‘He suggested that we choose one the civil service’s five standard excuses. Humphrey must be quite anxious about the situation if he’s prepared to reveal his techniques to me so openly.
I made notes. I have called each excuse by the by the name of a famous example of its use.
1. The Anthony Blunt excuse
There is a perfectly satisfactory explanation for everything, but security prevents its disclosure
2. The Comprehensive School excuse
It’s only gone wrong because of heavy cuts in staff and budget which have stretched supervisory resources beyond the limit
3. The Concord excuse
It was a worthwhile experiment now abandoned, but not before it provided much valuable data and considerable employment
4. The Munich Argreement excuse
It occurred before important facts were known, and cannot happen again.
(The important facts in question were that Hitler wanted to conquer Europe. This was actually known; but not to the Foreign Office, of course)
5. 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
According to Sir Humphrey, these excuses have covered everything so far. Even wars. Small wars, anyway.’
– Lynn J., Jay A. 1981. The Complete Yes Minister London, Great Britain: BBC Books (1991) p. 338