Yes Minister

Season 2 Episode 3

The Death List

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Mar 09, 1981 on BBC Two

Episode Recap

Jim Hacker is in his office when Bernard enters with an urgent matter. He has a copy of Private Eye and requests that the Minister read one of its articles. Sir Humphrey Appleby joins them and Hacker reads aloud. It is reported that while in opposition, he was subjected to covert surveillance, including phone tapping. Furthermore, as Minister for Administrative Affairs, Hacker is now in charge of supplying all the government's bugging equipment, thus making him its "chief bugger". The Minister rounds on Sir Humphrey and asks if the story is true. His Permanent Secretary is nonchalant and tells him not to take it too seriously. However, Hacker believes the report and presses Sir Humphrey. Eventually he is told that he was placed under surveillance before the last general election because the eventual Prime Minister was considering making Hacker the Defence Secretary. It was therefore up to MI5 to ensure that he wasn't a security risk. Hacker is still unhappy and asks Sir Humphrey if he has ever been under surveillance himself. Sir Humphrey replies that he is a civil servant and explains that ministers, by contrast, can't be trusted - present company excepted. Nevertheless, Hacker announces that all future applications for surveillance must be vetted by a Select Committee. He instructs Sir Humphrey to set the wheels in motion and asks Bernard to set up a meeting with Walter Fowler, a journalist. He arranges to have the meeting in a bar, so he can follow the first law of political indiscretion: "Always have a drink before you leak."

Hacker meets Fowler in the bar at the House of Commons and leaks him the story about his proposals on surveillance.

That night in bed, Hacker tells Annie, his wife, what he has learnt. She is unperturbed, as most of their conversations were on the trivial side in any case. She asks her husband about going away for a weekend break to Kingsbury Down, where they spent their honeymoon, and he agrees.

The next morning, Sir Humphrey has some alarming news for Bernard: the Minister's name has been placed on a death list by the International Freedom Army. The Minister arrives and reaffirms his commitment to his new policy, even going so far as to say "ministers are expendable" - before Sir Humphrey tells him of the death list. Hacker is shocked and asks why. There are apparently rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle and Hacker's name has once again been linked with the Ministry of Defence. Special Branch has recommended certain protection measures and Commander Forest arrives to tell the Minister. From now on, Hacker will be guarded 24 hours a day and the Commander advises him on extra precautions. After he departs, Sir Humphrey tells Hacker of the need to use covert surveillance against any suspected assassins, and the Minister is now swiftly convinced of the need for it. Bernard arrives with a petition containing 2.25 million signatures, following Fowler's report, but Hacker tells him to destroy it: it must never be found. Bernard therefore decides that the best option is to file it.

The next day, the Hackers begin their break, with the addition of six bodyguards. They are followed closely wherever they go, and a trip to the cinema to see Moonraker (the bodyguards' choice) is aborted when the subject matter becomes too close for Hacker's comfort. During the night, Annie is fed up with the situation and tells her husband that she is going home. When they arrive there, they find the place swarming with local police officers. Even in their own bedroom they are not free from the intrusion.

Back at work, Hacker again meets with Walter Fowler, who is following up on his original story. He wants to know if the Minister's name being on the death list has altered his views on electronic surveillance. Sir Humphrey arrives and asks for a private word with Hacker. He informs him that Special Branch is withdrawing his protection and no longer believes that there is a threat to his life. Sir Humphrey explains that the Minister is not deemed important enough. Hacker invites Fowler back in and instructs Bernard to show him the petition, which he now welcomes warmly.