A Victory for Democracy

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"A Victory for Democracy"
Yes, Prime Minister episode
Episode no. Series 1
Episode 6
Written by Antony Jay
Jonathan Lynn
Produced by Sydney Lotterby
Original air date 13 February 1986
Guest actors

Clive Francis
Donald Pickering

Episode chronology
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"A Real Partnership"
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"The Bishop’s Gambit"
List of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister episodes

"A Victory for Democracy" is the sixth episode of the BBC comedy series Yes, Prime Minister and was first broadcast 13 February 1986.


Jim Hacker has been criticised by the American ambassador over Britain's proposed defence policy, which involves the cancellation of Trident. In addition, it has been mentioned to the Prime Minister that there is a problem with St. George's Island, a Commonwealth territory situated in the Indian Ocean. The US is concerned that it could be subject to a Communist takeover, and threatens various sanctions if this takes place. The PM is to meet the Foreign Secretary to discuss this.

Sir Humphrey Appleby meets with Sir Richard Wharton, Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Office (FO). The latter is troubled that the PM is starting to distrust Civil Service advice and is beginning to formulate his own foreign policy, with an eye to keeping the White House happy. Sir Richard fills Sir Humphrey in on the St. George’s difficulties, and informs him that as the potential coup d'état could be executed by a group of Soviet- and Libyan-backed Marxist guerrillas with assistance from East Yemen, the FO wishes to steer well clear of the situation. Sir Richard also warns Sir Humphrey of a United Nations motion by the Arabs, condemning Israel. Ordinarily, the United Kingdom would vote alongside them, but Hacker is apparently planning to side with the Americans and abstain.

Hacker meets with the Foreign Secretary. It transpires that both are in the dark over St. George's Island, and the PM instructs him to start asking questions of his officials. He also expresses his wish to abstain in the UN vote, but the Foreign Secretary advises against this, as "the Foreign Office wouldn’t wear it."

Later, Hacker summons Sir Humphrey to the Cabinet Room, and tells him that he needs to keep in with the Americans if he is going to cancel his defence order, and that Britain should be ready to defend St. George's. Sir Humphrey agrees with him that foreign affairs are a complicated business, which is why they are usually left to the Foreign Office. When Hacker asks if Britain should always support law and justice, the Cabinet Secretary replies in the affirmative—as long as it does not affect the government’s foreign policy. After Humphrey leaves, Bernard and Hacker consult the globe in the Private Office to find out where St. George's actually is. While they do so, an obsequious civil servant named Luke takes an interest. Bernard convinces Hacker to continue their conversation back in the Cabinet Room, where he warns the PM that Luke is actually the Foreign Office's "man in Number 10" and is not to be trusted. He also suggests that there are plenty of things that the FO does not tell Hacker.

In the Cabinet Office, Bernard asks Sir Humphrey and Sir Richard why the FO insists on keeping information from the PM. Sir Humphrey argues that it is undesirable for politicians to become involved in foreign policy, largely due to their ignorance: as far as the public is concerned, foreign policy comes down to knowing the "goodies" from the "baddies", and since sometimes the government has to deal commercially with the latter, such information is kept inside the Foreign Office, with its own policy communicated to the Foreign Secretary for outside consumption. They are interrupted by a telegram stating that East Yemen is about to invade St. George's in support of the guerrillas. Sir Richard is adamant that Britain will give the island "every support, short of help", much to Bernard's disgust. Sir Humphrey replies by accusing him of "acting like a politician".

Meanwhile, Luke delivers the PM's FO red boxes. He persuades Hacker that the troop movements in East Yemen are nothing to worry about. However, Hacker is enraged that the FO has ignored his instructions and voted against Israel at the UN. Luke protests that there were developments that could not be communicated in time, so they took the advice of Britain's UN ambassador instead. Nevertheless, Hacker requests to see the Israeli ambassador. When Luke's counsel is tantamount to a refusal, Hacker uses the excuse that the ambassador is an old friend from the LSE, whom he seeks help from regarding his daughter's planned kibbutz.

At his flat, Hacker apologizes to the Israeli ambassador for the UN vote, which the ambassador accepts, knowing how the FO works. However, he also has news from Israeli intelligence that East Yemen is poised to invade St. George's Island, and that the Americans are ready to support the islanders in battle. Hacker is horrified that he knows nothing about this, but eventually finds an FO situation report buried in one of his red boxes. The ambassador advises Hacker that Britain has an airborne battalion in Germany; if it is diverted to St. George's, then East Yemen will be unlikely to invade. Gleefully, Hacker arranges for it to make a 'goodwill visit' to the island.

The next morning, with the battalion on its way to St. George's, Sir Humphrey is furious at Hacker, who reminds him that he and the FO had been the ones to dismiss the situation. Luke arrives with the FO telegrams, in which the Americans praise Hacker for his intervention. Sir Humphrey is unimpressed, and demands to know where the idea came from. The PM tells him that it came from Luke, who had written the situation report and would be 'rewarded' with a posting as Britain's ambassador to Israel, effectively ending his career. A distraught Luke tries to avoid his fate, but Hacker reminds him that his loyalty should have been to the PM, and Humphrey is forced to agree: "Yes, Prime Minister".

Episode cast[edit]

Actor Role
Paul Eddington Jim Hacker
Nigel Hawthorne Sir Humphrey Appleby
Derek Fowlds Bernard Woolley
Clive Francis Luke
Ronald Hines Foreign Secretary
Donald Pickering Sir Richard Wharton
David de Keyser Israeli Ambassador


Satirical reference[edit]

  • This episode was inspired by the 1983 Invasion of Grenada by the United States. The name of the fictional St. George's Island derives from St. George's, the capital of Grenada.
  • In addition, the parody of the defence of an island about which many British citizens (including even government ministers) know little, is a reference to events surrounding the Falklands conflict which had taken place in 1982, just four years prior to the airing of the episode.


  • This is the only episode of Yes, Prime Minister that has a different end title of the Jim Hacker caricature drawn and animated by Gerald Scarfe which portrays him as the British Lion.

External links[edit]

"A Victory for Democracy" at the Internet Movie Database