing the Prime Minister.

Bernard Woolley:
But why?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
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 Woolley:
The Cabinet Secretary?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Nearly right. Actually, it was Lenin.

Bernard Woolley:
How do you stop a Cabinet Minister talking to a Prime Minister?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Interesting question. You tell me.

Bernard Woolley:
I don't know.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Work it out. You're supposed to be a high flier. Or are you really a low-flier supported by occasional gusts of wind?

Bernard Woolley:
Well, YOU can't stop the minister seeing the PM, can you?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
I can't.

Bernard Woolley:
Nor can the private office at No.10.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Correct.

Bernard Woolley:
It has to be someone high up in government.

Bernard Woolley:
Someone close to the PM. Someone who can frighten the minister... The Chief Whip?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Excellent, you've learnt a lot. So, how do you crack the whip?

Bernard Woolley:
I'm sorry?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
How do you mobilise the Chief Whip?

Bernard Woolley:
The minister's asked me to phone the PM's private office for an appointment, so if you had a word with the Cabinet Secretary, and he had a word with the diary secretary, and they all had a word with the Whip's office, then when the minister arrived, the Whip could meet him and say the PM is busy and asked him to have a word with the minister instead.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Excellent, Bernard. You should have taken a degree in engineering! [Bernard picks up the phone] What are you doing?

Bernard Woolley:
I thought you wanted the Cabinet Secretary.

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
I do, indeed. Now, do you, as the minister's private secretary, feel obliged to tell the minister of this conversation?

Bernard Woolley:
What conversation?

Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Well done, Bernard. You'll be a moral vacuum yet!

James Hacker:
[Last lines] [Drunk] I'll tell you about government. You must always do the right thing. But, you must never let anybody catch you trying to do it. Because doing right's wrong, right?

Annie Hacker:
Haven't you had enough, darling?

James Hacker:
Still some left in the bottle. No, the thing about government is principle, and the principle is you mustn't rock the boat, because if you do, all the little consciences will fall out. And you must all hang together. Because if you don't hang together, you'll be hanged separately. I'm hanged if I'll be hanged! You know, politics is about helping others. Even if that means helping terrorists. Terrorists are others, aren't they? Not us, are they? No. And you must always follow your conscience, but you must always know where you're going. So you can't follow your conscience. Cause it may not be going the same way you are. [Picking up the whiskey bottle] Empty... like me. I'm a moral vacuum.

Annie Hacker:
Oh, cheer up, darling. Nothing good comes out of Whitehall. You did what you could.

James Hacker:
You don't really mean that.

Annie Hacker:
I do.

James Hacker:
No, I'm just like Humphrey and all the rest of them.

Annie Hacker:
Now that's certainly not true.

James Hacker:
No?

Annie Hacker:
He's lost his sense of right and wrong. You've still got yours.

James Hacker:
[Depressed] Have I?

Annie Hacker:
It's just that you don't use it much. You're a sort of whiskey priest. You do at least know when you've done the wrong thing.

James Hacker:
Whiskey priest?

Annie Hacker:
That's right.

James Hacker:
Good. Let's open another bottle.

Annie Hacker:
We haven't got one.

James Hacker:
That's what you think. [He opens one of the red boxes beside him and pulls out a full bottle of whiskey, much to Annie's bemusement] Who said nothing good ever came out of Whitehall? You want one?

Annie Hacker:
Yes, Minister.


Share your thoughts on Yes Minister's quotes with the community:

0 Comments

    Quote of the Day Today's Quote | Archive

    Would you like us to send you a FREE inspiring quote delivered to your inbox daily?

    Please enter your email address:

    Citation

    Use the citation below to add this movie page to your bibliography:

    Style:MLAChicagoAPA

    "Yes Minister Quotes." Quotes.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 26 Sep. 2022. <https://www.quotes.net/movies/yes_minister_quotes_108837>.

    Know another quote from Yes Minister?

    Don't let people miss on a great quote from the "Yes Minister" movie - add it here!

    Browse Quotes.net

    Quiz

    Are you a quotes master?

    »
    Who said : "Don't be so humble - you are not that great."?
    • A. Robin Williams
    • B. Ernest Hemingway
    • C. Golda Meir
    • D. Mahatma Gandhi