#7. The Quality of Life (S2E6)
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Sir Humphrey Appleby receives his just reward when he's told by Sir Arnold Robinson that he is to be his successor as Cabinet Secretary. Jim Hacker has mixed feelings about the whole thing and while he appreciates all of the advice he's received from Sir Humphrey over the years, they have also had their fair share of disagreements. When the Prime Minister suddenly announces his resignation, Hacker decides to take a run at the party leadership. His primary campaign issue is new regulations from Brussels on the content of sausages which point to the demise of the British banger.
The Minister is once again locking horns with Sir Humphrey, this time over a local Council's inability, or refusals, to submit its statistical reports. The local Council government belongs to Hacker's party and he doesn't want to make waves but Sir Humphrey is insistent. The Minister gains the advantage when a Daily Mail reporter put him on to a story. The 30-year lease on a military base in Scotland is about to expire and the government will lose a fortune it has spent building it up. It would seem that some junior bureaucrat at the time made a grievous error in preparing the lease. Needless to say, the Minister makes full use of the information, especially when he learns the identity of the junior official from all those years ago.
The Minister yet again finds himself in it when the Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Minister's senior advisor con him into taking responsibility for developing a national transportation policy. The whole thing has been tried before and with little success. Sir Humphrey is aghast that the Minister took this on without first discussing with him and at the first meeting of officials, the Minister also realizes that he has made a grievous error. Their first attempt to rid themselves of the commitment fails but their second attempt proves somewhat more successful.
While on an official visit to a Middle East sheikdom to finalize a major contract for a UK firm, the Minister manages to get himself into trouble on several fronts. Learning that the country is dry, he arranges for liquor to be available on the sly. When they are presented with an expensive 17th century antique bowl, Mrs. Hacker gets Bernard Woolley to get the object valued at less than £50 allowing her to keep the gift. When the Minister learns that bribes were likely paid to obtain the contract, he insists that there be a full public inquiry. A little reminder from Sir Humphrey sets things straight.
With his wife's encouragement, Minister Hacker decides he should focus on accomplishing 1 or 2 significant achievements while in office. He decides the time has come to promote more women into the senior ranks of the civil service. Needless to say, Sir Humphrey very much wants to maintain the status quo and arranges for his fellow permanent secretaries to brief their own Ministers accordingly. Hacker nonetheless insists on promoting a woman in his own department, but things don't quite work out as planned.
Following a re-alignment of responsibilities, Jim Hacker now finds himself the Minister responsible for local government authorities in addition to his existing duties. As one can expect, he wants to reform local government. Following the advice of Sir Arnold Robinson, the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Humphrey gets the Minister to focus on civil defense but even at that, he manages to get himself into trouble when interviewed on television. Sir Humphrey saves the day when he manages to convince the BBC to pull the interview.
The Minister goes on the BBC to extol the virtues of a public-private partnership project but when he learns that the private firm involved may soon go bankrupt, it is up to Sir Humphrey to see exactly what can be done to salvage the situation. He approaches a banker, Sir Desmond Glazer, who also happens to be interested in a part-time government appointment. The Minister's political advisor however is advising that all such Ministerial patronage appointments be abolished.
The Minister and Sir Humphrey debate the merits of UK membership in the European Community with Hacker definitely negative about interference from Brussels. He dislikes the constant steam of rules and regulations and sees European civil servants living a lavish lifestyle. Sir Humphrey on the other hand disagrees and suggests there are many benefits to UK participation. Their views take a considerable turn however when the rumors of a Cabinet shuffle also reveal that Hacker may be offered a senior position in Brussels. When Sir Humphrey learns who the new minister might be, he is definitely keen on Hacker remaining just where he is.
When the opposition challenges the Minister's claims in the House that administrative personnel in the health sector have been reduced by 11%, he too quickly agrees to an independent inquiry. Sir Humphrey's solution is to offer the chairmanship of the inquiry to someone hoping to score brownie points with the government. The Minister is concerned when he learns that a brand new hospital has been open for 15 months and has yet to admit a patient despite having over 500 administrative personnel on staff. His attempts to either open the hospital to the public or cut the administrative staff, are blocked at every turn until he comes up with a unique solution.
The Minister is appalled when, on the advice of his civil servants, he can't make a modest 5% to his department's budget. To Sir Humphrey's great disbelief, the Minister decides to recommend only those civil servants for the Queen's honors list who can find the 5% cut in their budgets. On another matter, Appleby is approached by the Master of his Oxford college who is finding it impossible to enroll students now that the Minister has instructed that all foreign students must pay the full cost of their studies. Hoping for an exemption from the requirement, they invite the Minister to an alcohol-fueled dinner and the promise of an honorary Doctor of Laws seems to do the trick.
The Minister decides there is far too much waste in government and decides the time has come to launch an economy drive. Sir Humphrey suggests to the Minister that he should lead by example and cut back on his own staff. He soon finds himself without a driver or a secretary and chaos ensues. He immediately gets into trouble with the trade unions and the press take advantage of the situation.
With his party now ready to form the government, Jim Hacker anxiously awaits a call from the Prime Minister offering him a Cabinet post. When the call does come, he is named Minister of Administrative Affairs. He meets his new Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby and his Permanent Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley. As his first act, the new Minister decides to make good on his party's election promise to have open and transparent government by publicly canceling a major contract issued by the previous government to an American computer firm. Sir Humphrey counsels against it knowing that there will soon be important US government visitors but Hacker pushes ahead only to find himself summoned to 10 Downing St.
The Minister finds himself in charge of an official visit from the President of Biranda, a newly independent former British colony. Hacker decides that they should all travel to Balmoral rather than have the Queen travel to London. Only a week before the visit, the President is overthrown in a coup and against Sir Humphrey's advice, the Minister insists that the visit go ahead. When he sees what the new President has to say in his formal speech about the yoke of British rule and his support for a free Scotland and Ireland, he realizes that the government is on the brink of disaster.
When the Minister is approached by a group of local constituents seeking government funding for their nearly bankrupt local football club, he suggests that they sell the local museum to private interests and use the proceeds for their sports team. Sir Humphrey - a patron of the arts and an avid opera-goer - is aghast at the prospect of taking funds from the arts and transferring it to sports. He and his fellow permanent secretaries come up with an ideal solution - make Jim Hacker the Minister responsible for the arts.
The Minister wants to give citizens access to their files on a new national database, but Sir Humphrey is at his obfuscating best. Accused by his political advisor and his wife of being a mouthpiece for the civil service, Hacker decides that he is going get his way on this one. Taking the advice of his predecessor, now an Opposition MP, he successfully anticipates all of Sir Humphrey's roadblocks but in the end, he uses the civil servants' own tactics to get his way.
The Minister's frustrations with the civil service continue when Sir Humphrey, at his bureaucratic best, doesn't quite deliver the policy paper the Minister is seeking. Hacker wants to announce a cut of 200,000 civil servants and so decides to write the paper himself. He takes it a step further when he announces the planned cuts during a TV interview. The whole thing blows up in his face when the Prime Minister decides that the first cut will be Hacker's own Department. Suddenly, he and Sir Humphrey are on the same side fighting to keep their jobs.
Once again, the Minister, Jim Hacker and the permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby, clash over the Minister's role in running the Department. The Minister instructs his senior civil servant to keep nothing from him and he is promptly flooded with everything under the sun. For Sir Humphrey, the Minister's meeting with constituents concerned about saving a local den of badgers is exactly the kind of work he should be doing. When he learns that Hacker's daughter will stage a nude protest over her father's decision on the badgers, Appleby must come to the rescue.
The Minister is appalled to learn that while in Opposition, he was under government surveillance. Now that he is in government, he finds that his Department is responsible for purchasing all of the government's surveillance equipment and orders an end to it. The Minister makes a point of leaking his views to the press and his stand makes for considerable public support. When he learns that he is on a death list intercepted by the security agencies however, he has second thoughts.
Sir Humphrey Appleby is approached the head of the British Chemical Corporation to secure the Minister's support for the production of proponol, also known as metadioxin. Although the chemical is harmless, the BCC is concerned that the word "dioxin" would raise unwarranted fears among the uninformed public. Appleby convinces the Minister that there is absolutely nothing to worry about but as protests against the chemical contract begin to mount - and as 10 Downing Street has clearly indicated to the Minister that he is not to proceed - Minister Hacker must move quickly to ensure that an about to be released government report supports his new position.
The Minister and Sir Humphrey must appear before a Select Committee looking into government waste. Sir Humphrey suggests a number of ways the Minister can elude difficult questions but Hacker is blindsided by an MP who has in her possession the draft of a book by a former civil servant outlining huge waste in his Department. When Hacker is called to a meeting at 10 Downing St., he realizes there is only one solution, much to Sir Humphrey's dismay.
The Minister finds himself in a bit of bind when an army officer tells him privately that British-made weapons are finding their way into the hands of Italian Red terrorists. Hacker is very keen to do something about this and despite Sir Humphrey's view that this is not their problem, decides to inform the Prime Minister. The PM's office doesn't want to hear about it but the Minister has now painted himself into a corner as the only member of the government who knows about this situation. Bernard Woolley's suggestion of using the "Rhodesia Solution" provides him with an out.
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