I cannot help but wonder whether Nick Buckles had a strange dream the night before he appeared at the Home Affairs select committee, on 17th July, which went something like this:
Nick thinks: – I need to speak to someone who’s experienced this kind of mess before and I know just who to ring!
“Hi Bob, it’s Nick. Based on your recent experience, at the Treasury select committee, what advice can you give me for tomorrow?”
Bob: - “Nick – great to hear from you! You need to remember three things. First seem a bit vague and second – and most important – make sure you tell them that you only knew of the mess a few days before it hit the press. When pushed, I went for ‘the beginning of the month‘, so perhaps you could go for eight or nine days… Finally, just hint that someone in Government seemed okay with what was happening. In your case, try the woman from the Home Office – that Theresa May. It deflects the attention away from you a bit and, apart from that, it gives an excuse for those muppets in the Commons to snipe at each other like spoilt kids!”
Nick: - “But, as Chief Execs, isn’t it fair for our shareholders to assume that we know what’s going on in our own companies?”
Bob: - “Nah! Act naive and try to find someone much further down the food-chain to blame – and make sure you say they were acting without your authority. Also, say how dedicated you are to the company and that you want to deal with the mess and see things through. Don’t worry, they won’t let you – but it increases the sympathy vote and then your final pay-off and bonus will be much better. ”
Nick: - “I can’t see them giving me two million pounds and share options, though…”
Bob: - “Maybe not, Nick, but maybe that’s because you’re in the wrong industry. There’s no money in keeping citizens safe – it’s just not profitable. Apart from that, you only earn £830,000 per year, which is a pittance!”
Nick: - “What’s the worst that could happen, Bob?”
Bob: - “They might decide you should stay until after the Olympics. That’s okay if everything goes alright, but if there is some kind of an attack or explosion, go and book yourself in to The Priory. They can’t do too much to someone who’s mentally ill.”
Nick: - “And the best?”
Bob: - “It goes alright and then you can whinge that the Government over-reacted and wasted millions. Then you’ll get a pay off and can slide into obscurity. Either way, tomorrow the press will portray you as a bumbling idiot, but all publicity is good publicity.”
Nick: - “Thanks Bob, you’re a Diamond!”
Bob: - “Don’t get sarcastic Nick – and don’t Buckle!”
Nick remembers Bob’s hysterical laughing as the alarm clock wakes him – but, from his performance that day, he clearly remembered the advice!