The series follows Right Honourable James Hacker MP, Minister for Administrative Affairs, and his attempts to make officialdom and administration make sense. He does this whilst pushing his own self-serving agenda, and keeping his head above any nasty political waters. Throughout his career, he's up against Whitehall’s Sir Humphrey Appleby, unflappable symbol of a machine that has no gears, only brakes.
Jim's policies, whether cutting costs or trying to streamline red tape, are sabotaged by Appleby's Machiavellian skills, often accompanied by brain-wrenching sentences designed to confuse Hacker - and often succeeding. Absolutely snobbish and elitist, yet blind to anything that does not serve the Whitehall way, Sir Humphrey is the avatar of the British State.