programme that was a classic hilarious satire
of British politics
, and no doubt of much of politics almost everywhere. Jim Hacker is the fatuously deluded and spineless new minister, brought into the government
after an election victory. He naturally assumes he will be in charge of his new Department of Administrative Affairs and boldly implement his government's policies. However, the permanent head of the department, Sir Humphrey Appleby, is a wily old mandarin
who is determined to get on with the Civil Service
running the country for their own benefit as it has always been done, and preventing the minister having any influence while continuing to think he is in charge.
More realistic views of the proceedings are given by Hacker's long-suffering wife Annie, and by the young civil servant Bernard Woolley, who is being groomed by Sir Humphrey by having his remaining idealism squashed out of him.
Yes Minister was written by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay. There were 21 episodes between 1980 and 1982.
There are a couple of discrepancies between the BBC book of the series and the actual order they were aired. The episodes as aired were:
- Open Government. Jim's party wins power and he is appointed to the Cabinet. He meets Sir Humphrey and Bernard and spells out his vision of open government. Then he has to suppress news of a valuable computer contract.
- The Official Visit. The new president of Buranda makes a state visit, and leaks his speech inciting Scotland to throw off colonialism. Jim is forced to give him a favourable loan to shut him up.
- The Economy Drive. Jim wants to cut government waste so Sir Humphrey thwarts him by starting the cutbacks in the Department. They hire more people to implement them.
- Big Brother. Jim says he will introduce safeguards on the new national database. Humphrey stalls, but Jim learns some tricks from his opposition predecessor, and for once the tables are turned.
- The Writing on the Wall. Jim wants to streamline the Civil Service, but on learning that this would involve the abolition of his own Department, he and Sir Humphrey are forced to cooperate to blackmail the Prime Minister.
- The Right To Know. Jim having consigned a badger colony to destruction, his daughter Lucy and her Trotskyite boyfriend plan a nude vigil there to save it.
- Jobs for the Boys. Jim commits himself to the Solihull project without realizing that it is about to go bankrupt; the only way to save it is to appoint the head of the bank financing it to a quango.
- The Compassionate Society. There is an empty but fully-staffed hospital: trying to close it results in an all-out strike of hospital workers. They finally use it to house refugees.
- Doing the Honours. Jim wants honours not to be automatic but to be linked to work. He gets drunk at a dinner at Humphrey's old college and is persuaded that he would be ideal for an honorary doctorate.
- The Death List. Before taking office Jim would have been opposed to bugging, even in the cause of protecting ministers of the crown. But on learning he himself is on a death list, he agrees to round-the-clock bodyguards for himself and electronic bugging of the suspects. This episode precedes the previous in the book.
- The Greasy Pole. The scientist Professor Henderson produces a report saying metadioxin from a chemical factory is completely safe, but his report gets heavily qualified on the order of the PM so the factory can be stopped.
- The Devil You Know. With rumours of a cabinet reshuffle, Jim needs to find a success quickly, and comes up with an anti-Brussels announcement.
- The Quality of Life. A big bank wants to build extra floors on its building, and Jim refuses; unbeknownst to him the alternative is to use land occupied by a City Farm he has just supported; so he is blackmailed into agreeing to the original proposal.
- A Question of Loyalty. Jim and Humphrey are being grilled by a Select Committee over departmental waste. Humphrey gives Civil Service replies but Jim is got at by the Prime Minister and undermines Sir Humphrey.
- Equal Opportunities. Jim is pressured to introduce a quota to ensure more women get into higher echelons of the Civil Service. Humphrey nobbles Jim's wife Annie by pointing how much Jim will see of one particular attractive woman.
- The Challenge. Jim now has responsibility for local government reform, but one bold stroke he announces in a BBC interview adversely affects the Prime Minister's constituency, so they have to blackmail the BBC not to broadcast it.
- The Skeleton in the Cupboard. Sir Humphrey's past comes to haunt him, in the form of a horrible bungle made while he was a junior civil servant. Jim uses it to blackmail Humphrey to solve one of his own bad image problems. This episode comes at the end of the book.
- The Moral Dimension. Jim is in Qumran, a strict Islamic country, getting plastered on whisky at a trade deal. He learns it was achieved by bribery, and to stop him revealing this Humphrey agrees that all their behaviour in Qumran must be made public. Jim withdraws his moral objection.
- The Bed of Nails. Jim is delighted to be appointed supremo for the national integrated transport policy, but on finding that it is a certain vote-loser he and Humphrey conspire to make the PM's constituency suffer, so the idea gets dropped.
- The Whisky Priest. Jim is tipped off that British arms are being sold to Italian terrorists, and his conscience compels him to tackle this. Sir Humphrey can't see how morality has any connexion with government.
- The Middle-Class Rip-Off. Jim thinks subsidized opera is an elistist rip-off favouring people like Sir Humphrey, but is persuaded to support the arts when responsibility for them is transferred to his department.
A subsequent series, equally good and incisive, was called Yes Prime Minister, and had Jim promoted absurdly into the seat of power because the Civil Service thought he would be easier to control there than a more competent politician.