Open Government (Yes Minister)

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"Open Government"
Yes Minister episode
Episode title card
Episode no.Series 1
Episode 1
Written byAntony Jay
Jonathan Lynn
Produced byStuart Allen
Original air date25 February 1980
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Official Visit"
List of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister episodes

"Open Government" is the first episode of the BBC comedy series Yes Minister, first broadcast 25 February 1980. In this episode, the final "Yes Minister" is uttered by Sir Humphrey Appleby.


The episode begins with a short pre-title sequence showing Jim Hacker being re-elected as MP for his constituency at the general election. However, his party is now no longer in opposition and the next day he is at home with his wife, Annie, awaiting a phone call from the Prime Minister. He eventually learns that, having previously been the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, he has been given the job of Minister for Administrative Affairs.

He and his political advisor, Frank Weisel, are driven to Whitehall, where he meets the civil servants responsible for helping him to 'run' the department: Sir Humphrey Appleby (the Permanent Secretary), and Bernard Woolley (his Principal Private Secretary).

Hacker is eager to make a big impression and immediately informs Sir Humphrey that he wishes to act on his party's manifesto promise to streamline the department and "cut through the red tape". To that end, the department has already prepared a white paper entitled "Open Government". However, Sir Humphrey is less than keen that Frank Weisel should share the Minister's office space but Hacker intervenes.

Away from Hacker's office, Sir Humphrey discusses his new Minister with his own superior, the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Arnold Robinson. They are joined by Bernard, and Sir Humphrey feels that Hacker will become "house-trained in no time". The subject of the "Open Government" policy comes up, and Sir Humphrey remarks that they will have to steer the Minister away from it. Sir Arnold explains to Bernard the law of inverse relevance: "The less you intend to do about something, the more you have to keep talking about it." Bernard learns that just because his Minister asks him to do something, it may not be in the department's best interests to carry out his wishes. Meanwhile, Sir Humphrey arranges for Weisel to discover an invoice for a shipment of computer VDUs that are to be imported from America.

When Weisel finds the document, he immediately informs Hacker, who is incensed — particularly since such peripherals are manufactured in his own constituency. However, Sir Humphrey explains that it is impossible to cancel such a contract, so Hacker and Weisel hatch a plan to announce this scandal to the press.

Hacker then receives a minute from 10 Downing Street, informing him that the Prime Minister is about to embark on a trip to the USA. He is intent on securing an Anglo-American trade agreement and it must not be jeopardised. Hacker is panicked. Since a copy of his speech was sent for clearance by the PM in the spirit of open government (at Sir Humphrey's insistence), he is now in trouble. He visits the Prime Minister's office, where he is chastised by the Chief Whip, Vic Gould. It transpires that the speech had not yet been made public (as Sir Humphrey knew all along), and since this now contradicts Hacker's aspirations for more transparency, his commitment to the policy is quietly forgotten.

Episode cast[edit]

Actor Role
Paul Eddington Jim Hacker
Nigel Hawthorne Sir Humphrey Appleby
Derek Fowlds Bernard Woolley
John Nettleton Sir Arnold Robinson
Diana Hoddinott Annie Hacker
Neil Fitzwiliam Frank Weisel
Edward Jewesbury Vic Gould
Norman Mitchell The Mayor
David Moran Nigel Lloyd-Pritchard
Fraser Kerr Radio Reporter


  • As this was the pilot episode of Yes Minister, the title sequence and music are substantially different from those used for all other instalments.


  • The pilot was produced in 1979 but not transmitted until 1980 in fear that it could influence the results of the 1979 UK General Election.[1]


  1. ^ "Yes Minister". Britain's Best Sitcom. 2004. BBC. BBC Two.

External links[edit]