Better set the table

Somewhere in Yes, Minister Sir Humphrey Appleby and a colleague explain the four-stage bureaucratic response to a foreign crisis. First, deny that anything is happening. Next, admit something is happening but say it doesn't matter. Third, admit that it is happening and does matter but say nothing can be done about it. Finally, admit that it was happening, did matter and something could have been done, but insist that it is now too late. (There's a version of the exchange online here but I can't vouch for it.) We seem to be in stage three now with respect to polygamy; see Leonard Stern's blog post/editorial in Friday's Citizen. Which gives me some small, sour satisfaction at having dissented in stage one, arguing in the Western Standard in February 2005 that something was happening.

Obviously there is room for debate on whether something is happening, whether it matters, and whether we can do something about it (and David Warren made the attempt in today's Citizen). But how is it possible that we should so reliably instead find ourselves cycling through Sir Humphrey's four stages on matters that, you'd think, did at least merit discussion in ways that did not pathetically witness public life imitating political satire yet again.

UncategorizedJohn Robson