Yes, Prime Minister: Re-elected (2013) Movie Script

Britain's most celebrated
constitutional comedy,
Yes, Prime Minister, is back.
I don't know what else I don't know,
do you know?
The prospect of a new series of
Yes, Prime Minister set today
is fantastic.
As Tony Blair would say,
"It's very, very,
very good news, ha ha ha ha ha!"
They really do say,
"Yes, Prime Minister."
There's a hungry audience
out there for it,
and I think it will
absolutely chime.
GOLD has enticed the original
writers, Jonathan Lynn
and Antony Jay, to write
a brand-new series...
I think it's fun.
I really think we're going
to enjoy the experience.
..with a brand-new cast...
I love playing the character,
because he reminds me
slightly of Boris Johnson.
Am I allowed to say that?
Because Boris Johnson,
incredibly shrewd at times.
And I think there's
a bit of that in Jim Hacker.
..and some very special guest
Hi, I'm George Clooney!
..because there's never been
a better time to bring back
this ground-breaking
tale of political chicanery.
There's a way you can make
yourself invulnerable!
Yes, Prime Minister,
the sitcom that lifted the lid on
the inner workings of government,
is finally making a triumphant
return to our screens
after 25 years.
It'll be great to see it coming back
and see how they've how
that programme can relate
to the changing world of politics
and the changing world
of entertainment.
And it will remind Humphrey
who's running the country.
It's gonna give us a fresh,
fresh light,
and is going to be very,
very enjoyable.
It's bound to strike a chord,
because people realise it's true.
In fact, it was so true to life
that when Yes, Prime Minister
first aired in the '80s,
the Iron Lady was most amused.
The odd thing about
Yes, Prime Minister is that it was
the favourite programme of Margaret
Thatcher, the Prime Minister.
'Do you watch Yes, Prime Minister?'
Yes, I do watch Yes, Prime Minister,
but sometimes not when it's on.
It can be videoed for me,
or the BBC are very,
very kind
and will let me have the tape.
Mrs Thatcher once said to me,
"This is not a sitcom, Andrew."
She said, "This is a documentary."
Basically, I think the reason
that Mrs Thatcher liked it
was because it was politically
correct for her to do so.
It was one of the most
popular programmes,
and she was trying to jump
on the bandwagon,
as far as I was concerned.
She was inclined, from time to time,
to think that only
she was any good, and the rest
of her ministers were useless.
And therefore to some extent,
this fed into that.
Now, any other points
that we wish to raise,
generally, before we go on
to the main business?
JONATHAN LYNN: I didn't like
it being associated with her,
because I wasn't wholly
sympathetic to her political views
and I didn't want it to
put off the rest of the country
or the people who didn't like her.
But I was absolutely
in favour of her views,
and I don't think that we've come
to an agreement about this.
We've never come
to an agreement on that.
I just wanted to make it clear that
you didn't have to be a Thatcherite
to like this programme, nor was it
projecting a Tory viewpoint...
No, that was...
..which a lot of people
claim that it was.
Although there was
one young Tory who disagreed.
In fact, during his uni days,
he wrote an essay saying
it wasn't that true to life.
But after two years in power
and with a wealth of experience
behind him,
Cameron has finally conceded
that yes,
Yes, Prime Minister
has got it right.
The fact David Cameron has said that
yes, it is basically like that
only really confirms why people love
that show as much as they do.
Our new series sees Jim Hacker
heading up a crumbling
coalition government
whilst battling a catastrophic
euro crisis, financial meltdown,
and a bid for Scottish independence.
You can propose as many alternatives
as you like in your referendum.
We will propose
only one option in ours.
We're in the age where we have
a coalition government
which is
increasingly fighting among itself.
We're at a time when politicians
don't quite know what to do.
I think you add all these things
together, and you see
the re-emergence, the second
coming of Sir Humphrey Appleby.
I have caught you red-handed
in a devious attempt to inveigle us
into the Eurozone behind my back.
No, well, yes, but...
To explore how
Yes, Prime Minister has shaped
our view of government,
we've put together our very own
Select Committee
for Comedy Analysis.
It consists of Tory titan
Michael Heseltine,
former Labour heavyweight
Alan Johnson,
Lib Dem deputy leader
Simon Hughes,
ex-Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell -
or Sir Humphrey to me and you -
and none other than Tony Blair's
former Spin Doctor,
Alastair Campbell.
So here we are talking about
is this the right time to revive
Yes, Minister
when first peace-time
country in economic
difficulties, euro crisis,
Scotland talking about a vote
on independence...
What do you think?
Your party, first time in
government for a very long time.
I think it makes for, in theory,
a much more interesting set
of programmes
even than the original,
because one-party government
is interesting enough,
but two-party government,
by definition,
is much more interesting, because
it's not just the internal management
of your own people, but it's
the relationship between the two.
Oh, absolutely.
When I was brought up...
I mean, you described
Yes, Minister as a...comedy.
We were taught it as
a training video.
You know, this was
how you managed your ministers.
I mean, I've been in episodes
of Yes, Minister.
You know, when I was at Trade
and Industry, and Tony appointed me
and said, "Oh, incidentally,
we've changed the name of it -
"it's now the Department
of Productivity, Energy..."
which was capital E, small N
"..Industry and Science."
I said, "I'm the Secretary
of State for PEnIS!"
And...and this was on a Sunday.
On the Wednesday,
I went to see Tony in Number Ten,
and he said, "Are you OK, Alan?
"You know, all this...
"pretty straight
nuclear policy...?"
And I said, "I don't like being
in the Department of PEnIS."
And he said, "Whose idea was that?"
And he looked round,
and, "Oh, not mine!"
It was his Press Secretary!
It was certainly was not!
Alistair had gone by then!
So we had to change,
so DTI had come down,
and it was blank outside 1
Victoria Street, I can remember it.
And they were just about to put
PEnIS up, and fortunately
I managed to persuade the Prime
Minister we'd go back to being DTI.
I mean it's an episode
of Yes, Minister.
They couldn't have got,
they couldn't have invented that,
could they?
When Jim Hacker left our screens
in 1988, Jonathan Lynn hotfooted it
to Hollywood to become
an award-winning film director.
Antony Jay swapped the city
for the country to continue writing.
Now GOLD has persuaded them
to bring Yes, Prime Minister
back to our screens.
It's as good a time as any
to revive Yes, Prime Minister.
Nothing has changed,
except cosmetically,
since it was first on in 1980.
Our very limited ambition
was to write six funny shows
about what
happens in Whitehall.
But we stumbled across a rich
vein of humour and public interest.
And it was extraordinarily
fortunate, but the result of it
is that...there's never
a shortage of things to write about.
Collapse of conference,
collapse of backbench support,
collapse of coalition, collapse
of cabinet, collapse of my career!
This is the biggest disaster
since Dunkirk!
It is very much
a continuation of the original.
And we've got two absolutely
marvellous characters,
er, playing Jim and Humphrey,
which I think will be
an eye-opener to people,
not that they're better than Paul
and Nigel, but they're different,
but they're really very,
very well observed and very funny.
'It's obviously
extraordinarily gratifying
'to have created characters
'that seem to have become
part of the vocabulary.
'It didn't occur to us, I think,
that we were doing that.'
We didn't set out to change
the world, we just set out to...
To amuse an audience. amuse an audience.
Stepping into the Prime Ministerial
role of Jim Hacker
is acting legend David Haig,
whilst his calculating
Cabinet Secretary, Sir Humphrey,
is played by renowned stage
and screen actor, Henry Goodman.
HENRY GOODMAN: I'm genuinely excited
that these scripts have embraced
new and edgy stuff.
Some of the things that happen
in these episodes
would not have been in previous
some years ago.
Why didn't you know?
Well, everybody thought that
everybody else understood
what was going on.
Nobody wanted to admit that
they couldn't make sense of it.
Why couldn't they?
Because it didn't make sense!
The balance between Sir Humphrey
and Jim Hacker
has evolved through
the two of us playing the two roles,
and that necessarily has some
differences from our predecessors.
But I think they're exciting
differences, and I'm not scared
of Nigel and Paul's performances,
which were absolutely phenomenal.
And also, Henry and I have known
each other for so long, it's fun
to investigate our own histories,
in a way, subliminally, I feel.
Yes, yeah, absolutely.
Within the characters.
How happy is the Prime Minister
about his future?
He's as happy as a rat-catcher
on a rubbish dump.
The Prime Minister is as happy
as an Environmental Health Officer
on a Civic Amenity Site.
I was absolutely terrified when
they offered me Bernard originally,
simply because
I watched the original TV series,
back in the 1980s.
I was doing my A-level politics
and I was really awe.
What about Bernard?
Now, he is the kind of character
I'm really sympathetic to,
and of all of them the three
of them, I've seen Bernards.
Over and over again.
Indeed, and they are, you know,
I think people underestimate
the power of every Minister's
Private Secretary.
It's not the reality of the
Civil Service now, you know,
you'd be much more likely to have
a Bernadette
than a...than a Bernard.
Quiet, please...
Although Bernard
is still very much a bloke,
there is a welcome addition
of a female SPAD - Claire Sutton,
Special Political Advisor to Jim.
'She's kind of like his right-hand
man, really.
'And she's very good at kind
of thinking straight'
in stressful situations
and, you know, just...being cogent.
He's not doing that.
If I could
mention the Kumranistan loan!
You can't!
Not until Kumranistan has definitely
signed on the dotted line
and not until this euro business
with the European Central bank
is sorted out.
Phone them back.
Pretend to be helpful.
It'd be very nice to see
a woman SPAD.
And Zoe Telford is a fantastic
actress, she's really good
and she's just got a great
kind of energy about her
and a real intelligence as well.
I think she'll be great.
Yeah, I
think she'll run rings around them.
We're all agreed it's the perfect
moment for the return
of Yes, Prime Minister.
But I wonder what former Prime
Minister Tony Blair makes of it...
Well, it's a very important
and I'm glad that you've asked it,
and what I think we've got
to address is a very serious issue,
and it's absolutely right
that you said it, and what we're
doing, and what we said,
to address is a very serious issue,
and it's absolutely right
that you said it, and what we're
doing, and what we said,
and what we intend to say,
and what we intend to act upon,
is that very thing.
So in answer to that question,
is that very thing.
So in answer to that question,
I think we've got
to look at it very carefully.
Thanks, Tony.
Coming up, we'll reveal
which of these faces
was a secret source for the writers.
And relive the moment
Mrs Thatcher got in on the act.
Capital, my dear Sir Humphrey,
You'll know exactly where to start.
Britain's best-loved
governmental sitcom is back.
Award-winning writers Antony Jay
and Jonathan Lynn have brought back
Jim Hacker, Sir Humphrey
and Bernard for a brand-new series.
I really do admire your courage,
Prime Minister.
Oh, God!
Have I been courageous?
But back in the '70s, when
Antony first thought of the idea
for a governmental sitcom,
Jonathan was less than impressed,
and Yes, Minister
nearly became No, Minister!
It was Tony's idea.
I thought it was a terrible idea
and declined his suggestion
that we do this together.
And after three years, I was
looking for something new to write
and I couldn't think of anything,
so I phoned Tony who...
I said, "Have you done anything
with that idea yet?"
He said,
"No, are you interested now?"
And I said, "I don't know,
but it doesn't really have anything
"that would normally make people
watch a television series.
"It's three middle-aged
to elderly men,
"sitting around
and talking about government."
You know?
There are no women
or almost no women.
There's no action.
There's no sex.
There's no violence.
That's why we took such trouble
to make it interesting
and authentic and well researched,
so that even if they didn't
really get the jokes,
or laugh very much,
it might be interesting enough
for them to say, "Oh, I didn't know
that, that was quite interesting."
You know.
we'd better watch next week."
But we didn't expect it
to be a long-running series.
We thought the BBC was
really quite brave to...
to put on a comedy about government.
The pilot of Yes, Minister
was made in 1979.
But the BBC backed
out of launching it
until after the general election,
for fear of affecting the outcome.
So as the country went to the polls
to choose between
Callaghan and Thatcher,
Jim Hacker was consigned
to his constituency until 1980.
Hello and welcome.
Thank you, Sir Humphrey.
I believe you know each other.
Yes, we did cross swords
when the Minister gave me
a grilling over the estimates
in the Public Accounts Committee.
I wouldn't say that.
Well, you came up with all the
questions I hoped nobody would ask.
Well, opposition's about asking
awkward questions.
And government is about not
answering them.
Well, you answered all mine anyway.
I'm glad you thought so, Minister.
I remember, back in 1980,
when it was first on,
I was 12 at the time, and I remember
my dad just saying to me,
"Now then, now then, Jonathan, watch
this, you might learn something."
It was an outstanding example
of what a sitcom should be about.
This serious side to it,
the political side to it.
And it didn't dumb down ever.
Yes, Minister had something
important to say
about the process of government.
And being able to combine
something interesting
and important with making me
roll in my chair with laughter,
seemed to me
to be a great combination.
You see, Bernard, it is
our duty to assist the Minister to
fight for the department's money,
despite his own panicked reaction.
Do you mean help
him overcome his panic?
No, no, no, no, no, no.
No, let him panic.
Politicians like to panic,
they need activity.
It's their substitute
for achievement.
So accurate was Yes Minister's
portrayal of the inner-workings
of Government that politically
astute fans of the show suspected
the writers were getting their
storylines straight from the top.
Well, I assumed that they
had inside sources.
If they hadn't, then
they were just pure genius.
Politicians are extremely indiscreet
and the higher up they get,
the more indiscreet they are.
It wasn't difficult to get people
to come and have lunch with us
if it was a reasonably decent
And after the third glass of wine,
all sorts of interesting
information emerged.
And one high ranking official
willing to be wined and dined
was former
Prime Ministerial head of policy,
Bernard Donoghue, who was to
become their top informer.
I was quite happy to inform them,
because I felt, basically,
the public had a right to know
what was going on.
They would say to me, "We want to
know if that's how the Prime Minister
"would receive ministers,
civil servants.
"How they would speak to one another,
"how policy issues were
processed through."
What I was able to do was,
tell them tales, stories of episodes
from my experience in Number Ten,
which I thought were either
revealing of the nature of the
power relationships there, and
especially of the bureaucratic power,
or which I thought were funny
or capable of being made funny.
One story Bernard
informed on involved an overseas
diplomatic mission,
which the writers quickly
transformed into a classic
episode of Yes, Minister.
I told them about a time when
we went on a state visit
to India and Pakistan.
And at the state reception there was
no alcohol, just orange juice.
And we thought it would be
very helpful
if we could get some
whisky in the orange juice.
So we'd drink a third of the glass
and then pour the whisky in,
which would look a little brown,
but not dangerously suspicious.
But how do we get the whisky there?
I mentioned that and Jonathan said,
"I can use that."
Ah, Bernard.
You're wanted in the communications
A Mr John Walker.
What's interesting about that story, that we're talking
to a cabinet minister who didn't
know about it, who saw the episode.
He said, he knew at once that was
based on a real episode.
Because he recognised that's exactly
what is likely to happen
and does happen, whereas most of the
audience has probably thought,
"Oh, well, they've gone a bit far
this time."
That's right.
The interesting thing is, whenever we
were accused of going too far,
it was something that had happened.
Any messages
in the communications room?
Oh, there is one for Sir
Humphrey, Minister.
Oh, good, yes?
Yes, the Soviet Embassy is on the
line, Sir Humphrey, a Mr Smirnoff.
They promised me that it
would not be revealed that
I'd played any part.
I just never told anyone myself.
I knew they never told anyone.
Jonathan and Antony never told me
who else they talked to.
I didn't tell anyone,
I didn't tell my own family.
These insider insights over lunch
provided such a rich source
of comedy, that Yes, Minister
soon became must-see TV
amongst politicians
and civil servants alike.
And it wasn't long before those
at the very heart of government
were willing to reveal all.
One of many.
I was
one of many inside sources, yes.
You don't tell them state secrets,
but that's quite different.
You tell them how government works
and how the civil service works.
If I thought of some little story,
some anecdote,
which might be of use to him,
I would tell him.
I can't remember it all now,
it was a long time ago.
But for example, the, er,
ministerial Christmas list,
Christmas card list.
That was something which
I mentioned to him,
and that duly
came into one of the episodes.
Bernard, this is important,
I have to finish these
Cabinet defence papers.
I'm afraid this is much more
urgent, Minister.
What is it?
Your Christmas cards, Minister.
They cannot be postponed any longer.
Oh right.
Which is which?
Well they're all clearly labelled,
Minister, these you sign Jim,
these you sign Jim Hacker,
these Jim and Annie,
these Annie and Jim Hacker,
these love from Annie and Jim.
As the series progressed,
we were approached by various people
in all branches of
government, eager to ell us things.
They wanted to, they had something
they wanted to leak, because
it would be in their, to their
advantage in some way to do so.
Jonathan and Antony have never
named their sources.
But I wonder what our esteemed
select committee make of these
revelations and, more importantly,
if there's a leaky
minister in their midst?
Michael, I want to start with
you about leaks,
because obviously the series was
written when you were in government.
And it is generally well
believed that the
sources for a lot of the stories
came from people in government.
I wonder if you can help us
as honestly as you can...
Yeah, well, it's true.
As to how much went to...
When I was Environment Secretary
in the early '80s,
the authors
of the programme wrote and said,
"We're doing a programme
and we'd very much like to meet you
"and we're...a particular scene is
going to be about the battle
"between the Secretary of State
and a local authority".
And I said, "Fine."
I had lunch, we had a very good
lunch, and we laughed a lot,
and they laughed a lot,
and I don't know, they probably
recorded it, and, fine.
And it made a fantastic programme.
Local councillors, in practice,
are accountable to nobody.
They're public-spirited citizens,
selflessly sacrificing
their spare time.
Have you ever met any?
when there was no alternative.
Half of them are self-centred
busybodies on an ego trip
and the other half are only in it
for what they can get out of it.
Perhaps they ought
to be in the House of Commons?
Did you ever leak documents that you
should not have leaked?
No, I was not in the
leaking business.
And I think, by and large,
there is too much leaking.
All the time, again, through your
government there were regular leaks.
They were either leaks which were
unattributed or they were leaks
that came early and were clearly
a minister jostling for position.
I think what happens is,
round Westminster,
politicians talking to each other,
talking to journalists,
civil servants talking to each other
talking to journalists -
the chatter just gets out.
I think the problem is that
people talk too much.
I don't see that
necessarily as leaking.
And you do gossip, you lot,
don't you?
Nothing like as much
as press secretaries.
I didn't, I was like that.
I was never a gossip.
You never revealed details of what
went on in Government in,
say, a book?
I mean, that would be...
What, my diaries?
We're not here to plug my diaries!
Well, why not?
It's available at all good bookshops.
Our Comedy Committee return
after a short recess,
when we discover what it's like
to be a real life Sir Humphrey.
They translated my title into
Japanese and back.
And they laughed
when I was introduced.
And I said, "What did they say?"
And he said, "They described
you as an eternal typist."
that means I do the letters.
And the nation's favourite
Principal Private Secretary,
Bernard, meets a real life Bernard.
I remember once
when I went to Number Ten,
somebody came up to me
and said, "I'm Bernard".
I said, "No, I'm Bernard".
And he said,
"No, that person's Bernard,
"and the other bloke over there's
So you were Bernard?
I was Bernard, yeah.
Yes, Prime Minister, the show
that exposes the secretive
inner workings of Government,
has returned.
Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey
are still at war, only this time,
Scotland, Europe
and the fictional Kumranistan
are the sources of conflict.
I could be wrong.
Say that again.
But to discover how these battling
politicos became household names,
we have to reacquaint ourselves with
the original actors, Paul Eddington,
who played the Right Honourable Jim
Hacker, and Nigel Hawthorne
who embodied the entire civil
service as Sir Humphrey Appleby.
Both Hacker and Humphrey, on the
page, are not very likeable people.
And it's very important that they're
played by likeable actors.
Paul was very likeable.
I'd been watching him
since I was a kid.
I grew up in Bath
and I used to see Paul
at the Bristol Old Vic
quite often.
And then the Good Life had made him
into almost a star.
And it was obviously the right
moment for him.
a minister can do what he likes.
It's the people's will.
I am their leader.
I must follow them.
Paul Eddington was just a lovely,
lovely comic actor.
He's a really...smiley,
genial kind of man.
And so he,
all of that goes into Jim Hacker.
Equally, he comes
across as intelligent
and as somebody with
a certain amount of bearing.
And I think you just get the sense
that he's a real person,
that he's vulnerable,
that he's human,
and that he sort of is
fundamentally quite nice as well.
Yes, of course, Minister,
it must be frightfully difficult
to concentrate
if you keep being woken up.
Steering Jim Hacker through
the choppy waters of Whitehall
was the Permanent Secretary
for the DAA, Sir Humphrey Appleby.
The great thing about Nigel
is that he was very good at playing
establishment figures
with interesting layers of other
thoughts going on underneath.
May I come in, Minister?
Sit down, Humphrey.
And perhaps one of the most
anticipated parts of every episode
was Sir Humphrey's big speech.
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.
You really do believe that Sir
Humphrey exists, because surely no
actor could ever become a character
that duplicitous and verbose.
So to create this extraordinary
character, this duplicitous,
Machiavellian, dreadful man,
saying yes when he meant no,
was an amazing achievement.
They said that?
That was the gist of it.
He made a deal with us
very early on that we wouldn't
change any of those long speeches
within three weeks of starting
rehearsal for a particular episode.
And when it came to
the end of a series,
he still had every single speech by
heart, which I thought was awful,
to have a perfectly decent mind
cluttered up with that junk.
Yes, he didn't seem
to have a mental shredder.
Bamboozling hapless ministers is
top of Sir Humphrey's agenda.
But how true to life is this
relationship between
the civil service and ministers?
Our Committee for Comedy Analysis
are on hand to shed light
on this very private partnership.
Gus, did you ever feel
yourself...I mean, I'd say of
the Cabinet Secretaries that
I knew, that you were sort of,
this is a compliment, the least
Sir Humphreyish, in many, many ways.
There were some moments.
I would, I would sometimes default to
my background of being an economist.
I mean, one of the Yes, Minister
episodes has this thing about,
as a specialist,
you can never make it to the top.
And I would find myself talking
about, you can imagine who with,
neo-classical endogenous
growth theory,
and you'd think that Humphrey
would have loved this.
It was like, I remember that time
when he says,
"Your current conversational
interlocutor is the person
"who usually refers to themselves by
use of the perpendicular pronoun."
I thought,
"I could never have said that."
It's just so brilliant.
Did you ever feel,
as a civil servant,
did you ever feel that you actually
had more power than a minister?
You do spend a lot of your time
saying, "Are you sure, Minister?"
You know, you want to make
an announcement, particularly,
I'd say, at party conference, there's
been no work done on it, no one's
looked at is this feasible, could we
do it, how much is it going to cost?
Announcements out of the blue,
it is our job, we do say,
"Stop, think."
That's why I think we
get the reputation of being cautious.
Yes, Minister is spot on because
when Hacker goes into his office
and the Permanent Secretary reels
out this long list of secretaries,
"I'm the Permanent secretary.
I have
a Principal Private Secretary, you
"have a Principal Private Secretary,
they have Private Secretaries.
"You will appoint a Parliamentary
Private Secretary."
And Hacker says, and this happened
to me in way, Hacker says,
"Does anyone type letters?"
I remember going to Japan
when I was Permanent Secretary
at the Treasury and they translated
my title into Japanese and back.
they laughed when I was introduced.
And I said, "What did they say?"
They said, "They described you
as an eternal typist."
that means I do the letters!
Do you mean to seriously tell me
that if I transfer everything
from here to here without even
reading it, that's all I have to do?
It'll be dealt with?
Well, what's a minister
here for then?
Ministers have no managerial
experience in the
vast majority of cases.
And they run, they turn up to run
a giant bureaucracy,
and they've never run
anything before.
And there is no induction,
there is no training.
Ministers going in never,
very rarely,
even talk to the ones going out.
So it's not surprising that there
are these, I can't get on with,
I don't know what to do,
they won't do what I tell them.
They've never done
anything of a managerial nature.
And holding Jim's department
was his Principal Private
Secretary, Bernard Woolley,
whose job it was to remain the model
of professional impartiality.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
I don't think so, Minister.
I'm not thinking anything, really.
I think I begin to smell a rat.
Oh, shall I get an
Environmental Health officer?
Bernard is, is an ear.
He's somebody that the other
two can talk to.
He has his own character
and his own issues,
but structurally he's most
important because he's
a recipient of the point of view
of both of the two main characters.
Well, confidentially, Minister,
everything you tell me
is in complete confidence.
So equally,
and I'm sure you appreciate this,
and by appreciate I don't actually
mean appreciate, I mean understand
that everything Sir Humphrey tells
me is also in complete confidence.
As indeed, everything I tell you is
in complete confidence.
And for that matter,
everything I tell Sir Humphrey
is in complete confidence.
To discover just how difficult
the job of being a real-life
Bernard is, Derek Fowlds has been
granted top security access
to Whitehall's Cabinet Offices
to meet the man who was
a real-life Bernard, Robin Butler.
I remember once
when I went to Number Ten,
somebody came up to me
and said, "I'm Bernard".
I said, "No, I'm Bernard".
And he said,
"No, that person's Bernard,
"and the other bloke over
there's Bernard."
So you were Bernard?
I was Bernard, yeah, for three years
to Margaret Thatcher.
So was it an
accurate portrayal of Bernard?
It was, yes.
It was very accurate.
I wouldn't say that
Paul Eddington, Jim Hacker,
was an accurate portrayal of
Margaret Thatcher.
But in my life,
Derek, I've played Sir Humphrey,
and I've played Bernard.
Never had the chance
to play Jim Hacker.
You know, when I was playing
Bernard, I always found it
very difficult
because I was in the middle.
And sometimes
I agreed with the Minister,
then I'd agree with Sir Humphrey.
And I had to walk a fence.
I want to know, is that familiar?
Very, very familiar.
You were always
absolutely charming, Derek.
You were...
Was I?
Yeah, charming, you sat there and
when you agreed with the Minister,
Sir Humphrey would put
you right quite quickly afterwards.
I remember he used to take
you into his study and sit you down,
and tell you the error of your ways,
if you agreed with the...
Like a naughty schoolboy.
..with the Minister.
Who was doing that to you,
when you were...?
Well, the Sir Humphrey when I was you
was Robert Armstrong,
Sir Robert Armstrong.
Oh, I remember him, yes.
But he was a close friend.
He'd been Sir Humphrey,
he'd been Bernard before.
And so he understood
what it was all about.
So, I don't think
he ever had actually to reproach me.
Now, I want to ask you a question.
I've always wanted to ask you this.
Who really does run the country?
Is it the Government,
or is it the civil service?
The Government.
I mean, you know,
ministers, ministers...
You said that without a pause.
Well, because I've always
believed it, actually.
I think it's very important,
you know, for the civil service
to recognise that ministers
are the elected people.
They must have the final decision.
And then it was my job to carry it
out as efficiently as I could.
So the buck stopped with them.
The buck stopped with them.
They were the ones who had to
get re-elected.
And you had to carry,
carry it through?
Even though you were against it?
It's been a great pleasure.
And, as I say, an honour.
And it's lovely to see you again.
And thank you, thank you so much.
But for all Bernard and
Sir Humphrey's institutional
befuddlement, Hacker was about to be
propelled to the top job.
So, coming up, our committee casts
judgment on our favourite
Prime Minister, Jim Hacker.
No, no, look this is a good joke.
And he is a very good joke
but he's not a Prime Minister.
And we look at how the show's
number one fan
muscled her way in on the act.
I look forward to receiving
your plan for abolition soon.
Er, tomorrow, shall we say?
The greatest satire about
British bureaucracy is back.
The new series of
Yes, Prime Minister sees Jim Hacker
holed up at Chequers trying to
solve our financial woes.
"Jim Hacker Saves Europe!"
Nothing else can go wrong
tonight, can it?
Whilst our modern day Jim Hacker is
tackling issues on a global scale,
back in the '80s, Mrs Thatcher's
problems were generally
much closer to home, with riots,
strikes and mass unemployment.
But none of this stopped her
tuning in to her favourite show.
When you have time to watch TV,
what's your favourite programme?
I've just finished watching
Yes, Minister.
Do you ever watch that?
Well, it was a take-off of a
minister and his civil servant
and it was marvellous.
Some bits of it were totally true
and some not so true.
I'm not sure that Mrs Thatcher found
anything terribly hilarious
but she found it terribly amusing.
In fact, Mrs Thatcher was
so taken with the show that
she engineered a rather bizarre
meeting with its stars.
One of the BBC's most popular
comedy series won an award
today from the National Viewers
and Listeners Association.
The series is Yes, Minister,
about the conflicts
between politicians
and their civil servants.
The award was presented
by the programme's biggest fan.
We were asked if we would
accept an award from
the National Viewers
and Listeners Association.
We were then told that Mrs Thatcher
was going to present the award,
which disturbed me, because that made
it in some sense political.
Then, about two days before it
happened, we got the message
saying that she had written a
sketch, a really improbable notion!
And my first thought was, "What the
hell is she doing writing sketches
"when she ought to be
running the country
"somewhat better than
she's running it at the moment?"
Thankfully, Mrs Thatcher did have
better things to do
than try her hand
at comedy script writing.
That job was left to her trusted
Chief of Press, Bernard Ingham.
I wrote it.
Robin Butler, the Principal Private
Secretary, titivated it.
We rehearsed this.
I remember counting 23 rehearsals
in which she played herself.
Robin Butler, her Principal Private
Secretary, played Jim Hacker.
And I, with monumental miscasting,
played Sir Humphrey.
What were they all doing?
What about the country?
I mean, that is
the most grotesque scene.
That's truly horrifying!
No, it shows they're
serious about rehearsal.
With Thatcher ready to perform
the sketch, all she needed was
Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne
to agree to take part.
Paul and Nigel phoned me
in a great state,
they were both well to
the left of centre.
And said, "How terrible, we don't
want to act with Mrs Thatcher,
"and anyway,
she obviously can't act."
So I said, "Well, it's up to you,
if you don't want to do it,
"you can say no."
I don't think anybody said
to her directly,
"We don't want to take part."
And I don't think that Mrs Thatcher
was ever the sort of
cuddly kind of person that you
rang with bad news.
So, in the face of great power,
Paul and Nigel crumbled
and took to the stage.
I want you to abolish economists.
Abolish economists, Prime Minister?
Yes, abolish economists,
and quickly.
All of them, Prime Minister?
Yes, all of them.
I look forward to receiving
your plan for abolition soon.
Er, tomorrow, shall we say?
I'd like you to announce it
before it all leaks.
Yes, yes, tomorrow.
It was as frightful as I had feared.
And what was really embarrassing was
that thereafter everyone said,
"Oh, didn't Mrs Thatcher appear
in your show?"
And that was just, you know,
the unkindest cut of all, I thought.
Capital, my dear Sir Humphrey.
You'll know exactly where to start.
Yes, Prime Minister.
Politicians are generally less
well regarded now.
Obviously, in the '80s, what everyone
thought about the policies,
Mrs T was a strong Prime Minister,
loved by some, loathed by others.
But there was a respectful view
of her power and strength.
I also think actually Yes, Prime
Minister, although it was satire
and sent them all up, there was
a kind of affection in there.
..For people who
went into public service,
be they politicians or
civil servants.
And I actually hate all this
kind of anti politics stuff
and I don't think politicians do
nearly enough to push back on it.
I completely agree with that.
I mean, the issue for me
is participation in politics,
and in turn-outs at elections,
people getting involved in things.
I think we're starting to see that
people really do have a civic spirit,
just look at volunteering
in the Olympics, you know.
So I think anything
which actually elevates people
talking about politics,
thinking about it,
and actually with a bit of humour,
and saying,
"Actually these guys are trying to do
tough things in a tough world."
And they're real people.
And they're
real people and, you know,
they play their games but actually
they're trying to do the right thing.
Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey were now
the darlings of the establishment,
but after penning three series
on the minutiae of ministerial life,
the writers decided to bring
Yes, Minister to an end.
We'd done 21 episodes.
And that's fine.
We'll be repeating ourselves,
you know, we've taken nearly all the
situations that are likely to crop
up in a minister's life, and, um...
We felt that was enough.
But in Hacker, the writers had
created a national icon
and the public pleaded for more.
It would take two years of begging
by the BBC's Director of Television,
before Jonathan
and Tony brought Jim back.
When Bill Cotton phoned us
we said,
"Well, we don't want to do any
more Yes, Minister,
"but we could promote
Jim to Number Ten."
And, because as
Minister of Administrative Affairs,
he couldn't have anything to do
with foreign policy.
Espionage, the atom bomb.
Or H-bomb.
There was a whole range of subjects
that he just wouldn't
have been allowed to have
anything to do with.
The appointment of bishops.
So the only answer was to make him
Prime Minister
so he could tackle all the other
policy areas that interested us.
Finally, on the 9th of January
1986, Jim Hacker was propelled
to the top job and Yes, Minister
became Yes, Prime Minister.
I-i-i-is, is...
Is it me?
Yes, Prime Minister.
The biggest shock, for me,
was turning Yes, Minister into
Yes, Prime Minister.
Because I thought it's all very well
to have a crazy minister who
can barely cross a road and still
be in charge of a department,
but a Prime Minister?
Isn't that going a bit far?
But in fact, they triumphantly
succeeded in making sure that
Jim Hacker became Prime Minister
and I think it got funnier.
You always suspected, you always
hoped through the Yes, Minister
series that maybe one day, one day
he might become Prime Minister.
And it always felt that was the next
logical chapter of the programme.
So to see him there with the top
job, very satisfying indeed.
This is awful, we're another three
points down in the opinion polls.
Not the Government,
only your personal rating.
People watching at home will
think, you know,
is the Prime Minister
really like this?
Is any Prime Minister such
a hopeless case?
And the answer's no.
But did I see Tony Blair or Gordon
Brown ever in a Jim Hacker moment?
Well, the answer is yes.
But that was a tiny part of their
sort of command, control,
sense of purpose and
Prime Ministerial quality.
Forget policy and political
strategies, top of Jim's agenda were
appearance, popularity, ratings,
and, most importantly, re-election.
So let's see what our panel
of government experts think.
Well, Hacker was right to be obsessed
with every passing headline
because Hacker didn't have the
necessary skill set to do the job,
and if you haven't got
the necessary skill set,
you're going to be obsessed
with your image.
He didn't have a real sense of what
he wanted to do with power.
And so, therefore, I think, what,
all you could do was advise him
actually to find that kind of
basic, core political and economic
strategy, he never had that.
It wasn't there, Alistair.
And it wasn't there.
That was part of the joke.
You know?
This guy floundering out there,
you know?
I think the nearest Prime Minister
that he has resembled is Tony Blair.
Do you?
Oh, no.
I can't see it.
In characteristics, like...
Oh, I couldn't,
I couldn't ever see that.
He doesn't resemble the others.
He's not a John Major or...
I thought you were going to
say Ted Heath.
I couldn't ever see Jim Hacker
become Prime Minister.
I agree with that.
He's simply not real.
He can't make up his mind,
he's blowing in very direction,
he's short term gimmickry,
he grabs any headline.
No, no he's complete...
Cameron is the nearest.
Do you think Cameron is the nearest?
No, of course not.
Cameron's the nearest to what
Michael's just said.
Absolute rubbish.
No, no.
No, no, look, this is a good joke.
And he is a very good joke
but he's not a Prime Minister.
Nobody is exactly that,
a Hacker-like figure but...
But some of his, I mean
he's like a kind of politician with
the bonnet up,
you see the, you know, he's,
he does things out loud that other
ministers would just think.
And part of its success is that
he says these things.
I mean, you know,
if a Permanent Secretary came
and explained some policy that
you didn't understand,
you'd think, "Well, I'll wait
till he's gone,
"and then I'll talk to my
special advisor."
Hacker says, "I don't know what
you're talking about."
It's like somehow he's become
Prime Minister by accident.
He's become Prime Minister cos
he makes a good programme,
that's why he's there, you know?
Yeah, but he's also quite
a sympathetic character, isn't he?
He's nice.
And would feel he looks more human,
whereas Sir Humphrey is kind of
something off a conveyer belt that's
polished and sophisticated,
but not the kind
of person you'd meet down the pub.
To lose one cabinet minister may be
regarded as a misfortune,
to lose both looks like
By 1988 Yes, Prime Minister
and its predecessor Yes, Minister
were firm favourites with viewers.
In all, they bagged seven BAFTAs,
with Nigel Hawthorne winning
best comedy performer four
times in a row.
Forgive me, Minister.
But after just two series,
Hacker, Sir Humphrey and Bernard
bowed out on the
28th of January 1988.
We felt we'd done what
there was to do, really,
in that we'd be just sort of
repeating ourselves if we went on.
That was one of the reasons,
the other reason was that Paul
was becoming quite fragile,
it was clear that his, there was,
he had some serious illness,
it wasn't known what it was.
And he felt quite unwell.
And most of the Yes, Prime Minister
series, Paul is sitting in a chair.
And it's not just because that's
the way it was blocked,
it was because of what he needed to
do for most of the time.
We weren't sure that by the time
we'd written another series,
because we took our time writing
them, um, at what stage of health
Paul would be in,
or whether he would want to go on.
Paul Eddington lost his battle with
cancer in 1995 at the age of 68.
His death was followed six years
later by the passing
of his 72-year-old co-star,
Nigel Hawthorne.
Even though the last episode
aired in 1989,
Yes, Prime Minister lives on and is
now shown in 84 countries worldwide.
In 2010 it became a hit stage show.
And now it's back on TV.
I'm absolutely beside myself with
excitement for a new
series of Yes, Prime Minister.
I'm sort of slightly over
excited, actually.
I'm getting the popcorn
in the microwave as we speak.
The appetite is there,
and the series will be, therefore,
one can predict, a great success.
Now pour a large sherry and make
yourself comfortable
as we go behind
the scenes on the new series
to meet its devilishly handsome
guest stars.
And we discover why 2013
is right for Hacker's return.
What I'll be really interested to
see is whether, whether he tweets.
And whether, and whether
the Permanent Secretary tweets.
Prime Minister...
Oh, cheer up, Bernard, have a
Oh, don't look so worried!
After a quarter of century
in TV retirement,
Britain's best loved
Prime Minister, Jim Hacker, is back.
The brand new series requires
a brand new set.
It's taken six weeks of planning,
ten hours of construction,
34 highly skilled technicians,
approximately 13 gallons of tea,
and untold tins of biscuits.
The result is a studio version
of the Prime Minister's
country residence, Chequers.
Well, now.
I haven't prepared anything
to say in welcome,
but I very much want to welcome
our very welcome guest.
Holed up in Chequers
for the weekend,
Jim Hacker faces
the challenge of a lifetime.
A shaky oil pipeline deal
could save Europe
and solve the British
financial crisis.
But it comes with
some unfortunate conditions.
For me, what's great is that
whoever's in office,
they are all dealing with
these problems.
And in this absolutely on the money
series, we're dealing with,
on the money, Euro crisis.
It's a central spine of these six
episodes, is the Euro crisis.
They are offered a massive loan.
To get Europe
out of the Eurozone crisis.
Quite frankly,
I am now profoundly suspicious
about this whole Kumranistan loan.
I mean, I don't know what
else I don't know.
Do you know?
There are one or two things
attached to the loan
we don't want to give away.
But it's a loan with conditions,
and the conditions cause major
ructions and problems, which
Sir Humphrey and Bernard and Claire,
the new special advisor,
we try to help him,
but in our helping way,
cause him great hindrance.
I mean, I find that working
with David, who's Jim,
and Henry, who is Sir Humphrey,
is, I mean, it's very funny because
I've been told that
they have quite a long history
working together,
and so they're almost like
a unit, and so it's quite funny
coming in, and seeing them
rather like a kind of double act.
And as Bernard, I'm trying to
sort of feather my way in,
to try and work out where you fit.
He seems to think he's in charge
and we're just paid officials.
Good God!
It's not his business to interfere
in the way Government is run.
The cast get their scripts
eight weeks in advance
in order to learn
the dialogue heavy episodes.
Jonathan, who co-wrote it with Tony,
is also directing.
He's quite hard.
He can be quite hard on,
well not just me, but everyone.
But the results,
I think, are pretty good.
So it's hard work,
but, you know, it's, it's worth it,
you know, for the end results.
The actor playing Jim's new
coalition partner
rounds off the stellar cast,
and I think we all know who he is!
Hi, I'm George Clooney.
And I'm playing Rory McAllister in
an episode of Yes, Prime Minister.
All the important decisions that
affect us are taken in London.
Have you any idea
what that feels like?
Of course I have.
All the important decisions that
affect us are taken in Brussels!
I'm just terribly flattered
to be asked,
because the standard's
incredible high.
Beautifully done.
Beautifully acted,
beautifully written.
I'm very, very glad to be doing it.
It's slightly,
slightly scary, if I'm honest.
I find myself waking up in
the night thinking,
"Oh, God, am I going to get all
these lines done by Sunday?"
But then that's,
that's just what actors have to do
to get it right, you know.
If you're not scared,
you're not going to get it right.
Will Scotland join the EU?
We're already in the EU, Jim.
No, we are.
You won't be when you leave the UK,
you'll have to apply for membership.
Which would mean, of course,
joining the euro.
But you won't mind that, will you?
The euro.
That would be a good thing
to join now, wouldn't it?
Can we have the groat back, please?
Where is the satire around
this Government going to settle?
Is it Cameron/Clegg?
Is it, um, is, is it Osborne?
I can't... is it Bullingdon Club?
I can't quite...
Oh, no.
It's going to be who gets
credit for the good bits
and who gets
the blame for the bad bits.
But when it comes to it,
as you get closer to the election,
the jockeying that will go on,
and there'll be lots of fun as
to how, how one side or the other,
one minister or the other,
can pretend that this was all them,
and it wouldn't have happened
if it had been left to the others.
That will be, that will be
the interesting satire.
Who delivered?
Whose idea was it?
As you, as you take it forward,
the one thing about coalition you
never have,
we've got two unusual things.
We've got a fixed term parliament,
so 7th of May, 2015,
the next election day.
So how have you got, you know,
I can imagine as Cabinet Secretary,
Sir Humphrey saying,
trying to keep the show on the road,
keep everybody together.
But actually, the two parties wanting
to differentiate their product,
and say, "Well, actually,
we did all the good bits,
"and that was cos of that lot."
Michael, your old department, how
do you think you would have managed
a coalition department?
A bit like I managed
the other departments,
because all governments
are coalitions.
I mean, if you are a Prime Minister,
you preside over a party
but every party's a coalition,
and every government has to be
balanced to reflect geography,
sex, region, you know,
the principalities,
whatever it may be, and...
Sex particularly, really.
Well, this, you know, I think
we can agree with us, unanimous,
across the party spectrum, that sex
is here to stay, under all parties.
I mean, let's not get controversial
about that, for God's sake.
And we've got Fifty Shades of Grey
around the table, looking at you.
Very good, Gus.
Well that's
getting a bit, bit, err...
What I'll be really interested to
see is whether, whether he tweets.
And whether, and whether
the Permanent Secretary tweets!
I can absolutely guarantee the
Permanent Secretary will not tweet.
Some civil servants tweet.
They do.
They do.
Perhaps the first episode will be
about him coming to terms
with social media.
There are people working for
government whose responsibility
is advising on tweeting and all
those things.
We may today have designed
the first programme.
Perhaps one of the most memorable
elements of Yes, Prime Minister is
the hand-drawn title sequence.
this brand new series, world-famous
satirical artist Gerald Scarfe has
returned to wave his magic pencil
over the faces of the new cast.
It has to look something like
the old titles so people
can recognise it
but obviously it has to
have a fresh, new approach.
At the moment, I'm feeling my way.
I'm here today sketching
the characters
so I get some kind of
feeling of them.
A caricature comes from the
character of the person themselves
and it's not just a face
with a big nose.
David here, I haven't quite got.
He's got these black, smiling eyes.
But being an actor, he's moving all
the time.
He's changing all the time.
That's the value of coming here and
seeing them because if you look at
a photograph, it's not moving, if you
look at them, their face is
malleable the whole time.
I'm not the sort of artist who maps
it all out in pencil first then
slavishly goes over the lines.
I work very impulsively and
therefore never quite know what
it's going to look like eventually.
After 18 months of preparation and
weeks of meticulous rehearsal,
the team records the new series of
Yes, Prime Minister in front of 320
eagerly-awaiting audience members.
Sorry, I'm late.
It's been a
terrible day.
Any particular reason?
You've read about the Cabinet split?
And you've seen what's
happened to the FTSE?
the pound?
And the inflation
And the rising
unemployment figures?
So how
many particular reasons do you want?
I'll be tuning in.
I'll be watching
it again and again.
I'll be taking notes.
And wishing...
It was only when
I was doing my political science
degree at university, that if I'd
seen all this before I'd written
my papers, I'd have been much better
I might have got a better degree.
Did that mean yes or no?
I will certainly be tuning in
to the new series.
I hope to get a job on it.
Don't you think that "yes" and "no"
are rather unspecific in their
I thought it went very well.
thought they were very good audience.
I thought the actors
were wonderful,
but then I expect
nothing less of this great cast.
The first night went brilliantly.
It's fantastic to have an audience
out there.
Which brings it to life, so relieved
that it's over and pleased
that they enjoyed it.
I thought it went very well.
It's a
great feeling.
We both struggle away
with our characters for weeks of
rehearsal and then we get to this
moment where the audience lift the
lid off.
Don't you feel that, Henry?
It's nice to be buoyed up.
I feel buoyed up by the audience's
affection for these characters.
Coming back and doing this show
was fun.
I hope it goes on being as much fun
as it was today.