The Ministerial Broadcast

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"The Ministerial Broadcast"
Yes, Prime Minister episode
Episode no.Series 1
Episode 2
Written byAntony Jay
Jonathan Lynn
Produced bySydney Lotterby
Original air date16 January 1986
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Grand Design"
Next →
"The Smoke Screen"
List of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister episodes

“The Ministerial Broadcast” is the second episode of the BBC comedy series Yes, Prime Minister and was first broadcast 16 January 1986.


Prime Minister Jim Hacker is in his office and is extremely jet lagged, having just returned from a trip to Washington. He wished to see the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby, and Bernard shows him in. However, Hacker keeps falling asleep and Sir Humphrey leaves. When the PM snaps awake, he asks Bernard about the backlog of work that will be waiting for him now that he's home. His Principal Private Secretary explains that there isn't any really: as Hacker is now Prime Minister, he no longer runs a department of his own and, short of a few meetings each week, there is very little that he has to do. Hacker asks to see his Press Secretary, Malcolm Warren, about his forthcoming television broadcast but again drifts into a snooze before the meeting can take place.

Later, in the Cabinet Office, Sir Humphrey talks with Bernard. The Cabinet Secretary is gravely concerned about the PM's new defence policy, which involves cancelling the UK's order for Trident and re-introducing conscription. Sir Humphrey states that the only aim of a defence policy is to make Britain feel secure, and, since it costs £15 billion, Trident must be the only solution. Bernard remarks that Hacker may wish to refer to his “Grand Design” in his upcoming broadcast, and goes on to argue that there is theoretically nothing to prevent the PM from doing so because he wants to govern Britain. Sir Humphrey replies, “Well, stop him, Bernard.”

Meanwhile, Hacker has now sufficiently recovered to meet with Malcolm Warren and discuss his television appearance. He quickly rejects the idea of an interview, referring to the likes of Robin Day, Brian Walden, Terry Wogan, and Jimmy Young as “failed MPs and jumped-up disc jockeys.” He decides on a ministerial broadcast, which he will conduct directly to camera. Warren suggests arranging a practice session for him. As regards the content, the PM specifically wants to talk about his “Grand Design”, and he instructs Bernard to inform Sir Humphrey of this and ask him to join them. As Warren leaves, a galvanised Sir Humphrey comes rushing into Hacker's office, out of breath. He more or less forbids the PM to mention his new defence policy in the broadcast, and seeks to back this up with his usual civil service delaying tactics. However, as Prime Minister, Hacker has the final word and is determined to go ahead.

Sometime later, Hacker is attending his practice session, which is being supervised by a producer named Godfrey. The latter instructs the PM on matters of appearance and delivery, and suggests removing his glasses, not leaning forward—as it makes him look like he's “selling insurance”—and lowering the pitch of his voice. In addition, Bernard recommends that his planned speech be toned down slightly, and Hacker reluctantly agrees. As the session wears on, the PM gradually learns to cope with the teleprompter; also his clothing, makeup and opening music are decided upon. However, Hacker dismisses the notion of undergoing some dental work.

In the Cabinet Office, Bernard reports back to Sir Humphrey, and tells him that despite his efforts, the “Grand Design” is still in the broadcast. He explains that the government party commissioned an opinion poll, which found that most voters were in favour of national service. This in turn led Hacker to believe that his policy was a positive vote-winner. Sir Humphrey instructs Bernard to arrange a second poll for the Ministry of Defence that will reach the opposite conclusion. He expounds on how this can be achieved, simply by asking a different set of leading questions. In the meantime, Sir Humphrey will arrange for Hacker's television appearance to be brought forward by allowing the Leader of the Opposition a party political broadcast sooner than the PM's planned date for his own, thus forcing his hand. He also needs to ensure that the PM's next Cabinet meeting arrives at the right result by making certain that all the ministers—who hitherto have been in favour of the proposal—receive the appropriate advice from their officials.

Later on, Sir Humphrey meets with the Permanent Secretary from the Department of Employment to make certain that his minister is briefed correctly. They agree that by the next morning the Minister will have changed his view and will believe that re-introducing conscription would release an unemployed army of trained killers on to the streets of Britain. They also discuss the likely arguments that other Permanent Secretaries will be putting forward to their respective ministers.

Following the Cabinet meeting, the PM is mystified: all of his colleagues have now done a volte-face. In addition, Bernard arrives with news of an MOD opinion poll, concluding that 74% of the population are against conscription. Sir Humphrey successfully convinces the PM to shelve any announcement of his “Grand Design” for the time being.

Episode cast[edit]

Actor Role
Paul Eddington Jim Hacker
Nigel Hawthorne Sir Humphrey Appleby
Derek Fowlds Bernard Woolley
John Wells Godfrey
Barry Stanton Malcolm Warren
Brian Gwaspari David
Carolyn Lister Makeup Artist

Further reading[edit]

  • John Adams (1993). George W. Brandt (ed.). Yes, Prime Minister: 'The Ministerial Broadcast' (Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay): Social reality and comic realism in popular television drama. British Television Drama in the 1980s. Cambridge University Press. pp. 62–85.

External links[edit]

"The Ministerial Broadcast" on IMDb