Party Games (Yes Minister)

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"Party Games"
Episode no. Series – NA
Episode – Christmas Special
Written by Antony Jay
Jonathan Lynn
Produced by Peter Whitmore
Original air date 17 December 1984
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"The Middle-Class Rip-Off"
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"The Grand Design"
List of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister episodes

"Party Games" is the twenty-second and final episode of the BBC comedy series Yes Minister. A one-hour Christmas special that was first broadcast 17 December 1984, its events lead into the sequel, Yes, Prime Minister. The episode was shown again at Christmas 1990, shortly after the fall of Margaret Thatcher. Hacker’s denials of interest in the party leadership were similar to those made by Michael Heseltine some six years later.

Plot[edit]

Christmas is approaching, and Jim Hacker has two things on his mind. The first is a mountain of Christmas cards, which await various versions of his signature; now that he is also Party Chairman, there are more to send than ever before. The second is an EEC directive to standardise the Euro-sausage, which Hacker knows will be very unpopular with voters. The Minister is therefore reluctant to send a card to Maurice, the EEC Commissioner.

Meanwhile, Sir Humphrey Appleby is meeting with Sir Arnold Robinson, the Cabinet Secretary, who has decided to retire in the New Year. He must recommend his replacement to the Prime Minister, and lists what he believes are the necessary qualities for the post. He tells Sir Humphrey that the job entails finding questions rather than answers, in particular knowing the "key question." Sir Humphrey changes the subject and enquires of Sir Arnold what he will be doing during his retirement. This turns out to be a "very good question." Sir Arnold makes a few suggestions of activities in which he would be interested (most of them chairmanships of quangos), while Sir Humphrey takes notes. The Permanent Secretary reassures Sir Arnold that his eventual successor should be able to arrange them for him, and Sir Humphrey is told that his name is now top of the list—in fact the only one on it.

Later, Sir Humphrey tells Hacker of his imminent promotion (although at first his usual circumlocution suggests to the Minister that he has a terminal illness). Hacker congratulates him and is quick to think of his own future by offering the civil servant profuse compliments. Sir Humphrey is to formally announce his departure from the DAA at its Christmas drinks party.

At the party, an inebriated Hacker gives a rambling speech before proposing a toast to Sir Humphrey, who in turn gives some more coherent words of thanks. He praises the Minister as being "without parallel" and ends by reminding those present of the Home Secretary's campaign for the holiday: "Don't drink and drive at Christmas."

Afterwards, the Hackers are on their way home, but the Minister is drunk and driving very slowly. He is pulled over by the police, who are less than impressed by his conduct and very nearly arrest him. At the last minute, Hacker produces his ministerial silver badge, which grants him immunity to certain traffic laws. The policemen agree to let Annie (who has stayed off the alcohol, in anticipation of such an event) take over the driver's seat, and not to pursue the incident any further.

The next morning, Hacker is called in to the Cabinet Office by Sir Humphrey, who chastises him for the incident. The Minister, it turns out, was lucky in comparison with the Home Secretary, who was also caught driving while under the influence. However, in his case, his car ran a lorry full of nuclear waste off the road, before smashing into another car. Unfortunately the driver of the other car happened to be the editor of the local newspaper, ensuring that the story quickly made it to the national press. Hacker notes that the incident will cost the Home Secretary his position, and Sir Humphrey adds that since that minister was as "drunk as a Lord," the party will probably dispose of him by granting him a peerage.

At Hacker's flat, his wife, Annie, is awaiting his arrival home, along with Bernard, the Minister's Principal Private Secretary. A television newsflash reveals that the Prime Minister is to retire in the New Year. Hacker bursts in, excited at the news. They speculate about the motives behind the PM's decision. After exchanging numerous wild conspiracy theories, the Minister concludes that the enmity between the PM and the Home Secretary, is the most likely reason: the PM was simply denying his rival any chance at the top job ("like Attlee and Morrison"). After the drink-driving incident there was no way the Home Secretary could contest the leadership, meaning the PM could safely resign.

Annie asks her husband if he wants to be the next Prime Minister but he tells her that the two front-runners are Eric, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Duncan, the Foreign Secretary. They are from opposing wings of the party, and Hacker is conflicted about whom to support.

Eric meets with Hacker to seek his endorsement and offers him the post of Foreign Secretary, should he be successful. The Minister stresses that as Party Chairman, he must be seen to be impartial.

Back at his flat, Hacker offers a similar argument to Duncan. The Foreign Secretary is unconcerned that Hacker's support will not be public, "just so long as everybody knows." He hints that if he were PM, Eric would be sent to the dreaded Northern Ireland Office and Hacker would be in line as the next Chancellor.

In the New Year, Sir Humphrey is at lunch with Sir Arnold, and they muse about the two candidates for the top job. They conclude that both are interventionists and would seek to try and run the country themselves. In addition, the government Chief Whip believes that each has the capacity to split the party. Therefore, a compromise candidate is needed. After listing the requisite attributes: no bright ideas, no firm opinions, they realise that they are both thinking of the same person. Bernard joins them, and Sir Humphrey asks him what he would say to Hacker as the next Prime Minister. Bernard can't quite believe his ears, but the mandarins are serious. They entrust him to keep Hacker on the straight and narrow over the next few weeks. In the meantime, the other candidates must be persuaded to withdraw, and Sir Arnold believes that this can be accomplished by examining their MI5 files — something one should always do, "if you enjoy a good laugh."

Hacker discusses the leadership contest with Bernard. He confesses that he still can't decide whom to back. It boils down to which job he wants for himself: Foreign Secretary or Chancellor. Bernard convinces him that neither are particularly desirable and starts steering him in the direction of 10 Downing Street.

Back in the Cabinet Office, Sir Humphrey meets with Geoffrey, the Chief Whip. He tells him that there are certain "security implications" regarding the two current candidates but is unable to disclose what they are. He also puts to him the idea of making Hacker Prime Minister, which meets with an incredulous response. The man in question joins them and Sir Humphrey fills him in. As Hacker is Party Chairman he is allowed to see the candidates’ MI5 files. It transpires that Eric and Duncan have been guilty of sexual and financial transgressions respectively. All present now agree that neither of the pair can be PM, and a more acceptable candidate is needed. Sir Humphrey and Geoffrey gently suggest to Hacker that he might be the man. After some hesitation he states that he has no doubt he could do the job. As he is an outsider, Geoffrey tells him that he needs some sort of public success in the next few days. In the meantime, Hacker himself must reluctantly persuade Eric and Duncan to withdraw.

Hacker meets with Eric and Duncan individually and, by hinting at what he has seen in their security files and promising to look after their interests, manages to achieve the desired result.

Sir Humphrey then calls Hacker to an impromptu meeting with Maurice, the EEC Commissioner. They use it to put forward their views over increasing interference in British affairs, in particular the problem of the Euro-sausage. They convince Maurice that it should be called the "British sausage."

However, the Minister then invites the press to his office to tell them that the sausage problem is far from resolved. He tells Bernard of his intention to manipulate the media by giving them bad news today and a triumph tomorrow.

His "non-story" makes all the front pages the next day and that evening, Hacker travels to a public meeting about fire and safety in government buildings. En route, he and Bernard hear a radio news report giving details of Eric and Duncan's decisions to bow out, but naming no compromise candidate. At the meeting (to which both BBC and ITN cameras have inexplicably been invited), Hacker takes the opportunity to give a passionate speech in defence of Britain against encroaching European regulations. He is given a standing ovation.

Following this, Hacker appears in a television interview with Ludovic Kennedy to further bolster his public profile. He declines to be drawn on whether or not he would stand for PM.

The Minister returns to the Cabinet Office, where Sir Humphrey is awaiting the result of a meeting at Hacker's party headquarters, which will announce his candidature and if it is unopposed. Bernard arrives to tell them that the officials at Buckingham Palace have asked if Hacker will be able to kiss hands, should the outcome leave no doubt. Hacker asks Bernard to stay as his Private Secretary if he reaches Number 10, and he agrees. The phone rings, and Sir Humphrey answers it. Hacker is agitated and wants to know if he has finally climbed the greasy pole. The Cabinet Secretary replies, "Yes, Prime Minister." Hacker then places his hand into his suit, imitating Napoleon.

Episode cast[edit]

Actor Role
Paul Eddington Jim Hacker
Nigel Hawthorne Sir Humphrey Appleby
Derek Fowlds Bernard Woolley
John Nettleton Sir Arnold Robinson
James Grout Jeffrey Pearson
Peter Jeffrey Eric Jeffries, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Philip Stone Duncan Short, Foreign Secretary
Diana Hoddinott Annie Hacker
André Maranne Maurice
Anthony Pedley Policeman
David Warwick Policeman
John Pennington Peter
Rex Robinson Civil Servant
Laura Calland Civil Servant
Martyn Read Reporter
Roger Davidson Reporter
Roger Ostime Reporter
Bernard Losh Reporter
David Howey Civil Servant
Ludovic Kennedy Himself

External links[edit]