Yes, Prime Minister (1986) s02e04 Episode Script

A Conflict of Interest

1 Good morning, Prime Minister.
- Good morning, Prime Minister.
- Mm.
Is it the newspapers? Yes.
They all say that since my administration came into office, nothing has changed.
You must be very proud.
That's not meant as a compliment.
I read all ten of this morning's London papers.
Not a good word about me in nine of them.
- But the tenth is better? - Worse.
It doesn't mention me at all.
- What have they got against you? - They all say the same thing.
That I'm a windbag.
- Good heavens! - Yeah.
Extraordinary.
They say that my administration's all rhetoric.
That I talk and talk, but nothing ever gets done.
It simply isn't true.
There are reforms in the pipeline, a change of direction.
New schemes of development, a new philosophy of government.
Profound change in the social fabric and geopolitical climate of this country.
So what is actually happening? - Nothing yet, obviously.
- (BUZZER) - That'll be Sir Humphrey.
- Better send him in.
Send Sir Humphrey in.
The origin of this criticism is this rumour about a scandal in the City.
- How did you guess? - Prime Minister.
Humphrey, I've decided to respond to all this criticism about a scandal in the City.
The press is demanding action.
- What are you proposing to do? - I shall appoint someone.
- When did you take this decision? - Today when I read the papers.
- But when did you first think of it? - Today.
And for how long did you weigh the pros and cons of this decision? Not long.
I decided to be decisive.
I think you worry too much about what the papers say.
Only a civil servant could make that remark.
I have to worry about them, with the party conference coming up.
- These rumours of a scandal won't go away.
- Let's not worry until it's more than a rumour.
- Here's the Cabinet agenda.
- Not now.
This is more important.
With respect, it is not.
Remember, the press just pander to their readers' prejudices.
Don't tell me about the press.
I know who reads the papers.
The "Mirror" is read by people who think they run the country.
The "Guardian" is read by people who think they OUGHT to run it.
The "Times" is read by the people who DO run the country.
The "Daily Mail" is read by the wives of the people who run it.
The "Financial Times" is read by people who OWN the country.
The "Morning Star" is read by people who think the country should be run by another country and the "Daily Telegraph" is read by people who think it is.
What about the people who read "The Sun"? "Sun" readers don't care who runs the country as long as she's got big tits.
What do you make of this Phillips Berenson business, Desmond? - Not too good.
- Worse than the press are saying? More than another investment bank that made the wrong investments? 'Fraid so.
Tip of the iceberg.
- Tell me more.
- They've broken the rules.
The insider trading regulations? - No.
- That's one relief.
Of course they've broken those, but they've broken the basic rule of the City.
- I didn't know there were any.
- Just the one.
If you're incompetent, you have to be honest.
If you're crooked, you have to be clever.
If you're honest and make a pig's breakfast of things, chaps help you out.
- If you're crooked? - With good profits, chaps don't ask questions.
They're not stupid.
Well, not that stupid.
The ideal is a firm which is honest and clever? Yes.
Let me know if you ever come across one, won't you? - And Phillips Berenson? - Well, they were - Breaking the law.
- I wouldn't put it like that.
Were the directors siphoning off funds into their own companies? - Might've paid it back later.
- But didn't.
- Well, they haven't yet.
- Tax fiddles.
They placed their own interpretation on Treasury regulations.
- Someone has to interpret them.
- What about the Treasury's interpretation? It didn't seem appropriate.
- Capital transfers to Liechtenstein companies? - Bit of that.
- Bribery? - Undisclosed commissions to foreign officials.
- Bribery.
- Yes.
- Your brandies.
- Thank you.
- May I have the bill? - Certainly, sir.
So when's all this going to come out? - That's just it, it mustn't.
- How do you stop it? - That's what I meant about breaking the rules.
If they were profitable, it wouldn't need to come out.
- Now they're going bust, I'm worried.
- Are you involved? Surely a huge bank like yours isn't affected? I wish you were right, but we've supported them in a big way.
We're in for 400 million.
It's all very well for you, but when you've got all that Arab mon When you've got all that Arab money at 11%, you'd look pretty silly if you didn't lend it to somebody for 14.
- You couldn't trust many people to pay 14.
- Obviously.
Then we put in more to keep them afloat.
- If you knew they were crooks - We didn't.
- You could've made inquiries.
- You don't make such inquiries in the City.
They seemed like decent chaps.
Decent chaps don't check up on decent chaps to see if they're behaving like decent chaps.
And ignorance is worth paying L400 million for? Ignorance is safety.
It's not a crime to be deceived.
And it's not our own money.
- Your bill, sir.
- Thank you.
So what's going to happen? Only one answer.
The Bank of England must bail out Phillips Berenson.
- No publicity.
That way we get our money back.
- At the taxpayers' expense.
- Of course.
- Can it be done? - Depends on the new Bank of England Governor.
- Hasn't been appointed yet.
That's what I wanted to talk about.
Who will it be? It isn't decided, but I understand from the PM that the frontrunner is Alexander Jameson.
You're joking? But that's impossible.
- You mean he's too honest.
- It's not just that he behaves honestly.
That doesn't matter.
Some of my best friends behave honestly.
None are smart enough to get away with it.
Jameson actually tries to stop dishonesty.
Fatal.
The world doesn't work like that.
Yes, he did that appalling report on waste and inefficiency in the Civil Service.
- You've got to block him.
- It's difficult.
It's a Treasury recommendation.
- But the PM makes the appointment.
- Yes.
It's not just Phillips Berenson.
Once Jameson starts his detective work, other things will come out.
Collapse of confidence, the pound will go through the floor.
- Yes, I see.
- You must make the PM see it.
Confidence mustn't be eroded.
The City earns the country six billion pounds a year.
You can't hazard that just because a few chaps do a few favours for friends.
Wouldn't be right.
Well Oh, Dorothy, I'm not happy about my speech for the conference.
It contains no good news.
- We couldn't think of any.
- We'll have to make the bad news look good.
I'll talk about the Health Service.
Care for the elderly, mothers and children, growing up into a healthy nation.
Value for money? I can't say that.
Everybody knows that costs are completely out of control.
Right.
We are spending more than ever to make our health service the best in the world.
Good.
Now, defence.
I'd hoped to say something about defence cuts, but I haven't persuaded them to make any yet.
This government will not put the security of the nation in jeopardy by penny-pinching and false economies? Not that we'd put security in jeopardy by having ONE service music school instead of three separate ones for the Army, Navy and RAF.
There can hardly be a specifically Royal Naval method of playing bassoon.
You won't put that in? No, sorry.
- Anything good we can say about the economy? - That's a problem.
No good news at all.
- We'll find something.
- No bad news will break during the conference? Don't ask me! I'm only the political adviser.
YOU see the secret Treasury papers.
I was thinking about this Phillips Berenson scandal.
What do you make of it? - I'm suspicious.
- Why? Because of the statements of the chairman of the Stock Exchange and chairman of Lloyds.
- There were no statements.
- That's why I'm suspicious.
If there was nothing in these rumours, they'd fall over themselves to say so.
So unfair.
Scandals in the City always look bad for the government.
It's nothing to do with me.
I know! I could announce the new Governor of the Bank of England.
Bernard, see if you can see Humphrey around.
Tell him I'd like to see him.
Where were we? - The economy.
Unemployment coming down? - No.
We shall make the attack on unemployment our top priority.
Pay? - Rising too fast.
- We cannot pay ourselves more than we earn.
The world does not owe us a living.
Interest rates? - Too high.
- They might come down? - That'd be terrific.
- I don't have that kind of luck.
If the whole picture's a total disaster, we can always wave the Union Jack.
- The nation's great destiny - Unique role on the world stage.
Make every effort to build a prosperous world for our children and our children's children.
That's probably about how long it'll take.
The PM wonders if you could join him in five minutes.
Certainly, Bernard.
Bernard Any news about the governorship of the Bank of England? The Prime Minister is planning to appoint Alexander Jameson.
Mr Clean.
- That's one bit of good news.
- Appalling news! - Will you try and change the PM's mind? - No.
I WILL change the PM's mind.
- He seems very keen on him.
- That'll be my starting point.
When you wish to suggest that somebody is not the ideal choice - You rubbish them? - The first stage is to express absolute support.
- Why? - You don't want to say somebody's no good.
You must be seen to be their friend.
After all, it is necessary to get behind someone before you can stab them in the back.
But Alexander Jameson is good.
He's honest and efficient.
Excellent.
That's the second stage.
You list his praiseworthy qualities, especially those that make him unsuitable.
You praise them to the point where they become a vice.
The third stage.
Or, better still, you over-simplify his views by labelling them, as you just did.
- You mean Mr Clean? - Yes.
But I think we can do better than that.
Do sit down, Bernard.
- Isn't he a churchgoer? - Yes, I believe he was once a lay preacher.
- A long time ago.
- Splendid.
We can use that against him.
- How? - Charming man, hasn't an enemy in the world.
But is he really up to dealing with some of those rogues in the City? - Jameson's pretty tough.
- Then we'll say he's too tough.
The fourth stage.
You name all his bad points by defending and excusing them.
You know - "Oh, it probably doesn't matter that he was a conscientious objector.
"I'm sure nobody's really questioned his patriotism.
" Or "I think the criticisms of him for bankrupting his last company "weren't entirely fair.
" - That would certainly do it.
- If not, you can always hint at a hidden scandal.
If he's not married, hint at homosexuality.
- If he is married? - Adultery.
With a lady's who's beyond reproach.
One of the royals, for instance.
Or a television newsreader.
What if he's obviously happily married? Say he's extremely puritanical or he drinks or he's having psychiatric treatment.
The possibilities are endless.
Listen and learn.
Yeah Er, Sir Humphrey - Prime Minister.
- We've been working on my conference speech.
- I'm worried about this scandal in the City.
- I don't think it's very serious.
- It certainly is.
- No, no, no, dear lady.
The bank over-lent to one big borrower, that's all.
Some of its directors have a shady past.
There's more to it.
- Can you prove it? - No, it's my antennae.
(LAUGHS CONDESCENDINGLY) I think, Prime Minister, that we are in the realm of female intuition.
- We'll see.
- We shall indeed.
Anyway, the good news is I've decided to appoint Jameson as Governor of the Bank of England.
Oh, the lay preacher! What a nice chap! - Why do you call him that? - He is.
Is he? That's good, isn't it? Oh good is exactly the word.
He's a really good man.
Did a really good job at the White Fish Authority, too, didn't he? - Where does he preach? - In church, I imagine.
He's frightfully religious and terribly honest.
Honest with absolutely everybody.
- Is he? That is good.
- Of course it's good.
On the whole.
If he finds a scandal anywhere - even here in No.
10 - he'll tell everybody, no doubt about that.
- You mean he's indiscreet? - Oh, dear, that's such a pejorative word.
- I'd prefer to say he's obsessively honest.
- He's the right man to bring the City into line? Oh, absolu If you want a saint.
Of course, there are those who say he doesn't live in the real world.
He is extremely puritanical, even for a Bible basher.
- Is he? - Oh, yes.
A bit of an ayatollah, in fact.
Do you want to risk a Samson who might bring the whole edifice crashing down? - Yeah, that's a worry, isn't it? - He's no respecter of persons.
Although treading on toes is sometimes a necessity, he makes it a hobby.
He likes everything out in the open.
He talks very freely to the press.
- In fact, he's not awfully realistic.
- Do you know anything else about him? Well, one wonders if anybody can be that moral.
- I've heard - Yes? No.
No, nothing.
I'm sure it won't come out.
What? No, nothing.
I'm sure it's nothing.
- Permanent Secretary of the Treasury, sir.
- My dear chap.
- Humphrey.
- Sit down.
Thanks.
What's this rumour I hear that you're rubbishing Jameson? - The lay preacher? I think he's a splendid chap.
- No.
Don't play that game with me, Humphrey.
- The Treasury wants him to be the new Governor.
- Why? It's time the Governor of the Bank of England was intelligent and competent.
It'd be an innovation.
- Don't you think it should be tried? - But it's so dangerous.
Look, we keep enduring these City scandals.
The Chancellor is fed up with having to defend the indefensible.
Look, Frank, I understand.
You're looking after the Chancellor's interests.
That's your job.
I'm looking after the Prime Minister's interests and the nation's.
That's mine.
An honest financial sector can't damage the national interest.
In the long term, it's a plus.
Unfortunately, in the short term, an inquiry into the City would mean a loss of confidence.
The pound would plunge, shares would plunge and the government would plunge.
Ah, well, I'm afraid that's YP.
YP? Your problem.
Actually, Frank I'm not so sure.
As you know, about 60% of Phillips Berenson's outstanding loans are with three foreigners of dubious repute.
The Bank of England is responsible for supervising Phillips Berenson.
- That's been a farce.
- Their investigators are a bunch of amateurs.
But who's responsible for supervising the Bank of England? - The Treasury, isn't it? - Well, yes How can I tell the Chancellor that if we have a clean-up, he may be held responsible? He'd be defending the really indefensible then.
He'd need an awful lot of support from the PM.
Yes, but he'd get it, presumably.
The PM isn't keen on defending the indefensible.
He'd need a lot of convincing.
The Chancellor would have to tell him that he'd been let down by his Treasury officials, Frank.
But But But YP? You're absolutely right, this is frightful.
What's the difference between irregularities and malpractices? Irregularity means it's a crime you can't prove.
Malpractice means it's a crime you can prove.
- Anyone else seen this? - Nobody.
How did we get this secret auditor's report on Phillips Berenson? - A partner at the accountant's is a friend.
- Just friendship? He's looking forward to reading the New Year's Honours List.
All right.
How do we do it? Which section? What about through the Welsh Office for services to LEEKS! It surprises me that Bartlett's Bank should be so deeply involved.
Doesn't it surprise you? - Not with Sir Desmond Glazebrook as chairman.
- How on earth did he become chairman? He never has any original ideas, never takes a stand on principle.
As he doesn't understand anything, he agrees with everybody and so people think he's sound.
Is that why I've been invited to consult him about this governorship? He's due in a few minutes.
You may find he doesn't want you to appoint Jameson to do a clean-up.
- No option after this.
- Not if it gets out.
- Some of it's bound to.
- If it gets to court.
A Bank of England rescue will keep the worst of it quiet.
- (BUZZER) - Who will Glazebrook want me to appoint? - Desmond Glazebrook.
- Absolutely right, Bernard.
- What about? - You're not serious? Who has the most interest in a cover-up? Sir Desmond Glazebrook.
- Ask him in.
- Sir Humphrey's with him.
Send them in.
- They'll know about this? - Yes, but they mustn't know that you know.
Or you'll have to make the partner an earl.
- Ah, Sir Desmond, how good of you to come.
- Prime Minister.
Do sit down, won't you? Now, as you know I've got to appoint a new Governor for the Bank of England.
- I'd welcome your views.
- Well, I certainly think you should appoint one.
I think the Prime Minister's more or less decided that.
- The question is whom.
- Ah, that's tricky.
Needs to be someone the chaps trust.
I feel we need someone who's intelligent, energetic, upright.
- Er, well, hold on.
- You don't agree? Well, of course, it's a jolly interesting idea, Prime Minister.
Not sure the chaps would trust that sort of chap.
The PM is worried about financial scandals.
Are you worried about financial scandals? Of course, we don't want any of those, but if you go for the sort of chap the chaps trust, you can trust him to be the sort of chap to see the chaps don't get involved in any scandals.
- He'd hush them up.
- No, any suspicion, and you have the chap straight out for lunch.
- Ask him if there's anything in it.
- What if he says no? You have to trust a chap's word.
That's how the City works.
- What do you know about Phillips Berenson? - What do YOU know about Phillips Berenson? Well, er, only what I read in the papers.
Oh, good.
Yes, well, they lent a bit of money to the wrong chaps.
Could happen to anyone.
- You haven't heard rumours? - There are always rumours.
Of bribery? Embezzlement? Misappropriation? Insider dealing? - Dear lady, those are strong words.
- So they're not true? Well, er, there are different er different ways of looking at things.
What's a different way of looking at embezzlement? If a chap embezzles, you have to do something.
- Have a serious word with him? - Absolutely.
Usually it's just a chap who's advanced himself a short-term, unauthorised, unsecured temporary loan from the company's account and invested it unluckily.
Horse falls at the first fence, that sort of thing.
- So who do you think I should appoint? - Oh, well, as I say, that's not easy.
Not all that many chaps the chaps trust.
It's not for me to say, but if one were to be asked As long as one were thought to be Of course, one is committed, but And if one were to be pressed, I daresay one could make oneself available.
As a duty one owes to - I was thinking of Alexander Jameson.
- Ah.
- What's your view? - Well, he's a good accountant.
- Honest? - Yes.
- Energetic? - I'm afraid so.
- But would you recommend him? - No.
- Why not? - Well, the City's a funny place, Prime Minister.
If you spill the beans, you open up a whole can of worms.
How can you let sleeping dogs lie if you let the cat out of the bag? Bring in a new broom and, if you're not careful, you've thrown the baby out with the bath water.
If you change horses in the middle of the stream, then you're up the creek without a paddle.
And then the balloon goes up! Obviously.
They hit you for six.
An own goal, in fact.
I'm on in half an hour and this speech is devoid of content.
- Oh, I don't know.
- What do you think, Bernard? - I don't know.
- Well, I do know.
- It'll get a standing ovation.
- Oh.
How long? - Three and a half minutes.
- (PHONE) - Have people got stopwatches (?) - Issued them today.
Sir Humphrey's downstairs with the Burandan High Commissioner.
Could they have a word? - Burandan High? - He says it's urgent.
Oh, all right.
He'd better be quick.
- Can't we talk about getting more investment? - Interest rates are too high.
Can't you lean on the Chancellor to lean on the Bank of England to lean on the banks? What, in half an hour? Not in a month of Sundays! The Bank would never allow it.
All I can do is appoint Mr Clean as Governor.
"Hacker will take no more nonsense from the City.
" - Prime Minister.
- High Commissioner, an unexpected pleasure! Do come in.
Sit down, please.
Now, what can I do for you? Well, the High Commissioner's concerned about the rumour that you intend to appoint Jameson to the Bank of England, which will inevitably create an investigation into Phillips Berenson.
Forgive me, but how does this concern Buranda? Phillips Berenson is a shady bank that lent 60% of its money to three foreigners of doubtful repute.
Two of those three foreigners were the President of Buranda and the Chairman of the Burandan Enterprise Corporation.
If you attack these loans, the President of Buranda will have no option but to interpret this move as a hostile and racist act.
- Racist? - Of course.
I've no intention of attacking the President per se.
L-I would merely - Say that he was someone of dubious repute.
- Yes.
No, no, no.
I I May I further point out that a racist attack on our President would undoubtedly create solidarity and support from all the other African states.
Commonwealth countries.
We would move to have Britain expelled from the Commonwealth.
The President would be obliged to cancel Her Majesty's state visit next month and Buranda would sell all the British government stock that it has bought.
- Would that create a run on the pound? - Yes.
- Anything else? - Isn't that enough? High Commissioner, will you excuse me if I have a few words with Sir Humphrey? Thank you so much.
So good of you to come and such a long way.
- I'll give your words earnest consideration.
- Please do.
- How dare you put me in this position! - It is not I, but Buranda.
The Commonwealth club is another reason you should exercise caution.
The President is a crook! He shouldn't be a member of the club.
He should be blackballed.
- He is already.
- Yes, thank you, Bernard.
I don't understand it, Humphrey.
What's your game? Why should I allow another cover-up? What's in it for you? Nothing, Prime Minister! I assure you, I have no private ulterior motive.
I'm trying to protect you from yourself.
I'm entirely on your side.
- How can we believe that? - Because this time it's true! I mean, this time I am particularly on your side.
I've got to say something good in my speech today.
If I can't announce the appointment of Mr Clean as Governor - Why not announce a cut in interest rates? - Oh, don't be silly, I What? Announce a cut in interest rates The Bank couldn't allow a political cut - particularly with Jameson.
It would with Desmond Glazebrook.
Now, if you appoint him Governor, he'll cut Bartlett's interest rates in the morning - you can announce both in your speech.
- How do you know? - He's just told me.
He's here.
Desmond Glazebrook as Governor? But he's such a fool.
He only talks in clichés.
He can talk in clichés till the cows come home.
Won't a cut in interest rates mean that prices will go up? I don't mind that, as long as I get a standing inflation ovation.
- You don't want an honest man in the City? - Glazebrook isn't exactly dishonest, is he? No, he's too stupid to know whether he's honest or not.
We can't operate without the City's goodwill, can we? - No, Prime Minister.
- No point in embarrassing them needlessly.
No, Prime Minister.
Dorothy, fix my speech to include a cut in interest rates.
Humphrey, ask Sir Desmond to come up here.
Yes, Prime Minister.