Five excuses cover all government errors

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From the wonderful “brit-com” Yes,Minister. Thanks to my buddy Jim Boulet for letting me know this was on Andrew Sullivan’s blog. For those unaware of the show, it dealt with a reform-minded minster who was constantly thwarted by career bureaucrat Sir Humphrey. The exchange between the minister (Jim) and Sir Humphrey on the five standard excuses gives you a taste of what made this show so great:

“Jim: Five standard excuses?

Sir Humphrey: Yes. First there’s the excuse we used for instance in the Anthony Blunt case.

Jim: Which was?

Sir Humphrey: That there is a perfectly satisfactory explanation for everything, but security forbids its disclosure. Second, there is the excuse we used for comprehensive schools, that it has only gone wrong because of heavy cuts in staff and budget which have stretched supervisory resources beyond the limits.

Jim: But that’s not true is it?

Sir Humphrey: No, but it’s a good excuse. Then there’s the excuse we used for Concorde, it was a worthwhile experiment, now abandoned, but not before it had provided much valuable data and considerable employment.

Jim: But that is true isn’t it? Oh no, of course it isn’t.

Sir Humphrey: The fourth, there’s the excuse we used for the Munich agreement. It occurred before certain important facts were known, and couldn’t happen again.

Jim: What important facts?

Sir Humphrey: Well, that Hitler wanted to conquer Europe.

Jim: I thought everybody knew that.

Sir Humphrey: Not the Foreign Office.

Jim: Five?

Sir Humphrey: Five, there’s the Charge of the Light Brigade excuse. It was an unfortunate lapse by an individual which has now been dealt with under internal disciplinary procedures.”

Cross-posted at Free for all.

8:45 pm on April 12, 2006