Yes Minister

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
'Almost all government policy is wrong, but frightfully well carried out.'

Yes Minister (1980-1988) is a British Sitcom about Jim Hacker (Paul Eddington), an inexperienced cabinet minister (party never specified), and his permanent secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne), who really runs the department. Almost every episode focuses on Hacker determinedly attempting, for political and occasionally idealistic reasons, to rock the bureaucratic boat by introducing some popular (and occasionally necessary) change, with Sir Humphrey just as determined to make sure that nothing comes of it. Hovering between them is Bernard Woolley (Derek Fowlds), Hacker's still idealistic and ingenuous Private Secretary, torn between his loyalty to Hacker (his political master) and his loyalty to Sir Humphrey (his civil service superior).

The best political Satire ever put on television, it dealt with both specific issues and general principles of governance intelligently, with a painfully precise balance of cynicism and good humour; the series made a star of Nigel Hawthorne, and rightly so.

As with all good comedy, much of it is relevant today, with issues brought up such as a National Integrated Database, Trade Unions, Britain's relationship with Europe, Bribery, replacing Polaris with Trident, and a recurring theme of cutting government waste and slimming the civil service.

Famous for its long-winded dialogue and word-play. For example:

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

(These are all the more remarkable if you know that Hawthorne memorised these speeches. He ended up on anti-anxiety medication as a consequence.)

The original series was directly followed in 1986 by Yes, Prime Minister, in which Hacker became Prime Minister. An interactive fiction game based on that series was released in 1987.

Margaret Thatcher, the real-life PM at the time the series was first shown, was a huge fan and once wrote a sketch featuring herself, Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey. It can be read here. The series has in fact been criticized as being powerful propaganda for the Thatcher administration, as it was written by one of her advisors, despite the show portraying civil servants and politicians as corrupt, the politicians caring only about votes, in spite of the left-leaning sympathies of the show's co-creator, Jonathan Lynn.

Humphrey the cat, the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office from 1989 to 1997, was named for Sir Humphrey Appleby.

Ji Mantriji and Ji Pradhanmantriji are Indian remakes of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, respectively - the series' names are direct translations from English to Hindi. The Other Wiki says that they used the same plotlines, adapted to be more relevant to the Indian subcontinent.

Any modern commentary on the civil service will almost certainly reference the series; a recent BBC look at Cabinet Secretaries through history was entitled "The Real Sir Humphrey", and interviews with the living office holders show they are intimately aware of the series' finest moments, and 'Yes Ministerism' is even used to describe when civil servants are said to be controlling matters.

Yes Minister came sixth in Britain's Best Sitcom.

A sequel series to Yes Prime Minister, called Yes, Prime Minister (with a comma) was produced in 2013 with David Haig as Hacker, Henry Goodman as Sir Humphrey, and Chris Larkin as Bernard. It was aired on Gold, not the BBC, and lasted six episodes.

Tropes used in Yes Minister include:
  • Adorkable: Bernard and his "Gosh." and "Crikey." and occasionally speaking at length about etymology.
  • Analogy Backfire: This exchange between Bernard and Sir Humphrey:

Bernard: Well I can’t accept that, Sir Humphrey, no man is an island.
Sir Humphrey: I agree, Bernard, no man is an island, entire of itself, and therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee, Bernard.

  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: In "Official Secrets", Prime Minister Hacker's predecessor is writing his memoirs, which will be very embarrassing for Hacker, when, in the next episode ("A Diplomatic Incident") he suddenly drops dead from a heart attack. When Hacker learns the news, and just before he remembers that he's supposed to act with dignified shock and grief, for a moment he has the biggest, happiest grin we've ever seen on his face.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: I inquire of your presence to place your distracted attention from the apparatus to which you view these aptly pages to a passage of text spoken before from another character. Sir Humphrey often used this technique to obfuscate issues, or, ironically, when he was having a hard time saying something. Similar to Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness because of its usage.
  • Balance of Power: Explicitly, and pretty truthfully, lays out Britain's primary foreign policy objective for at least the last 500 years: Create a disunited Europe.
  • Ban on Politics: Surprisingly averted. For the most part, the focus of discussion is usually on the intelligence of the plot and dialogue, and the acting of Eddington, Hawthorne and Fowlds. Whatever political discussions do occur are either good natured, in keeping with the humour of the show or just kept down to a minimum. You get the odd exception, but considering how heated political discussions can get, its actually quite refreshing.
  • The Barnum: Sir Humphrey had a cynical motto for everything ("Gratitude is merely the lively expectation of future reward"; "The Official Secrets Act exists to protect officials, not secrets"), and was always cool — except when some honesty broke into his perfect world. A more positive take on Sir Humphrey is that he and the Civil Service are providing effective (or at least stable) government, and performing damage control when elected politicians pander to their electorate without regards to their own political survival.
  • Batman Gambit: Oh so many. The opening episode alone shows Humphrey slipping a large purchase order for American-made computer monitors at the very bottom of the stack of daily paperwork in Hacker's red box work assignments (that most ministers just dodge anyway.) Knowing Humphrey would try to hide the good information from him, Hacker goes straight to the bottom of the pile and finds it, becoming irate that Britain would not buy British-made equipment instead, and plans to denounce it in a speech to be given the next day. This is of course exactly the reaction Humphrey was hoping for, and Hacker gets immediately called in by the Prime Minister who received an advance copy of the speech. The purchase of American monitors is part of a multi-million dollar business deal with NASA and will generate even more revenue for England unless Hacker fouls it up with his speech which has already been sent in advance to newspapers for review. Humphrey then stepped forward and humbly apologized for his grievous mistake earlier that day... he did not complete the paperwork correctly, and thus the media did not get the speech, only the Prime Minister. Hacker's job is thus saved and Humphrey has proven his usefulness to him... exactly as he had planned.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: There are few series that show quite how daunting the task of running a country actually is. One of Jim Hacker's main problems is merely knowing and understanding the issues. Then of course, he has to try to solve them (usually unsuccessfully).
    • Bernard also becomes this frequently, either because of his troubles in balancing out the wishes of his two superiors or having to deal with the more mundane but equally tedious elements of a Vast Bureaucracy.
  • Biting the Hand Humor

Humphrey: Does he watch television?
Hacker: He hasn't even got a set.
Humphrey: Fine, make him a governor of the BBC.

  • Blackmail: Rarely in so many words[1] but often A will have compromising evidence of B's activities, or perhaps tapes of C being very indiscreet. Humphrey wields this weapon unscrupulously.
  • Bulungi: Buranda, referred to on the show as a TPLAC: "Tinpot Little African Country".
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Not exactly, but when Jim Hacker gets drunk, he gets drunk and it doesn't seem to take an incredible amount to do it.
  • Catch Phrase: Nearly every episode ends with someone saying "Yes, Minister" (or "Yes, Prime Minister" in Yes, Prime Minister)
    • "Oh, very droll, _____." (used by both Hacker and Sir Humphrey; the blank is usually filled by each man with the other's name or title)
    • Similarly, Sir Humphrey's and Sir Arnold's "thin end of the wedge."
    • "Yes...and no."
    • "Thank you, Bernard." Hacker, or Sir Humphrey, or both, when they can't take any more of his pedantic corrections and are politely telling him to shut up now, Bernard.
  • Character Development: It's subtle, but over the seasons Hacker gradually learns how to beat Humphrey at his own game, Humphrey learns how to recognize when his interests coincide with Hacker's, and Bernard learns how to balance his two masters.
  • Christmas Episode: The "Party Games" special.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Bernard has an unnerving tendency to lapse into non sequitur, most of them hilarious.
  • Cold War: Particularly noted during the first Yes, Prime Minister episode, in which Hacker is informed about the British nuclear deterrent (or what passes for one, at any rate).
  • Compromising Memoirs: The former Prime Minister's.
  • Debate and Switch: Frequently employed, often of the Take a Third Option variety.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Frequently used by Sir Humphrey, and a literal example - the Department of Administrative Affairs. They tried to cut down the number of people, so they hired 400 more people to research it, and concluded that they could do away with a tea lady or two.
  • Dirty Coward: Hacker often has shades of this; in many cases, the problem is something he could fight for, but he's afraid of losing votes if he does so. It's quite common among politicians in the series, to the point where something being described as 'courageous' is the most terrifying thing a politician can hear.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Yes, Prime Minister was written to have Hacker sitting down most of the scenes and shot so as to help conceal the fact that Eddington was suffering from skin cancer.
  • Double Edged Answer: A Catch Phrase.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Hacker, at the end of "The Whisky Priest," seems at first to just Need A Freaking Drink (OK, several drinks). Then:

Annie: You're sort of a whisky priest. You do at least know when you've done the wrong thing.
Jim: Whisky priest?
Annie: That's right.
Jim: Good. Beat. Let's open another bottle.
Annie: You haven't got one.
Jim: That's what you think. *Turns, opens a red box* Who said nothing good ever came out of Whitehall?

  • Early Installment Weirdness: During "The Official Visit", the first episode aired after the pilot, Sir Humphrey makes comments that are both straightforward and deliberately humourous. It's most obvious during the Stateroom Sketch.
  • Expospeak Gag: Humphrey's overly long speeches are a hallmark of the series.
  • Eye Take: Humphrey's reaction whenever Hacker has a particularly ambitious, unexpected, and ill-advised idea.
  • Face Palm: Sir Humphrey does a horrified double face-palm in "Big Brother", when Hacker goes ahead with announcing his plans for database safeguards on live TV.
  • Facial Dialogue: Paul Eddington (Hacker) had a talent for this that has yet to be matched in any other series, resulting in the Harpo Does Something Funny example farther down.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Sir Humphrey and Bernard are alumni of "Baillie College", Oxford, a fictional stand-in for real-life Balliol.
  • Flanderization: Sir Desmond Glazebrook seems like a fairly sensible financier--if a bit baffled by Sir Humphrey's antics during a lunch meeting--in his first appearance. The next time he appears he's become a Cloudcuckoolander.
  • French Jerk: The French government in the "Yes, Prime Minister" episode "A Diplomatic Incident" has shades of this. Among other things, they engineer a diplomatic incident with a puppy in order to gain concessions over the Channel Tunnel, demand that the French embassy in London be guarded by French police and plant a bomb in their own embassy in order to try and embarrass British security.
  • Gallows Humor: A few of Bernard's (often ill-received) jokes fall into this category.
    • When Minister Hacker is placed on a death list by a terrorist group, a detective meets with him to inform him of procedures to avoid being assassinated. The whole briefing is quite humorous.

Commander Forest: Oh, if you are pushed out of a high window and there's iron railings underneath, try and land on your head. Quicker.

  • Gambit Pileup: The French government is scuttled by this in "A Diplomatic Incident". Their gambit to create a situation to force Her Majesty the Queen to reject a gift of a puppy from the French President due to British quarantine laws, which would thus create outrage in France which will force the British government to accept terms favourable to the French in negotiations over the Channel Tunnel, would have worked perfectly had they not also put in place a gambit to embarrass the British security services in revenge for not being allowed to provide their own security by planting a bomb in the French embassy. Since the latter is discovered, and will prove far more embarrassing and scandalous than the puppy, they're forced to back down.
  • Geeky Turn On: Really the only way to describe Humphreys's reaction to Bernard's speech in the last minute and a half of this clip.
  • Gilligan Cut: In "One of Us:"

Hacker: Don't discuss this with Arnold until I've spoken to him.
Humphrey: Of course not, Prime Minister, I wouldn't dream of it.
Cut to a visibly-distraught Humphrey taking a sip of wine.
Humphrey: So what do you think I should do, Arnold?

  • Glasses Pull: Hacker suggests doing this during his first Prime Ministerial broadcast, so that he can look both formal and informal at different points in his speech. The broadcast's director talks him out of it, saying that it would just make Hacker look like an insurance salesman.
  • Government Procedural
  • Grey and Gray Morality- Sir Humphrey and Hacker, whilst both giving lip service to the good of Britain are both patently in it for their own ends, and the benefit of the Civil Service or the Party respectively. Hacker is lightly more sympathetic, as he actually posesses a conscience, but ignores it when it becomes politically inconvenient, as opposed to Humphrey, who is utterly callous and corrupt.
  • Gunboat Diplomacy: After getting caught up in a foreign policy mess about to cause substantial embarrassment and hearing about this trope being the approach in the "old days," Hacker briefly questions whether it is, absolutely, out of the question, much to the shock of his colleagues.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: The entire Civil Service, for the most part. A bit too competent for Hacker's liking.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Chief Whip.

"You've got to treat people with tact and finesse, you berk!"

    • A subtle example exists with the Department of Administrative Affairs itself; an entire government department has been set up and staffed specifically to find ways of making cuts in other government departments.
    • In one episode, Hacker and Humphrey are having one of their debates when Hacker brings up some facts to prove his point. Humphrey superciliously notes that his facts are statistical, which can be altered or doctored. When the debate gets a bit more heated, Humphrey begins to point out that statistics exist to prove his point, only to catch himself and present them as 'facts'. Hacker immediately jumps on the hypocrisy of claiming that his facts are merely statistics while Humphrey's statistics are facts.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: A lot of Bernard's quips are these.
    • But Sir Humphrey comes up with an outstanding example in "The Bishop's Gambit": when told that one candidate had been waiting quite a while to be made a bishop, he replies, " So 'Long time, no See.'"
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Hacker, fairly often. See also Drowning My Sorrows.
  • Insult Backfire: Hacker accuses Humphrey of being a moral vacuum. Humphrey is non-committal in the scene, but soon after Bernard asks if he'll end up a moral vacuum, too. Humphrey says he sincerely hopes so, if Bernard works hard enough.
  • In Vino Veritas: Hacker spilling his guts after having had too much of the wine at Baillie College's High Table dinner in "Doing the Honours".
  • Invisible President: You never see the Prime Minister or even learn his name until Hacker himself gets the job.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: Hacker eventually gets these, but he has the heart (or lack of head) to take them off once in a while. Bernard follows a similar trajectory, while Sir Humphrey doesn't need them, as the lenses in his eyes were made of jade from birth.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Frequently referenced, and may have popularised the phrase.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: The Department of Administrative Affairs was specifically invented to allow Hacker to deal with any political issue the writers might be interested in exploring.
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy
  • Manipulative Bastard: Humphrey. Hacker thinks he is.
    • In Yes, Minister, Cabinet Secretary Sir Arnold Robinson does his share of string-pulling. Even Sir Humphrey is hard-pressed to keep up.
  • May-December Romance: While her age is never explicitly stated, Hacker's wife is definitely significantly younger than her husband. Diana Hoddinott, her actress is 18 years younger than Paul Eddington, who played Hacker.
  • Metaphorgotten: Bernard often pulls a thread on Hacker's metaphors, unravelling or derailing them completely.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: In "A Diplomatic Incident", when Hacker's predecessor dies.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Ludovic Kennedy appears as himself in several episodes.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: In an in-universe example, when practising his speeches Hacker has a tendency to imitate the distinctive voice of Winston Churchill.
  • No Party Given: Hacker. His party was generally an amalgamation of the Tories and Labour (but not the Liberals either). He's implied to be a small-c "compassionate conservative".
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Premise of series (with special award given for civil service). Exemplified by Humphrey's admission that there are often complications:

Hacker: Humphrey, can you ever give me a straight answer? A plain "yes" or "no"?
Sir Humphrey: Well... yes and no.

Sir Humphrey: East Yemen, isn't that a democracy?
Sir Richard Wharton: Its full name is "The Peoples' Democratic Republic of East Yemen".
Sir Humphrey: Ah, I see, so it's a communist dictatorship.

  • Plucky Comic Relief: Bernard to a certain degree, a very slight degree as he was more than just the comic relief. Often seemed to have the funny thing to say at the least appropriate times as well as his acting out of animals or to visually show Hacker why his metaphors were wrong (see this clip "The Challenge", in this case it was actually Sir Humphrey) and also see Metaphorgotten example above. Often found puncturing a hole in tension you could cut with a knife.
  • Put on a Bus: Frank Weisel, Hacker's political advisor in the first series of Yes, Minister, was written out of the show by the end of that season because the authors couldn't find much use for his overtly political character in a show that was supposed to focus on the conflict between government and administration.
    • The same thing happened to Vic Gould, the government's Chief Whip, who was originally supposed to be Sir Humphrey's opposite number, and would try and terrify Hacker into getting the government's policies pushed through his department. The writers found him to be too one-dimensional though, meaning that he never even made it past the pilot episode.
  • Qurac: In "The Moral Dimension", Hacker visits Qumran, a fictional Muslim country based on a Gulf Arab state -- in fact, the scene where Hacker and his staff secretly consume alcohol was based on a real-life incident that happened on a British diplomatic visit to Pakistan.
    • In "The Bishop's Gambit", a British nurse was sentenced to several lashes for possessing a bottle of whiskey, which provokes a miniature crisis as the government does not want to push too hard as the Qumranis are described as great friends of Britain, letting them know what the Soviets were up to in Iraq, allowing listening posts to be set up for Britain's use, and even sabotaging Opec agreements for them.
    • Another possible Qurac in "A Victory for Democracy" is "The People's Democratic Republic of East Yemen" (as well as its twin, West Yemen), although the name suggests that it is rather a Marxist dictatorship than an emirate or a theocracy.
      • Not quite. At the time of production there was, in fact, a "People's Democratic Republic of Yemen" which was a Marxist/Socialist state and was to the east of "Yemen Arab Republic".
      • M'yes, although that "People's Democratic Republic of Yemen" was generally known as South Yemen, not East Yemen.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Bernard (and occasionally Sir Humphrey) is occasionally threatened with reassignment to the Vehicle Licensing Centre in Swansea -- not that Hacker would send him there (not having the power to do so), but Humphrey's inevitable Fate if they cannot jointly avert various impending crises.
    • The most common threat is being sent Oop North. One episode resolves around a mass reassignment of defence personnel there, uniting every senior officer and civil servant who wanted to be near Harrods and Wimbledon against it. Bernard reacts in horror at being even a head of department in Lossiemouth. He thought it was a kind of dog food.
    • Hacker's worry about being assigned to Northern Ireland is not an example of this, as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was and is based in London, but the post was regarded as one of the most troublesome in the cabinet and one of the few which carried a significant risk of assassination, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.
    • In "The Bishop's Gambit", it's revealed that the bishopric of Truro is a similar position for the Church of England; because it's 'very remote' it's where they like to send their more troublesome or irritating bishops (such as those who are either utterly incompetent or actually vocally believe in God).
  • Revival: As a stage show in 2011, then as a six-episode series in 2013 with much of the same cast as the stage show.
  • Running Gag: The fact that Hacker's studies at the LSE don't compare to the Oxbridge education of Sir Humphrey.
  • Self-Deprecation: The Permanent Secretaries talking about merging department responsibilities:

Arts and Television together? What do they got to do with each other?

  • Self-Insert Fic Possibly the only time the author of a Self-Insert Fic performed alongside the stars. Helps if you're Margaret Thatcher.
  • Servile Snarker: Guess who? (No, not Bernard.)
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Sir Humphrey's (and occasionally Bernard's) preferred method of communication.
  • Sleazy Politician: Averted! For all his attempts to win popularity in the most self-serving and underhanded ways imaginable — including weaseling[2] his way into Number 10 — Jim Hacker comes off as more pathetic than despicable, and as Annie notes, he's a "whisky priest" who's still got his moral compass about him even as he tucks it away, grits his teeth, and ignores it.
  • The Stateroom Sketch: Done with a really small rail carriage and an endless series of visitors, one of whom is very fat.
  • Status Quo Is God: Subverted, in that while Hacker never really achieves much and the things that he does achieve are so inconsequential that you can understand why they're never mentioned again, this all has a specific cause -- namely Sir Humphrey and the Civil Service's constant stymieing of Hacker's attempts to push reforms through.
    • Occasionally he achieves something noteworthy — the database safeguards he manages to get into action at the end of the episode "Big Brother" appear to be the basis of the Data Protection Act 1984 (albeit the episode was made in 1980, so the law's passage would have taken a while, and most of the work was done by his predecessor). Hacker's "computer security guidelines" are mentioned in passing in connection with the previous Prime Minister's memoirs in "Official Secrets."
      • Truth in Television. John Major's excellent management of the economy (politely excusing Black Wednesday) was pretty much completely forgotten in the 1997 election, and New Labour's introduction of the minimum wage and legalizing gay marriage didn't prevent them from being killed in the 2010 election.
    • In the pilot episode, it's mentioned that the Department of Administrative Affairs is a political graveyard, and it's implied that the reason is that Humphrey was too good at blocking the Ministers' policies for them to ever advance any further.
  • Story Arc: None were done in the Yes Minister phase, but a few were tried during Yes, Prime Minister: Hacker's "Grand Design" had three episodes dedicated to it, and was at least mentioned in passing during every episode of the first season; his predecessor's memoirs the following season lasted for two episode.
  • Take a Third Option: In "Party Games", Hacker becomes the kingmaker in the battle to select his party's new leader (and therefore Prime Minister), and his decision pretty much comes down to whether he'd prefer to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer or the next Foreign Secretary. Bernard persuades him that neither of those is really that desirable, and persuades him to take the third option -- become the Prime Minister himself.
    • Also played with when Hacker, initially believing the 'third option' Bernard is pushing him towards is Home Secretary, makes it clear that even he's aware that that option isn't worth it:

Hacker: Home Secretary? Responsible for every race.

  • Tender Tears: Hacker, apparently, as he starts crying in "Party Games" when he believes Humphrey is telling him that he's dying, and then wears an embarrassed Tearful Smile once the misunderstanding is cleared up. (It's more hilarious than it sounds.)
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Every so often, when the moon was right and the writers were feeling kind, Hacker would win out over Humphrey. This became gradually more frequent during Yes, Prime Minister as Hacker's power and experience grew. In "The Key", he has Humphrey at the brink of madness.
  • Title Drop: At the end of almost every episode.
  • Title Sequence Replacement: The pilot had a different title sequence, not drawn by Gerald Scarfe. In reruns (but not on DVD), it was replaced with the titles used for the rest of the series.
  • Translation: Yes: Frequently, especially after one of Humphrey or Bernard's long-winded explanations leaves Hacker confused.
  • Truth in Television: Many politicians have admitted that it is, effectively, their version of This Is Spinal Tap. The writers also frequently got into trouble for featuring "entirely hypothetical" situations that bore a remarkable similarity to real life events. The aforementioned sneaking drinks into Qumran was one such example. It wasn't until (relatively) recently that the writers openly admitted (and named) their mole. On a somewhat scarier note, they also admitted that they never used a lot of the stories they were fed as they were simply too unbelievable, proving once again that Reality Is Unrealistic.
  • The Unfettered: Sir Humphrey and his Lawful Neutral stance. He is, as Hacker puts it, a "moral vacuum", and freely admits he is unconcerned with anything but the continued operation of the government and its policies, whoever and whatever they may be.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Depends on whether you think Sir Humphrey's the villain, but whenever something comes up that he didn't anticipate his default response is panicked, spluttering incoherence.
    • This can lead into Woobie territory on occasion: by the end of "The Key", Sir Humphrey has been forced to eat Humble Pie and begs Hacker, on the verge of tears, to let him have his key back. One can't help but want to give him a hug...
    • According to annotations in the published 'memoirs', Humphrey did end up going completely mad in his old age. It's implied that Hacker was the main cause.
  • The Watson: Jim Hacker's personal private secretary Bernard, to whom Sir Humphrey is often obliged to explain how things really work.
    • In other instances, Bernard has to explain to Hacker how things really work -- often in order to help Hacker attempt to win the day.
  • Westminster Chimes: The Theme Song is based on this motif.
  • Whitehall and No. 10 Downing St.
  • Wicked Cultured: Sir Humphrey, if one thinks him wicked. Certainly he is enough of an antagonist-figure to rule out his being a Gentleman and a Scholar.
  • Work Com
  • Xanatos Backfire: Humphrey's gambit in "Man Overboard" to get rid of the Employment Secretary in order to foil his plan to move half of the armed forces Oop North backfires spectacularly in the very last minute of the episode when Hacker decides that now that the Employment Secretary is gone, he can implement the plan anyway and take the credit for it himself. It's only then that Humphrey realises that he spent so much time engineering the Employment Secretary's downfall that he never bothered to discredit the actual plan, leaving him with no counter argument -- and as Hacker unwittingly points out, he's actually unwittingly strengthened several of the arguments for it.
    • In "The Key", Humphrey takes great delight in dressing down a policeman for letting him through security without checking his pass, despite the man's protests that everyone knows who Humphrey is. Humphrey issues new orders that NO ONE gets through without a pass. No One. (This is of course part of his broader scheme to limit access to the Prime Minister). This comes back to bite him towards the end of the episode when he is locked out of No. 10, desperately tries to get back in, and is refused entry by the same policeman, who takes great delight in making sure the new rules are rigorously applied, despite Humphrey's protests.
  1. ...though Humphrey does make explicit use of the term in "The Official Visit", with somewhat unfortunate results
  2. No, not "Weiseling".