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"Yes Minister" The Writing on the Wall (TV Episode 1980) Poster

Quotes

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last 500 years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it's worked so well?

James Hacker: That's all ancient history, surely.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn't work. Now that we're inside we can make a complete pig's breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it's just like old times.

James Hacker: Surely we're all committed to the European ideal.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Really, Minister.

[laughs]

James Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, for the same reason. It's just like the United Nations, in fact. The more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up. The more futile and impotent it becomes.

James Hacker: What appalling cynicism.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes. We call it diplomacy, Minister.

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James Hacker: Will you give me a straight answer to a straight question?

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh, well, Minister, as long as you are not asking me to resort to crude generalisations and vulgar simplifications such as a simple yes or no, I shall do my utmost to oblige.

James Hacker: Is that yes?

Sir Humphrey Appleby: [long pause as Humphrey considers] Yunp...

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James Hacker: So when this next comes up at Question Time, you want me to tell Parliament that it's *their* fault that the Civil Service is too big?

Sir Humphrey Appleby: But it's the truth, Minister.

James Hacker: I don't want the truth. I want something I can tell Parliament!

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[first lines]

James Hacker: I'm still not happy with this report, Humphrey.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Then, Minister, we shall be happy to redraft it for you.

James Hacker: You've redrafted it three times already.

Bernard Woolley: That's not absolutely correct, Minister.

James Hacker: Yes it is, Bernard. I *can* count. This is the third draft report.

Bernard Woolley: Yes, quite so, Minister. Therefore, it's been drafted once and subsequently redrafted twice.

James Hacker: Don't quibble, Bernard.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: But we shall be happy to redraft it a third time.

James Hacker: And a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth, no doubt; and it still won't say what I want it to say; it will say what you want it to say and I want it to say what I want it to say.

Bernard Woolley: What do you want it to say, Minister?

Sir Humphrey Appleby: We want it to say what you want it to say, Minister.

Bernard Woolley: I'm sure the Department doesn't want you to say anyting you don't want to say.

James Hacker: Stop wittering!

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James Hacker: All we get from the civil service is delaying tactics.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, I wouldn't call civil service delays "tactics", Minister. That would be to mistake lethargy for strategy.

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[last lines]

Bernard Woolley: Can Daniel Hughes really fix this? I mean, don't Prime Ministers have minds of their own?

James Hacker: Oh, certainly. But as President Nixon's henchman once said, when you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow. Right, Humphrey?

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes, Minister.

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James Hacker: Will you give me a straight answer to a straight question?

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, Minister, as long as you are not asking me to resort to crude generalizations and vulgar over-simplifications such as a simple yes or no, I shall do my utmost to oblige.

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