The 10 Stages of a Crisis

The 10 Stages of a Crisis

When troubles come, they come not single spies but in battalions.

It’s hard these days keeping track of all the Tories’ various scandals.

Outside business interests. Wallpaper. Doing favours for donors. Free foreign holidays. Parties. Disrespecting the Queen. Blackmailing MPs. Misusing public money. Sacking Muslim Ministers. Prioritising pets over people.

So here is your handy Cut Out and Keep Guide to the various stages of how a small problem turns into a big crisis. For those in or supporting other parties enjoying the Tories’ troubles, remember it could be – and often has been – you.

  1. People turn a blind eye. “Look at the polls.” “Look at our majority.”
  2. People can’t believe it. Or think it doesn’t matter. “Tittle tattle“. “Priced in“.

3. People refuse to believe it. “Look at the polls.” “Look at our majority.” “It’s a long time until the next election.

4. People accept that something has gone wrong but insist that it is limited to “1 or 2 bad apples”. Or sometimes blamed on staff or bad advisors. Or, inevitably, a woman. Wives are very popular as scapegoats. A reference to Lady Macbeth usually makes an appearance.

5. When it becomes clear that it is not 1 or 2”, stages 1 – 3 are repeated. Legalistic arguments are often put forward for why things are not as bad as they appear or will blow over. These can be amazingly ingenious while throughly missing the point and showing a tin ear for how matters are perceived outside a closed charmed circle.

6. A limited inquiry and/or staff shake up is started in the hope that this will sort matters out. Or buy time. They won’t. Or only temporarily.

7. People become more concerned with protecting the institution or, here, the Boss (“He won us our majority.”) rather than dealing with what is wrong. All the more so if the Boss is a big part of the problem.

8. The non-apology apology. This can happen at any stage and frequently does. But there are so many different varieties of non-apology apologies to choose from:-

  • The Captain Renault apology: “I am shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU at…..” something you’ve always known about. Saying it with a shameless brass neck is essential to carry this one off.
  • The “I’m Sorry You’re Upset” Apology- this is not an apology at all but a cunning way of implying that those who are upset are hysterical ninnies who need to be appeased.
  • The “I’m Sorry If I Have Done Something Wrong” Apology – Anything with that marvellously slippery word “if” in it is an apology In Name Only.
  • The WhatAbout Apology – a brief apology followed by long paragraphs about all the other wonderful things the person has done, as if Rights and Wrongs are like Debits and Credits on a ledger. So long as the credits are bigger, who cares about such trifling issues as … er …. bad or illegal behaviour.
  • The “I am Responsible but Indispensable” Apology – no finer exponent of this than Gordon Brown with his “I take full responsibility for what happens, and that’s why the person who was responsible went immediately.” apology. Will his crown be taken?

The “I am Sorry For What I Did. I Resign” Apology was last used in politics long before most voters now were even born. Amazingly it has recently been sighted in banking in Switzerland. Sadly not for any actual banking mistakes but over the Chairman’s social life contravening Covid rules. Still, reintroducing Proper Apologies (a sort of rewilding of personal behaviour) has to start somewhere.

9. Eventually ….. a much more extensive investigation is done. (“Look at the polls. Eek!”) Remedial measures are – finally – taken. Almost invariably later than they should have been, sometimes reluctantly and often dragged into them kicking and screaming. Thus ensuring that the institution endures all the pain without getting much, if any, of the credit from dealing with the issue promptly.

10. Alas ….. especially if remedial measures are delayed, the institution is dealing with the continuing fall-out from the previous failures for a long time after it has cleaned itself up. It may take even longer to be forgiven.

Or as any classicist will tell you: After Hubris comes Nemesis. Then what?


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